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High Level View Of The Endocrine System And The Body's Stress Response

Happy adult woman yoga classThe stress response begins in the brain. When someone perceives danger, information is sent through the central nervous system to the amygdala, a part of the brain.

The brain then communicates with the rest of the body through the fight-or-flight system, which is called the sympathetic nervous system, and the rest-and-digest system, referred to as the parasympathetic nervous system.

The fight-or-flight response functions like a gas pedal in a car, providing the body with a burst of energy so that it can respond to perceived dangers. The rest-and-digest system acts like a brake that calms the body down after the danger has passed.

As you can imagine, when you are in fight or flight, the adrenal glands respond by pumping adrenaline into the bloodstream. We have all felt that jolting sensation, like when we see a ball roll out into the street, our nervous systems respond, just waiting for that little kid to come chasing after ball.

When we realize that little kid is too smart to run out into the street, we feel ourselves start to relax. That’s when the parasympathetic nervous system is at work – the “brake” – that dampens the stress response.

So, you get the fight-or-flight rush of adrenaline with a perceived danger, then the rest-and-digest brake pedal when the threat passes.

A very important distinction to make here is that you can’t be in protection mode and healing mode at the same time! You can’t push on the gas and the brake with one foot.

So what does this mean? Over time, when this stress response is repetitively triggered, your body begins to breakdown because there is less recovery, less healing, and eventually more and more fatigue.

Too much stress means too many withdrawals from your energy bank account, which results in chronic fatigue, poor healing, and disease.

Everyday Stressors That Contribute To Chronic Fatigue

Mental and Emotional stresses are things like job stress, life stress, relationships, or money stress. Repetitive feelings of overwhelm and anxiety, or even not getting enough sleep all cause mental/emotional stress.

Nutrition or biochemical stresses include toxicity or nutritional deficiency. This is too much of the bad stuff and not enough of the good stuff, or alcohol, smoking, prescriptions, or over-the-counter medications. You may even have food sensitivities that lead to biochemical stress.

Chemicals can also be an issue. Are you exposed to toxins in your home or work, from laundry detergent to cleaning supplies? Do you use air fresheners or dryer sheets? How about the air we breathe? Does you have an air purifier or Clean Sweep in your home?

Physical elements can be a trigger for chronic fatigue, including traumas, overly strenuous exercise, accidents, work place ergonomics, poor sleeping positions, or lack of movement, flexibility, and strength.

Too little physical stress can be just as impactful as too much. Imagine that if you never move, stretch, or exercise, and all of a sudden, your body receives a stimulus to get the heck outta there! Do you think you will respond efficiently and appropriately? A healthy level of physical stress and movement is essential to maintain a healthy baseline so that you can respond appropriately.

Check back soon for our last installment in this chronic fatigue series, where we’ll address how you can effectively manage your stress and energy levels for better health!

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