Stress can be a real killer. When we relax, we give our bodies a chance to heal and repair itself. But the tension, hectic pace, and emptiness of modern life serve to aggravate, if not downright cause, many diseases and health conditions.
One thing you may not know is that stress can also lead to weight gain. Find out more about the connection between stress and excess weight, and why stress is so bad for us, here.
When we are stressed, our adrenal glands release a hormone called cortisol into the bloodstream. This tells the body that it is on red alert for survival. Self-healing is interrupted, glycogen stores in the liver and muscles mobilize to raise blood sugar levels, and digestion is suppressed.
Unfortunately, this stress reaction can result from a variety of causes: extreme heat or cold, noise or chemical pollution, fear and worry, eating too much sugar, a nasty look from a salesperson, a traffic jam, the images on the evening news. The body does not differentiate. And the effects are cumulative.
Many doctors now believe that the chronic over-production of cortisol can lead to weight gain (especially around the abdomen), as well as accelerated aging and depressed immune function.
This is all the more reason to take time out for a soothing bath, or a meditation break, or a spritz of relaxing essential oil. (A good facial or a foot massage can also work wonders.) Anything that helps us to de-stress will allow our whole selves to feel more at ease and safe.
By Cait Johnson, author of Celebrating the Great Mother (Inner Traditions, 1995).