We are heading into two years of pandemic life. How has the stress of the past two years affected our health- both mentally and physically? Well, most studies are saying it's not been good on either front.
I have written about stress and how your adrenal glands release cortisol when your body assumes you need to go into your "flight or flight" (sympathetic tone) mode. This is our body's healthy response to stress- it happens when we workout and on many other occasions when it is helpful.
This is not news to anyone.
However, what happens when we are constantly in sympathetic tone and our adrenals are like a fire hose of cortisol?
There is a term that has been kicking around for a while; adrenal fatigue. The assumption was that our adrenals would be so taxed that eventually they would slow their production of cortisol and then we would start to feel lousy. Well, it turns out this is not really what happens. What we think happens now, is that our adrenals still pump out the cortisol but our bodies just adapt to the flow and become less responsive to the hormone. (It's more complicated than this but I simplified it for the sake of brevity)
It is akin to if you became addicted to a drug and your tolerance kept increasing so you needed more of the drug to get the same effect (high).
This hasn't been proven to be the actual case as of yet, but the research is pointing us to this conclusion. Either way, chronic stress is not healthy for our mental or physical well being.
The important question is, could two years of pandemic living push us into this desensitized state to our own cortisol production? And if so, how can we down-regulate our production of cortisol and return to a healthier level of stress response?
What is stress bod?
It is basically how chronic stress manifests itself in your physical body. Here are some markers:
Increase in GI issues
Lower sex drive
....... just to name a few!
That doesn't sound awesome to me. I don't want to have any of those side effects from chronic stress.
Precision Nutrition has developed a "Stress Bod" survey. If you want to read a little more about this and take the survey to see where you fall on the stress spectrum, feel free to click on the link and take the quiz. The site also has some helpful infographics on hidden stressors and methods you can use to reduce stress.