Healthy Cove

THE NERVOUS SYSTEM: UNDERSTANDING HOW YOU’RE WIRED

Just like a powerful computer, your body is always taking in data and using it to make decisions. But you have nerves instead of a circuit board and a brain rather than microchips. Together, your nervous system directs your body’s functions according to the messages it receives.

Think of the central nervous system as a biological command center. It integrates information from your surroundings and tells your body how to react. And the nervous system does all this while letting you focus on living your life. So, you don’t need to consciously worry about responding to every stimulus you encounter. That would be exhausting.

To save you the mental energy, you need your nervous system to perform voluntary and involuntary actions. Without it, you couldn’t control your arms and legs, maintain a steady heart rate, or breath.

Here’s some other involuntary reactions that rely on your nervous system:

  • Vision
  • Blinking
  • Sneezing
  • Fight-or-flight responses
  • Withdrawal reflex (pulling your hand away from a hot stove)

Your nervous system also helps you:

  • Walk
  • Talk
  • Clap your hands
  • Brush your hair
  • Exercise

The reach of your nervous system is enormous. Every part of your body is hardwired with nervous-system tissue. You can pick up information from your hands and feet, as well as your joints and gut.

Now it’s time to plug into your nervous system and get a sense of how much it does for you. And also learn about the parts and mechanisms that make your nervous system function.

Anatomy: Nervous System Parts

At its most basic level, your nervous system is a collection of specialized cells called neurons, and supporting cells called neuroglial cells or just glial cells. A neuron can conduct electricity and secrete chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. Each nerve cell can pass on information, and receive information from stimuli inside and outside your body. Glial cells surround neurons. Their role is to provide support and protection for neurons.

Neurons have a cell body—just like all other cells. This is called the soma, and it’s surrounded with tiny, finger-like extensions. These are called dendrites. And they receive stimulation from the nerve cells next door.

Protruding out of the cell body is the axon—a long projection that carries electrochemical impulses. Axons are surrounded by a fatty tissue called the myelin sheath. This insulates the axon and speeds up signal transmission. Think of the myelin sheath as the insulation that surrounds the wires in your electronic devices.

The neuron ends at the axon terminal. That’s where signals created inside the nerve cell are sent to the next neuron. Nerve impulses are transmitted from the axon terminal of one neuron to the dendrites of the next. The space where nerve cells meet up and exchange information is called the synapse.

Neurons link up between their dendrites and axon terminals and create a thick, rope-like shape. This bundle of neurons is called a nerve. They pick up signals from your internal organs and outside world and propel the messages towards your brain.

There are thousands of nerves in your body. And they vary in size. The longest nerve is called the sciatic nerve. It stretches from the base of your spinal cord to your foot. The trochlear nerve is one of the smallest. It’s in charge of the rotational movement of your eye.

After neurons and nerves come the bigger organs of the nervous system—the spinal cord and brain.

The spinal cord is essentially one large, thick nerve with a direct connection to your brain. The bones in your spinal column provide structure and protection. That allows messages to travel uninterrupted to and from your brain along the spinal cord.

If you think about your nervous system as a computer, then the brain is the system’s hard drive. It receives every message gathered by your nerves via the spinal cord. Then it interprets that information and initiates a response.

When you want your body to perform an action, it’s your neurons that start working first. They send electrochemical impulses to the brain through the nerves and spinal cord. Your brain returns the necessary instructions to complete the task along the same nerves.

In the next section, you’ll learn more about this process, the role of nerves, and the actions your nervous system can help you accomplish.

How the Nervous System Works

Your body is great at tackling the hard work of your everyday life. And the nervous system is no exception. It divides up the job of sensing and responding to stimuli between its two parts—the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS).

The CNS is the control center of the nervous system. It includes the brain and the spinal cord. All the nerves that branch out from the spine are part of the PNS. Though they operate in tandem, it is important to highlight them independently. That’s because each section of the nervous system has a unique role and function.

Central Nervous System

Your CNS is the boss of your body. It is responsible for coordinating the messages it gets from the PNS to provide the appropriate physical response. This process is called integration.

The wire-like nerves in your body get stimuli from your environment and send those signals to your brain. But the nerves in your hands and feet aren’t plugged directly into your brain. Instead, your spinal cord makes a single connection at the base of the skull.

Protected by bony vertebrae (the bones of the spine), your spinal cord is the cable that collects the information from all over the body. Acting as one large conduit to the brain, your spinal cord can deliver large amounts of data from a single port, rather than thousands of smaller ones.

This makes it easier for your brain to integrate all the sensations you experience with the right actions and movements. And when it’s time to respond to messages, it can send out instructions in bulk. This takes some work off your brain’s plate by leaving the sorting and delivery work to the spinal cord.

Peripheral Nervous System

All of the nerves in your body (except the brain and spinal cord) are collectively known as the peripheral nervous system or PNS. It’s the job of the PNS to use nerves to sense information about your environment. Your voluntary and involuntary actions, reflexes, and intentional movements are initiated by the PNS.

The PNS communicates back and forth with your brain and spine and lets the central nervous system know what the rest of the body is doing. The PNS does this with specialized nerve cells called afferent and efferent neurons.

Afferent neurons are also known as sensory neurons. They send messages to your CNS. They deal in sensory information like sound, taste, touch, and smell. When you touch sandpaper, or smell a cake baking, your afferent neurons take that stimuli to your brain.

To respond to those sensations, your PNS uses efferent neurons. These carry messages and instructions away from your CNS. Efferent neurons can also be called motor neurons. They do just what their name implies—triggering muscle contraction and movement. Motor neurons make it possible for you to scratch your fingers against the rough sandpaper. They also allow you to take a bite of that delicious-smelling cake.

Both afferent and efferent neurons are present in nerve fibers. So, your PNS can send sensory information to your brain and receive a motor response along the same nerve. You need this kind of back-and-forth communication for voluntary movement.

The nerves of the PNS also manage things outside of your conscious control—involuntary reactions to your environment.

A major example of your PNS at work is your fight-or-flight response. This kicks in when you perceive that you’re in danger. It can also turn on when you’re worried and scared. At that time, your body experiences involuntary changes when you feel stressed.

Take speaking in public, for example. As the moment approaches, you might notice your heart start to race and your palms sweat. Your mouth might even get dry.

These symptoms indicate that your peripheral nervous system is working as it should. Salivary glands, skin cells, and your heart muscle get messages from your brain via the PNS to adjust their behavior to keep you safe. When you take a couple of deep breaths and settle your nerves (pun intended), your heart rate returns to normal. You feel safe and are no longer afraid.

The peripheral nervous system operates a complementary response to fight or flight, often called rest and digest. Your nerves send instructions down from the CNS to calm your body when it’s not in any danger. So, your breathing is steady and your muscles and gut are relaxed when you’re not experiencing stress.

Again, all of these changes occur on their own. You can thank your PNS for running on autopilot so you don’t have to worry about elevating your heart rate when something makes you nervous.

And without a peripheral nervous system, decisions and directions made by the CNS would have to be carried out directly by your brain and spinal cord. The central nervous system may call the shots when it comes to responding to sensations and stimuli. But the PNS is the link between your body and your brain that gets the job done.

Nervous System Technical Support

It’s pretty wild to think that electrochemical impulses are shooting up and down your nerves as you pause to read this article. Your nervous system is always working. So, make sure you’re doing your part to keep your electrical wiring up to code. There are a couple great ways to support and protect your nervous system.

Minimize Stress

Remember all the work your nervous system does to prepare your body for fight or flight? When stresses from work, school, or family life don’t let up, it can be hard for your nervous system to ease out of this involuntary response.

If your mind feels clouded with worry, it can be hard for your brain to efficiently integrate all the messages from your nerves. Sometimes this stress can even manifest itself in physical pain.

Combating stress and returning your body to the rest-and-digest phase will give your nerves a break. Deep breathing, mindful meditation, and exercise are all great ways to take a load off. If possible, try easing your mental strain by eliminating unnecessary work or burdens. And ask for help from family and friends when you need it.

Eat Whole Foods with Healthy Fats and Antioxidants

The myelin sheath covering the axon of your neurons are made of fatty tissue. So is your brain, the head of the central nervous system. That’s why you should choose food that reinforces these important structures.

That means healthy, unsaturated fats, like omega-3s. These are liquid at room temperature, but are also found in solid foods. You can find these healthy fats in avocados, nuts, seeds, fatty fish, and olive oil.

Another great way to protect your brain long-term is by eating foods rich in antioxidants. Berries and other brightly colored fruits and veggies are excellent sources. Antioxidants help protect brain tissue from damage by free radicals. They also support memory and cognitive function.

Try to incorporate these nutrients—and others, like magnesium, iodine, and a variety of vitamins—in your diet. Switch out foods with unhealthy fats (fried foods and prepackaged foods) with healthier options (grilled salmon or walnuts.) Make a brain-boosting smoothie with lots of berries and green veggies.

There are plenty of tasty ways to take care of your nervous system. And your hard-working brain, spinal cord, and nerves deserve the love.

ECLS Energy

5 TIPS TO RECLAIM YOUR TIME: WHY YOU MUST OPT OUT OF THE CULT OF BUSYNESS

To do list in a car on driving wheel and hand holding phone - busy day concept

The bad news: Your relationship with time is more than likely toxic.

You’re overscheduled, stretched too thin, and find it difficult to focus on the present moment. You probably respond with, “busy,” when people ask how you’re doing. The worst part? You don’t feel like you have the power to take control of your time.

Whether you joined voluntarily or not, you’re a card-carrying member of the cult of busyness—the ever-growing group of people whose anxiety is rising because they don’t feel like they have enough time to get everything done. You’re among the hordes of multitaskers who scramble to squeeze the most out of every minute, rolling through life as a ball of stress, only to collapse into an exhausted heap at the end of every day.

How Busyness Took Over and Why it Keeps Getting Worse

It’s not your fault. You weren’t born to be a slave to your schedule. You just got swept up in an unhealthy cultural trend.

But how did so many people become obsessed with time and productivity?

When the world was filled with agrarian (or farming) societies, the passing of time was indicated by the sun and the seasons. Leisure time was a marker of wealth. But with the rise of the Industrial Revolution, the measurement of time became inextricably connected with productivity. Time was money. And the more a person worked, the more valuable he or she was perceived as being.

The technological era has again reshaped people’s relationship with time, creating a driving need to optimize as much of your life as possible. There are the same 24 hours to work with in every day as our agrarian and industrial ancestors had. So, society had to get smart about maximizing people’s skill sets to accomplish more moment-to-moment. With productivity reigning supreme, moments of leisure, rest, and relaxation are often looked at as wasteful or lost opportunities to accumulate wealth.

The result? Many people are held captive by their schedules. You might feel compelled to be seen as productive and, by extension, valuable. Put simply, your lack of time has become a primary marker of your worth. Signaling to others how busy you are implies you’re highly in-demand.

With most people having a digital device at their fingertips around the clock, it’s easy to feel like (and perpetuate the feeling) that everyone else is being productive around the clock. So, you need to compete. Ever had a coworker send emails at midnight? Do you receive group texts from your friends at 5 a.m.? Previous rules of decorum around personal time have been obliterated by both a compulsive need to be seen as hard workers and the variety of ways to communicate instantaneously.

Scientific Evidence for the Cult of Busyness

When someone messages you at odd hours, it triggers a feeling that you need to respond—out of good manners and to show that you, too, are available and productive around the clock. When you’re stuck in a cycle of responding to various stimuli, you don’t feel in control of your time. It’s dictated by others.

Experts studying the evolving relationship with time refer to this feeling as “time poverty.” But contrary to how time-starved many people feel, in reality, we have more free time than any previous generation.

“There is a distinction between objective time, which you can measure, and subjective time, which is experiential,” explains philosopher Nils F. Schott, the James M. Motley Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities at Johns Hopkins University.

When you’re preoccupied with the tug of war between what you want to do and what you should be doing, you’re missing opportunities and the ability to enjoy the moment. And you’re likely spending too much time on tasks you feel are urgent—regardless of their importance—and too little time on tasks that are important in the long run, but lack in-your-face urgency. For example, you might respond immediately to an email that pops into your inbox, but put off exercising for weeks (or months, or years).

Some studies show that busy people make better health choices (the thought being that having limited time forces better planning). But it’s no coincidence that as schedules become more hectic, the number of people who say they feel stressed and anxious has increased.

Feeling time-starved, like you’re always behind and will never catch up with life’s demands, can lead to stress, increased feelings of anxiety, and mental distress. Anxiousness can negatively impact sleep quality, which leads to poor planning and decision-making. Thus the cycle continues.

Reclaim Your Time with These 5 Tips

Finally, it’s time for some good news: Experts say there are ways to reverse the harmful effects of time poverty.

Simply put: do less.

Yes, that’s easier said than done because it requires understanding and protecting your priorities. Time is a precious resource, one worth fighting for. Recognizing that you have the power to control how you spend your time is the first step to reclaiming it.

Here are five practical tips to escape the cult of busyness:

  1. Track your time. It may seem counterintuitive to pay more attention to your time in order to free yourself of its suffocating restraints. But it’s only by knowing where you’re devoting your minutes and hours that you can begin to reclaim them. After listing all of your activities in a diary, you’ll likely find that you have more free time than you think you do. That big-picture look can also help you prioritize what’s important, so you can focus more time on that. Time tracking can also help you pinpoint the time-sucking activities you need to eliminate.
  2. Stop multitasking. It’s bad for your brain in the short term—and possibly lowers your IQ in the long-term. You may feel like you’re accomplishing more, but studies show multitasking is less productive than devoting your focus to one task or project at a time. And it will negatively affect the quality of your work and could diminish your cognitive function to that of an 8-year-old. To kick the multitasking habit, look to the results from your time diary to identify the window of time you’re most productive. Schedule your most mentally challenging tasks for this period of time. Remind yourself that a majority of the time, what doesn’t get done today can wait until tomorrow.
  3. Ditch the guilt. Give yourself permission to opt out of the rat race. Set boundaries for your time and don’t feel bad for enforcing them. Feeling like you’re failing as a parent because you aren’t spending enough time with your kids? It’s time to let yourself off the hook. Parents today spend more time with their children than parents did 40 years ago. Instead of feeling guilty about the time you aren’t spending with your family, focus on making the time you do spend with them as high-quality as possible. Leave work at the office as much as possible and use your paid vacation time to make memories. You’ll set a great example to your children of what it looks like to honor your priorities and live mindfully.
  4. Choose the right kind of rest. It may be tempting after a hard week to spend the weekend on the couch binging your favorite shows. But your mind won’t register that passive activity as rest. Instead, choose a more mindful form of rejuvenation: read a book, take a walk, meditate, do yoga, practice hygge, call a friend or family member. As is typical with any form of self-care, however, if it’s not scheduled and prioritized, it can become the first thing cut when your schedule gets extra unruly. Remember to book time to refill your tank. It’s also a good idea to have the occasional “device detox,” where you put the phones, laptops, and tablets away and enjoy the company of others. The texts and emails will be there when you return.
  5. Take baby steps. Choose one time-reclaiming activity to implement. Use your time-tracking journal to help you identify areas in your life that consistently encroach upon your personal time and start there by creating realistic boundaries. Maybe you’ll decide to turn email notifications off or not to check texts after 8 p.m. After you’ve successfully incorporated that habit into your daily routine, choose another area to tackle. Keep going until you feel like you control your time instead of the other way around.

The Time is Now

The tornado of tasks sweeping you up—and your anxiety about dealing with all of them right now—isn’t all your fault. You’ve been sucked into the cult of busyness like so many people today.

Unlike others, you now understand how people end up paralyzed by productivity, and how technology has accelerated the perception (and reality) of busyness. And you have time-management tips to help you reclaim your time.

Don’t wait to take control over your schedule. Step off the non-stop treadmill of emails and projects and other people’s needs. Your time is invaluable and finite. So, reclaim your time and wrestle back dominion over your days.

ECLS Energy

Is it time for change?

Archways

In my experience most people change because they have too, life has left them no other choice and they have hung on to old patterns and experiences for various reasons. There is another way though, and it requires effort. You change because you want too.

The first way, people change because they have too, most often because the circumstances demand it with no other alternative but to change. This type of change is often abrupt and can cause many challenges. However, it is the most common reason for a change in most peoples lives. Usually, the biggest challenges and changes come from experiencing a change in what I call the big 3, relationships, health or career. Typically change on any of these levels is abrupt and can be a shock, which introduces fear and makes any transitions or changes even harder to navigate through.

However, as the universe and life itself are truly rich and abundant with opportunities, there is another way to change if you so desire. Usually, people who choose this type of change are dissatisfied with some are of their life and desire to change for various reasons. This change is through conscious effort. It can slowly and systematically reveal much about yourself, your subconscious programming and your true desires. If your willing to do the work it takes to honestly self reflect and heal old traumas and patterns. Questions will inevitably arise such as why are you the way you are? Why are you experiencing what you don’t want instead of what you consciously desire?

To look at your life and truly see where you require a fearless honesty. A willingness to see things as they are and recognition and awareness it is you who has the power to change.

Sound healing combined with energy work is a powerful catalyst for those willing to embark on an internal journey of change from within. When one changes from within one heal what has been holding them back, then the world responds to your new vibration with experiences and change that reflects this new signal your sending out. It doesn’t happen overnight and requires effort that is well rewarded. Are you ready?

Shout Out to AscensionHealingCenter.com

East Coast Life Solutions strongly believes in self-care. We empower women how to holistically be consciously aware of themselves through body, mind and spirit combined to elevate their energy level and reduce stress and anxiety.

Coast Lifestyle

HOW STRESS AFFECTS YOUR WEIGHT

stress affects your weight

Your work meeting ran late. Your car wouldn’t start immediately. You’ve hit every red light on the drive home. You realize you have no groceries at the same time hunger hits.

Surely, you’ve experienced a night like this and didn’t handle it gracefully. That’s because when you are experiencing stress—no matter how insignificant—the demands on your mind and body have exceeded the resources you have to cope with them. It’s hard to deal with each stressor when you’re standing at the crossroads of eight different frustrating scenarios.

Some nights like this might be unavoidable. But it’s important to learn about the long-term, negative impacts of stress so you can keep yourself healthy, well, and whole.

A common concern with ill-managed stress is an impact on the ability to maintain a healthy weight. There are a lot of factors that explain how stress affects weight. Your body’s response to stress—the hormones it releases—can impact fat storage. Stress can cause shifts in your microbiome. And, on top of that, the stress eating—turning to comforting, unhealthy foods—used to cope can compound the issues.

Below, you’ll get in-depth explanations of these bodily responses and the vicious stress cycle. But before you explore the impact, let’s discuss the different types of stress and your body’s response to it.

Types of Stress

Short-term stress happens quickly, over a short duration of time. It could be bad traffic or a long line at the store when you’re in a hurry. A short-term stressor might be small, but it’s something you’re able to handle without much difficulty.

Long-term stress is an ongoing battle against your stressor(s). It can be repetitive, continuous situations or conditions that feel insurmountable. For example, a lot of people struggle with crippling debt or maybe going to a job they hate. These types of looming stressors can last for months and even years.

Your body handles these stressors differently. From chemical pathways to behavioral changes, a lot can happen in response to stress. Let’s explore your body’s response to stressors to better understand how you can stay healthy while overcoming life’s obstacles.

The Short-Term Stress Response

Short-term stress happens when your body reacts to a risk, whether it is real or perceived. Let’s say you’re home alone and you hear an unfamiliar sound. Your brain may process this as a risk. You might assume it’s an intruder, even if the sound is not.

Before you determine the sound was just the washing machine, your body goes into “fight or flight” mode. And your adrenal glands secrete the hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine.

These hormones make your body prepared for survival mode, should the need arise. Increased hormone levels elevate your heart rate, blood pressure, and they increase the rate at which fat and carbohydrates in your system are broken down. Basically, these hormones are changing your metabolism to fuel this heightened state to be ready to fight or run away. Once the threat is eliminated, your body can return to its normal state.

The Long-Term Stress Response

Since the exposure to the “risk”—again perceived or real—is prolonged during long-term stress, your body can be strained physically and psychologically. Instead of short-lived spikes in the flight-or-fight hormones, the adrenal glands secrete cortisol, the primary stress hormone.

Cortisol’s presence doesn’t wreak havoc on the body. The strain comes from elevated levels for a prolonged period of time. The body becomes accustomed to these levels, establishing a new baseline tolerance. Consequently, if high stress levels are maintained, the secretions will continue to increase.

High levels of cortisol stimulate your appetite. On top of that, it can influence a rise in insulin levels. Insulin is responsible for regulating blood sugar. As the insulin level raises, blood sugar levels drop. This can create cravings for especially calorie-dense foods to regain a reasonable blood sugar level.

The Vicious Cycle of Stress & Weight Gain

The sequence of events above may not seem that harmful on the surface. However, if cortisol continues to course through your system for days, weeks—even months—on end, a vicious cycle is born. Elevated cortisol leads to increased insulin levels, which leads to lower blood sugar, and finally sugar cravings.

It’s not surprising that if you experience stress without relief, you might reach for “comfort foods” to sustain you. These foods are aptly named. They often supply a lot of energy in the form of refined sugar. They’re rich in fat to boot. And your brain experiences a calming effect from these foods.

In a way, comfort foods provide a short respite from the stress response. But this positively reinforces the frequent consumption of comfort foods. When you experience this relief, it’s likely you’ll reach for a similar food the next time you’re stressed and hungry. If the cycle continues long-term, there are implications for weight gain.

But there’s more to it than the cycle of stress eating. Cortisol activates lipoprotein lipase (LPL), an enzyme responsible for depositing and storing fat. A group of researchers found a correlation between high cortisol levels and central fat accumulation (distribution of fat around the midsection).

The group studied women at rest and subjected them to stress tests. Measurements of participant cortisol levels and psychological responses were taken after each rest or testing session. The researchers found that these correlations back up the existing hypothesis that long-term stress and “stress reactivity” can lead to greater central fat accumulation.

The Impact of Stress on Your Microbiome

A recent study in mice reiterated that stress has physical implications too, not just psychological ones. The researchers took a group of mice and fed half of the male and female mice a high-fat diet and then exposed the entire group to mild stress for a prolonged period of time.

The most notable finding was in the group of female mice not on the high-fat diet. After the stress period, their gut microbiota had changed. Though they were not eating a high-fat diet, their microbiome told a different story. Over time, the bacteria in their gut shifted to resemble that of the mice fed a high-fat diet.

Though this study was conducted in mice, the lessons and implications are clear. First, the biological effects of stress are far-reaching. It affects how you feel emotionally. But stress also changes the body physiologically. Second, the conclusion also implies that eating well alone is not enough to keep your body as healthy as it could be. While diet is important, so is your response to stress.

Tips for Managing Versus Coping with Stress

While they may sound similar, managing and coping with stress are two very distinct behaviors. Management involves planning ahead and building systems of support before stressors become overwhelming. Coping implies a sense of survival or just scraping by during an episode of stress.

Creating a stress-management plan doesn’t have to be stressful—it can be simple! It takes a little bit of forethought and planning, but once in place, it can help you through a hectic day. Consider the list below and think of how to personalize each for your life.

  • Create a support system. You likely already have a network of family and friends. But it’s helpful to pinpoint exactly who in your web can help you and when. And don’t just name them—write them down. It’s easier to reach out for support when a name and number are ready to use.
  • Block out alone time. This actually means time spent alone—free from distractions and visitors. You’re encouraged to physically block out these times on your calendar, too. This way colleagues or family can’t schedule over your time to recharge. If you’re a busy person, don’t give this up if you don’t have a free hour. Even five minutes alone can help.
  • Prioritize your tasks. It’s always gratifying to check off items on a to-do list. But often the easiest tasks get checked first, leaving the larger, more important tasks waiting for too long. Be honest with yourself when creating and prioritizing your list.
  • Make time for self-care. This doesn’t necessarily mean treating yourself in the way of bubble baths and bon-bons. It means actually taking care of yourself by eating balanced meals, sleeping well, and exercising, to name a few. Taking care of your body shouldn’t be a luxury, so make these self-care pieces a priority.
  • Be active! Exercise can intimidate some, but it can be enjoyable if you tailor it to your interests. Whether it be a leisurely walk or a vigorous game of soccer, both are valid options for getting your body moving. Research has shown that regular exercise can lower cortisol levels and boost endorphins.

Thanks to Ienna Templeton

 

Healthy Cove

HOW STRESS AFFECTS YOUR WEIGHT

stress affects your weight

Your work meeting ran late. Your car wouldn’t start immediately. You’ve hit every red light on the drive home. You realize you have no groceries at the same time hunger hits.

Surely, you’ve experienced a night like this and didn’t handle it gracefully. That’s because when you are experiencing stress—no matter how insignificant—the demands on your mind and body have exceeded the resources you have to cope with them. It’s hard to deal with each stressor when you’re standing at the crossroads of eight different frustrating scenarios.

Some nights like this might be unavoidable. But it’s important to learn about the long-term, negative impacts of stress so you can keep yourself healthy, well, and whole.

A common concern with ill-managed stress is an impact on the ability to maintain a healthy weight. There are a lot of factors that explain how stress affects weight. Your body’s response to stress—the hormones it releases—can impact fat storage. Stress can cause shifts in your microbiome. And, on top of that, the stress eating—turning to comforting, unhealthy foods—used to cope can compound the issues.

Below, you’ll get in-depth explanations of these bodily responses and the vicious stress cycle. But before you explore the impact, let’s discuss the different types of stress and your body’s response to it.

Types of Stress

Short-term stress happens quickly, over a short duration of time. It could be bad traffic or a long line at the store when you’re in a hurry. A short-term stressor might be small, but it’s something you’re able to handle without much difficulty.

Long-term stress is an ongoing battle against your stressor(s). It can be repetitive, continuous situations or conditions that feel insurmountable. For example, a lot of people struggle with crippling debt or maybe going to a job they hate. These types of looming stressors can last for months and even years.

Your body handles these stressors differently. From chemical pathways to behavioral changes, a lot can happen in response to stress. Let’s explore your body’s response to stressors to better understand how you can stay healthy while overcoming life’s obstacles.

The Short-Term Stress Response

Short-term stress happens when your body reacts to a risk, whether it is real or perceived. Let’s say you’re home alone and you hear an unfamiliar sound. Your brain may process this as a risk. You might assume it’s an intruder, even if the sound is not.

Before you determine the sound was just the washing machine, your body goes into “fight or flight” mode. And your adrenal glands secrete the hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine.

These hormones make your body prepared for survival mode, should the need arise. Increased hormone levels elevate your heart rate, blood pressure, and they increase the rate at which fat and carbohydrates in your system are broken down. Basically, these hormones are changing your metabolism to fuel this heightened state to be ready to fight or run away. Once the threat is eliminated, your body can return to its normal state.

The Long-Term Stress Response

Since the exposure to the “risk”—again perceived or real—is prolonged during long-term stress, your body can be strained physically and psychologically. Instead of short-lived spikes in the flight-or-fight hormones, the adrenal glands secrete cortisol, the primary stress hormone.

Cortisol’s presence doesn’t wreak havoc on the body. The strain comes from elevated levels for a prolonged period of time. The body becomes accustomed to these levels, establishing a new baseline tolerance. Consequently, if high stress levels are maintained, the secretions will continue to increase.

High levels of cortisol stimulate your appetite. On top of that, it can influence a rise in insulin levels. Insulin is responsible for regulating blood sugar. As the insulin level raises, blood sugar levels drop. This can create cravings for especially calorie-dense foods to regain a reasonable blood sugar level.

The Vicious Cycle of Stress & Weight Gain

The sequence of events above may not seem that harmful on the surface. However, if cortisol continues to course through your system for days, weeks—even months—on end, a vicious cycle is born. Elevated cortisol leads to increased insulin levels, which leads to lower blood sugar, and finally sugar cravings.

It’s not surprising that if you experience stress without relief, you might reach for “comfort foods” to sustain you. These foods are aptly named. They often supply a lot of energy in the form of refined sugar. They’re rich in fat to boot. And your brain experiences a calming effect from these foods.

In a way, comfort foods provide a short respite from the stress response. But this positively reinforces the frequent consumption of comfort foods. When you experience this relief, it’s likely you’ll reach for a similar food the next time you’re stressed and hungry. If the cycle continues long-term, there are implications for weight gain.

But there’s more to it than the cycle of stress eating. Cortisol activates lipoprotein lipase (LPL), an enzyme responsible for depositing and storing fat. A group of researchers found a correlation between high cortisol levels and central fat accumulation (distribution of fat around the midsection).

The group studied women at rest and subjected them to stress tests. Measurements of participant cortisol levels and psychological responses were taken after each rest or testing session. The researchers found that these correlations back up the existing hypothesis that long-term stress and “stress reactivity” can lead to greater central fat accumulation.

The Impact of Stress on Your Microbiome

A recent study in mice reiterated that stress has physical implications too, not just psychological ones. The researchers took a group of mice and fed half of the male and female mice a high-fat diet and then exposed the entire group to mild stress for a prolonged period of time.

The most notable finding was in the group of female mice not on the high-fat diet. After the stress period, their gut microbiota had changed. Though they were not eating a high-fat diet, their microbiome told a different story. Over time, the bacteria in their gut shifted to resemble that of the mice fed a high-fat diet.

Though this study was conducted in mice, the lessons and implications are clear. First, the biological effects of stress are far-reaching. It affects how you feel emotionally. But stress also changes the body physiologically. Second, the conclusion also implies that eating well alone is not enough to keep your body as healthy as it could be. While diet is important, so is your response to stress.

Tips for Managing Versus Coping with Stress

While they may sound similar, managing and coping with stress are two very distinct behaviors. Management involves planning ahead and building systems of support before stressors become overwhelming. Coping implies a sense of survival or just scraping by during an episode of stress.

Creating a stress-management plan doesn’t have to be stressful—it can be simple! It takes a little bit of forethought and planning, but once in place, it can help you through a hectic day. Consider the list below and think of how to personalize each for your life.

  • Create a support system. You likely already have a network of family and friends. But it’s helpful to pinpoint exactly who in your web can help you and when. And don’t just name them—write them down. It’s easier to reach out for support when a name and number are ready to use.
  • Block out alone time. This actually means time spent alone—free from distractions and visitors. You’re encouraged to physically block out these times on your calendar, too. This way colleagues or family can’t schedule over your time to recharge. If you’re a busy person, don’t give this up if you don’t have a free hour. Even five minutes alone can help.
  • Prioritize your tasks. It’s always gratifying to check off items on a to-do list. But often the easiest tasks get checked first, leaving the larger, more important tasks waiting for too long. Be honest with yourself when creating and prioritizing your list.
  • Make time for self-care. This doesn’t necessarily mean treating yourself in the way of bubble baths and bon-bons. It means actually taking care of yourself by eating balanced meals, sleeping well, and exercising, to name a few. Taking care of your body shouldn’t be a luxury, so make these self-care pieces a priority.
  • Be active! Exercise can intimidate some, but it can be enjoyable if you tailor it to your interests. Whether it be a leisurely walk or a vigorous game of soccer, both are valid options for getting your body moving. Research has shown that regular exercise can lower cortisol levels and boost endorphins.
Healthy Cove

Healthy Immunity – Happy Life

 

This morning, I and millions more were bumper-to-bumper on the highway, worried that we would be late to that early meeting. We carry our smartphones everywhere we go, allowing our work and worries to follow. There are so many things competing for our attention every minute of every day. We live in exciting, promising times, but also stressful times.

Worst of all, daily stress is unhealthy. And it’s particularly hard on your immune system.

PROGLUCAMUNE watch video

To help counter the effects of occasional stress, USANA has combined modern immune-support technology with ancient wisdom to create Proglucamuneextracts, zinc, and a strain of baker’s yeast, Proglucamune taps into centuries of medicinal traditions and literally puts it into the palm of your hand.

Prime Your Immune System with InCelligence

The unique ingredients of Proglucamune are what really give it the right to stand above the heaps of other nutritional supplements. Baker’s yeast and mushroom extracts combine to create the InCelligence Beta-Glucan Complex—a support for healthy immunity during mild, occasional stress.*

The bioactive components of both mushrooms and baker’s yeast—known as beta-glucans—bind to the receptors on the outside of immune cells and trigger cell-signaling pathways. This essentially “wakes up” your immune cells and keeps them ready to effectively defend your body from external threats—a mechanism known as priming.
[link to https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17895634]

The Miracle of Mushrooms

For centuries mushrooms have been treasured by culinary artists and grill masters alike. But they have also been valued over the ages for their medicinal and even spiritual properties.

Reishi and shiitake mushrooms in particular have long been used in ancient cultures to support the immune system, help facilitate calmness, and strengthen qi—our so-called circulating life force that is the basis of Eastern philosophy and medicine.

USANA uses reishi and shiitake mushrooms because research shows there is some profound truth to these ancient philosophies.

Bringing Ancient Ingredients to the Present

USANA’s Proglucamune goes one step further by using reishi and shiitake mushrooms grown on deeply pigmented purple corn kernels.

Why is this important? This purple corn contains high levels of anthocyanins. Mushrooms thrive solely by extracting all necessary nutrients from their host—unlike plants, which obtain some of their nutrients through photosynthesis. By growing the reishi and shiitake mushrooms on an antioxidant-rich host, these potent antioxidants are transferred to the mushrooms before being harvested.

These beta-glucan-infused mushroom extracts are just half of the unique blend that is Proglucamune.

Baker’s Yeast—Rising to the Occasion

Proglucamune is also made with a clinically studied strain of baker’s yeast. Like the mushroom extracts, baker’s yeast is a source of powerful beta-glucans.

Beta-glucans are naturally occurring polysaccharides typically found in the cell wall of certain bacteria and fungi. These beta-glucans bind to the receptors of immune cells and bring them into a “heightened state.” In this heightened state, immune cells are more prepared and can perform their natural task of defending the body more quickly.

Beta-glucans help prime your natural immune function. Clinical studies show that baker’s yeast provides exceptional support for immunity and daily wellness. It also supports your body’s natural ability to adapt and respond to stress.*

Stressful Times Call for Amazing Ingredients

We live in stressful times. A recent survey by the American Psychological Association found that four of five adults report that they constantly check their email, texts, and social media. This survey also concluded that these same people have higher levels of stress.

Now more than ever, we need to de-stress our lives and give our immune system all the help we can provide.

Baker’s yeast hasn’t been clinically proven to solve life’s problems, but it can help keep your immune system ready and prepared to go to work.

How Will You De-Stress Your Life?

We all have busy and sometimes stressful lives. It may seem impossible to find a time to slow down, but that kind of thinking is ancient history.

We can turn off our smartphones and go for a walk in the park instead of surfing social media. Maybe you could pick up a new hobby like fishing or rock-climbing or biking. Why not spend the evening with family or visiting old friends? Or maybe all you need is some quiet alone time where you don’t think about anything at all.

With Proglucamune, you can live in these crazy, exciting times with the confidence that your body will be able to keep up with the unique tempo of your life.

Just something to think about the next time you’re stuck in traffic.

Check out the other great products USANA has that support immune function.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.