Tag Archives: Stress

Stress: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

StressSusan Brown Health and Wellness Editor

The Good: Stress is most often viewed negatively, but an appropriate amount of “good” stress provides the stimulation that keeps us engaged from moment to moment. Situational stress happens when we feel a sense of control over challenges and experiences we face on a daily basis. It’s a fact of life that everyday stressors, though unnerving, have become normalized and unavoidable. We live in a very stressful world, complicated by family responsibilities, work performance and social obligations, as well as serious, often unexpected life events. In immediate short-term stressful situations, the body’s acute stress response allows for the release of adrenalin, cortisol and neurotransmitters that enable the mind and body to cope with momentary challenges. This survival response results in a quickened heartbeat, rapid breathing and a rush of oxygenated blood to the heart, muscles and other organs, as well as a heightened ability to perform during stressful, yet manageable situations.

The Bad: Per the National Institutes of Health (NIH), all creatures face threats to homeostasis, which must be met with adaptative responses. Under proper functioning, once the threat or perceived fear has passed, bodily systems should return to normal balance. When stress is chronic, the central nervous system stays in a heightened alert mode, resulting in prolonged exposure to cortisol and other stress hormones. Long-term activation of the body’s stress response can cause a variety of symptoms that take a toll on overall wellbeing and put physical health at risk. This can include digestive issues, anxiety, depression, weight gain, memory and concentration issues, as well as high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease. Some of us have become so accustomed to chronic stress, that it begins to feel “normal,” and we don’t realize the huge impact stress has on our physical and mental health.

The Ugly: Although stress evolved as an adaptive response, prolonged stress can lead to tissue damage, disease and a shortened lifespan. Consequences of stress have been identified as increased harmful behaviors, such as smoking, substance abuse, and eating disorders. Chronically elevated blood pressure forces the heart to work harder and can lead to damaged arteries and plaque formation. Elevated levels of stress hormones are associated with suppressed immunity, slower wound healing, increased susceptibility to viral infections and compromised antibody response to vaccinations, including influenza, pneumonia and other infectious illnesses. Prolonged stress is also associated with heightened inflammation, as well as exacerbation of autoimmune diseases, atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. Perhaps even more alarming, attachment of surplus cortisol to certain memory-enhancing receptors in the brain negatively affects memory and the ability to remember.

There is no simple fix to resolve all stress inducing situations, nor any uniform proper amount of stress, as each person has an individual stress threshold, or the actual degree of stress needed to cause benefit or harm. What matters most is how one responds emotionally and physiologically to stressors. A broad based approach to stress reduction includes strategies to increase coping skills, as well as reduce pressures. Finding ways to eliminate or diminish stressors that we can control, as well as cope with stressors that are out of our control, can result in improved mental health and physical wellbeing. This can include strategies like getting proper amounts of sleep, engaging with friends or family members, being physically active, spending time in nature and taking 10 minutes of “me time” daily, to quietly sit and focus on the breath to trigger the body’s natural relaxation response.

Stressed? We can help!

Stress SuppressStress Suppress by Diamond Formulations: Our customers overwhelmingly support Stress Suppress to address symptoms of daily stress and frustration. This unique nutraceutical is formulated with specific ingredients known to support healthy levels of calming neurotransmitters that enhance the body’s ability to cope with stress, elevate mood and support relaxation without inducing drowsiness. Stress Suppress aids the body in returning to homeostasis by encouraging balanced stress and inflammatory responses, providing nutrients to improve symptoms of stress and supporting a general sense of wellbeing. Free of wheat, yeast, soy, gluten, animal and dairy products, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and artificial colors, sweeteners and preservatives. Non-GMO kosher formulation.

References:
Lower Stress: How does stress affect the body?  https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/lower-stress-how-does-stress-affect-the-body
STRESS AND HEALTH: Psychological, Behavioral, and Biological Determinants. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2568977/
Stress Effects. https://www.stress.org/stress-effects
The Perfect Amount of Stress. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/201203/the-perfect-amount-stress

 

This Is Your Brain on Stress

BrainStressJacquie Eubanks RN BSN

 

 

 

When eight of ten Americans report feeling frequently stressed, one might wonder what’s causing so many to feel so stressed out. Per the American Psychological Association, there’s a significant percentage of Americans worried about the future of the country, followed by a high percentage who are worried about finances, work or family responsibilities. Almost half of Americans worry about healthcare, while a third find the economy, unemployment, high taxes and low wages worrisome. Three of four Americans report experiencing high levels of stress during the previous month, almost half have trouble sleeping, and one third feel chronically anxious, irritable or fatigued.

The National Institute of Mental Health simply defines stress as “the brain’s response to any demand.” Stress can be classified as acute (good), tolerable or chronic (toxic). Good stress can occur as the result of a single, short-term event, such as recovery from an illness or injury, or when we rise to a challenge, often with positive outcomes. Tolerable stress refers to a situation where one faces a difficult situation, but is able to cope with support of family, friends or others. Toxic or recurring stress can be the result of adverse life events not within our control, such as managing a chronic illness or dealing with an exceptionally demanding workload. When stress is both intense and sustained over a period to time, it becomes particularly problematic, as long-term stress can cause significant harm to normal and proper body and brain functioning.

Per the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the brain is the central organ of stress and adaptation to stress, as it perceives and determines what is threatening, as well as the behavioral and physiological responses to the stressor. Stress can cause an imbalance of neural circuitry affecting cognition, decision making, anxiety and mood. While it’s well known that chronic stress is detrimental to overall wellness, it now appears that long-term stress and stress related illnesses, such as post traumatic stress disorder, can actually change the physiology of the brain. This can negatively affect brain size, connectivity and mood, and quite possibly memory and cognition down the road. Simply put, persistent stress may actually rewire the brain, strengthening the part of the brain focused on survival and weakening the part of the brain tasked with more complex thought.

Often called the “stress” hormone because of its connection to the stress response, cortisol is actually a steroid hormone critical to protecting overall health and wellbeing. It plays a key role in the sleep/wake cycle, the maintenance of blood sugar levels, energy metabolism, sodium and water balance and blood pressure regulation, as well as the immune system’s inflammatory response. One of the primary functions of our many biological systems is the maintenance of  optimal balance or homeostasis. Cortisol aids the body in regaining homeostasis after a stressful event. As cortisol regulates a wide range of bodily processes, almost every cell contains cortisol receptors, including the hippocampus, the region of the brain where memories are processed and stored.

Normal cortisol levels have no adverse effects on the hippocampus, heavily associated with memory, emotion and learning. When chronically high cortisol levels overwhelm the hippocampus, atrophy and significant memory loss may result. Brain patterns may predict how the body physically reacts to stressful situations. Constant stress and the accumulation of stressful life events may make one more vulnerable to brain shrinkage when faced with future intense traumatic stressors, especially when the next demanding situation requires determination or emotional control. Studies have found that chronic stress has a negative impact on spatial memory, as well as memory retrieval. Additionally, an exaggerated stress response could mean a faster heartbeat and higher blood pressure, which can result in negative health consequences in the long run.

While not all stress is unhealthy or avoidable, taking steps to reduce persistent stress may protect brain health as one ages, as well as increase one’s ability to cope when the next stressful event occurs. Working to redirect behavior in more positive directions can help to promote wellness and enjoyment of life. Maximizing the time spent in a resting state can help address long-term elevation of stress-related biological factors. Finding ways to relax, prioritizing sleep, a healthy diet and moderate exercise, as well as social interaction can effectively reduce stress and help one feel more balanced and in control, as well as significantly promote overall health and happiness.

Professional Supplement Center offers these and other high quality formulations to help promote homeostasis and overall wellness:

Cortisol Manager™Cortisol Manager™ by Integrative Therapeutics®: This safe, non-habit forming product provides standardized proprietary blends to help stabilize cortisol levels, thereby supporting a more balanced cortisol response to stress, as well as natural restorative sleep. Gluten, wheat, dairy, yeast, artificial flavor and artificial preservative free, vegan formulation.

 

HPA AdaptHPA Adapt™ by Integrative Therapeutics®: This non-stimulant formula combines five powerful adaptogenic herbs shown to support a healthy stress response, while reducing stress-related fatigue and mental tension. Gluten, wheat, soy and dairy free, vegetarian formulation.

 

Cortisol CalmCortisol Calm by Pure Encapsulations®: This hypoallergenic formula is designed to help maintain healthy cortisol levels, while supporting relaxation, restful sleep and positive mood during stressful times. Gluten and soy free, Non-GMO vegetarian formulation.

 

Advanced Cortisol...Advanced Cortisol Balance by Life Extension: This unique formulation features patented ingredients to support healthy cortisol levels, thereby promoting a healthy stress response, healthy mood and a sense of vigor. Non-GMO formulation.

 

Diurnal Cortisol...Diurnal Cortisol Test by Professional Supplement Center Test Kits: This four panel adrenal function hormone test kit provides a full diurnal cortisol profile at four points during the day. This test is recommended for stress, chronic fatigue and/or symptoms of adrenal imbalance. Saliva collection instructions, prepaid shipping and all materials for the test included, as well as a 15- minute in person or phone consultation with one of Professional Supplement Center’s health professionals to discuss test results.

References:
By the numbers: Our stressed-out nation. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/12/numbers.aspx
The Mind and Mental Health: How Stress Affects the Brain. http://www.tuw.edu/content/health/how-stress-affects-the-brain/
Chronic Stress Can Damage Brain Structure and Connectivity. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201402/chronic-stress-can-damage-brain-structure-and-connectivity
Inflammation: The Common Pathway of Stress-Related Diseases. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5476783/
Effects of Chronic Stress on Memory Decline in Cognitively Normal and Mildly Impaired Older Adults. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2864084/
Neurobiological and Systemic Effects of Chronic Stress. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5573220/
Protect Your Brain from Stress. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/protect-your-brain-from-stress

Hurry Up and Go!

12_HurryJacquie Eubanks RN BSN

 

 

These days our lifestyles are all about hurrying. Every day may feel like one long, extended rush hour, as we jam pack every second of our day and still seem to run out of time. How quickly can we gobble down our fast food lunch and get back to our desks? How fast can we finish our workout? We rush to get the kids to daycare or to school. We speed off to work, feeling frustrated when we hit a red light or when some minor traffic holds us up. Researchers have found that our attention spans have gotten shorter and we can only concentrate for 8 seconds before we are distracted by someone or something else. And, when we actually have nothing to occupy our minds, we immediately reach for our mobile devices to check our emails or text messages.

If all this sounds familiar to you, it may be a good time to recognize that all that rushing adds more stress to an already stressful life. We are pulled in so many directions, we often feel pressured and tense. To balance all that activity, we need to take some time to unwind. Many of us are so stressed, we may have forgotten how good it feels to slow down, calm the mind and relax. Chronic stress may often result in suppressed immune function, anxiety or depression and leave us vulnerable to prolonged inflammation. Taking it slow for a short time each day allows us to receive the health benefits associated with a slower lifestyle, including lowered levels of blood pressure and stress hormones.

In the midst of all the chaos, a few moments of visualizing yourself sitting on a beach reading a book may be just what you need to rest, relax, restore and refuel. Actually, it turns out that just taking the time to concentrate on our breath for a few minutes throughout the day can leave us revitalized and energized. Mindful breath control is one of the simplest and easiest ways to improve both mental and physical health. According to Harvard Health Publications, deep breathing several times each day encourages a full oxygen exchange, which can lower the heartbeat, stabilize blood pressure and lead to a more relaxed state of mind.

Generally, our alertness and reaction times diminish around 3 p.m. Maintaining focus for long periods of time burns energy and may leave us feeling drained. While none of us have an unlimited amount of energy, fortunately our energy is renewable. Those of us lucky enough to fit in a 10 to 20-minute power nap to ward off the 3 pm doldrums may surprisingly find not only reduced fatigue but increased focus, memory, cognitive performance and productivity. In fact, studies show that productive people can complete tedious tasks with a higher level of focus and less frustration when they take a break after 90 minutes of intense concentration. A 10-minute break that involves getting up and moving about can be truly restorative and help clear the mind.

Research shows that relaxation techniques such as meditation or deep breathing exercises are the most effective for calming the mind and lowering cortisol levels. Just 20 minutes of daily meditation can help to relieve chronic pain, manage stress and reduce inflammation. There is a misconception that learning to meditate is difficult. Meditation is an active practice that will evolve over time. Those who learn meditation techniques find that adopting this healthy lifestyle habit leads to long term mind-body benefits, including emotional wellbeing, increased awareness, positive mood, reduced anxiety and worry and improved heart rate, lowered blood pressure levels and increased energy. Those new to meditation may find that after only a few days of daily practice, they sleep better and feel less stressed overall.

While our lives are filled with things we have to do, don’t lose sight that life is a balance between obligations, productivity and enjoyment. Sharing a nourishing meal with family and friends is one of the great pleasures of life. Those who make a habit of inhaling their food may want to consider eating more slowly. Eating at a relaxed pace allows you to better recognize when you have satiated your hunger, leading to less caloric intake and gradual weight loss. Those who take the time to sit down and eat mindfully better support their digestion and immune health and make healthier overall nutrition choices.

For a healthier and happier 2016, work towards slowing down the pace of your everyday life. Consider turning down your stress response and taking a breather from the whirlwind. Sometimes, just hitting the brakes on some areas of your life leads to satisfaction in other areas. Slowing down can help to boost your creativity and allows time to gain a fresh perspective about what is most important in your life. When you need to get centered, taking a walk in nature and breathing in fresh air can help you live in the moment and fill you with a sense of peace, good health and general wellbeing.

Professional Supplement Center offers these and other high quality supplements that support the stress response, energy production and healthy sleep:

Daily Stress FormulaDaily Stress Formula by Pure Encapsulations – This broad spectrum formulation contains a blend of herbs and nutrients designed to counter the physical and mental effects of stress, including support for heathy neurotransmitter production, adrenal response and energy metabolism. Gluten and soy free, Non-GMO vegetarian formula.

De-Stress

De-Stress by Biotics Research – This popular product is formulated with a patented, all natural, bioactive peptide proven to be clinically effective in relieving anxiety and stress. Gluten free.

 

Calm ResponseCalm Response by Innate Response Formulas – This synergistic formula provides botanicals, adaptogens and nutrients in support of a healthy stress response, mental stamina, strengthening the nervous system and gentle overall wellness support. Gluten, dairy and soy free vegetarian formula.

 

Stress EaseStress Ease by American Nutraceuticals – This product provides herbals, adaptogens, vitamins and minerals to aid in reducing physical, emotional and mental stress and fatigue and to promote emotional wellbeing and a calm state of mind. Gluten, dairy and soy free, vegan formula.

 

Hevert Stress ReliefHevert Stress Relief by Hevert Pharmaceuticals – These quick dissolving tablets provide non-drowsy homeopathic support for the temporary relief of symptoms of tension and stress, such as restlessness, anxiousness, sleeplessness and nervousness.

Stress ArrestStress Arrest by Designs for Health – This product delivers comprehensive support for stress and anxiety related conditions with a calming, therapeutic, synergistic blend of GABA, glycine and B vitamins. Gluten free, Non-GMO vegetarian formula.

 

Stress Support Complex

Stress Support Complex by Complementary Prescriptions – This stress and sleep support formula provides natural ingredients including botanicals, GABA and adaptogens for occasional anxiety and tension relief.