Have you noticed that when you feel naturally energetic, you don’t feel stressed? I say naturally, because artificial energy from too much caffeine can definitely lead to more stress. The key is not to think that you need to get rid of stress. That is impractical. No, stress is something we all experience, and it can actually be a good thing. Healthy stress can propel us to achieve greater heights and accomplish more than we think we can. As an example, when I am speaking at church retreats, I feel stress. Why? Because I want to be the best I can be, help people as much as I can, and make it worth everyone’s time and money. This stress leads me to prepare in ways that go above and beyond what I would do if I was just approaching the event in a laid back manner. And what does stress have to do with energy? Well, if not handled properly, not only does it contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, PCOS, dementia, and diabetes, it can drain you of your energy and paralyze your day.
Knowing how to manage your stress is key for not getting your energy zapped
When I was attending school to get certified as a health coach, one of my teachers was Dr. Andrew Weil. He led us all through a stress reducing exercise that involved a breathing technique. This is the one he taught us to use whenever we start to feel overwhelmed, or know that we are approaching a stressful situation.
Do four repetitions. You will be engaging para-sympathetic breathing which lowers your cortisol and feeds oxygen to your cells. This is quite the opposite of the energy zapping effect of shallow breathing from your chest only, and your brain struggling from a lack of oxygen.
Know what you can control, and give the rest to God
I would be remiss as a Christian if I didn’t bring up that the most harmful stress can be fooling ourselves into thinking that we have control over things that are only controlled by God. This reminds me of Luke 12:22-31 –
Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?
Of course Luke is not just talking about food and clothing. He is taking about God’s love for us, and the fact that He will provide for us. We are really just along for the ride. What we don’t have control over can just be given right back to Him where it belongs. We are under stress when we think we’re in the driver’s seat. Each morning, I like to write down the things that put me on edge for the day…things that cause me to feel stressed. Then, I move the ones that are out of my control over to my prayer column. I pray for His will to be done, and for guidance on what to do with the issues that I do have control over. It gives my day perspective.
Now let’s get back to the physical ramifications of unchecked stress. There are several physiological things that happen when you are not handling your stress well, one is that your HPA axis works over time. This is the way it’s supposed to work:
You see a lion coming toward you…
Your Hypothalamus tells your Pituitary that you need to run…
Your Pituitary tells your Adrenals to pump some cortisol so that you will run fast.
When you are under constant stress, your adrenal glands are pumping cortisol constantly, and they can get fatigued. This is when they rely on your thyroid to jump in and help. Then your thyroid gets wacky. One thing leads to another, and one of the major symptoms that something is wrong, is fatigue. If you feel you are under stress a lot, and don’t have energy, this is something to look at. There are several types of doctors who know how to do a simple saliva test to figure out if this is the cause of excessive fatigue. If yours is not familiar with testing adrenals, a functional medicine, integrative medicine or naturopathic doctor will know. Knowing how to handle your stress, and heal your adrenals will get you back on track. The good news is that you can heal!