How stress can affect your health

How stress can affect your health

how stress can affect your health

How Stress Can Affect Your Health – The HPA Axis

The Hypothalmic Adrenal Pituitary axis (HPA) regulates many bodily functions such as immunity and digestion. It also controls your body’s reaction to stress. When we are faced with stressors, several hormones are released which stimulate the adrenal glands. Cortisol, adrenalin and DHEA amongst other hormones are produced, initiating the fight or flight response.

ho stress can affect your health

Due to everyday stressors, we are constantly activating the HPA axis and pushing the adrenals to over work, finally leading them to become exhausted. To learn more about adrenal fatigue and how stress can affect your health, click here.

The HPA axis is involved in producing many of the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome. It is not known if HPA axis dysfunction causes chronic fatigue syndrome or if chronic fatigue syndrome leads to HPA axis dysfunction. However, what is recognized is that stress plays a large part in the development of chronic fatigue syndrome.

HPA Axis – How To Improve Its Function Naturally

Due to the influence that the HPA axis has in chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms, it’s important to ensure the HPA axis is working optimally. To do this naturally, the adrenals need to be healthy and working well. Lifestyle factors are important, getting enough rest, reducing stress and adhering to a healthy diet are all vital components of good HPA axis health.

Healthful food high in nutrients and low in food toxins can supply many of the nutrients required by the HPA axis. Additional supplements that can be helpful are magnesium, Vitamin B5, B12 and Vitamin C. Read my review of a great magnesium supplement I use here.

Your body signals your HPA axis is under stress in many ways. Sometimes the changes show up as symptoms like pain from muscle tension, particularly in the neck, upper back and shoulders. You might have heightened feelings of anxiety, irritability, moodiness or depression.

how stress can affect your health

Where does your stress come from?

When, dealing with chronic fatigue syndrome it’s very important to identify where the stress in your life is coming from. In addition to existing lifestyle factors, having chronic fatigue syndrome adds further to your stress load as you deal with the illness and it’s symptoms.

The many and varied symptoms arising from the illness like pain, anxiety, and fatigue add stress. Dealing with feelings of isolation and the strain on relationships both in your career and personally can lead to even more stress.

Financial hardship due to being unable to work full time can lead to feelings of uncertainty about your future. All of this adds stress to an already stressed body and mind.

Chronic fatigue sufferers find that their tolerance to stress becomes less as the illness progresses. The smallest conflict or incident in your life can cause an increase in symptoms. Even the slightest irritant becomes just too difficult to deal with in your current fatigued state.

Identifying and reducing the stress in your life is paramount in assisting healing from chronic fatigue syndrome.

To help identify the major stressors in your life take some quiet time to think about the following:

  • Track when your symptoms worsen – Is it in reaction to a certain person, a place or particular situation you find yourself in?
  • Examine your personal relationships – Are you surrounded by overly demanding people who do not understand and support you in dealing with your illness? Are you surrounding yourself with the wrong friends? Where is the toxic relationship energy in your life coming from?
  • Feelings of frustration and helplessness – Which areas of your life are you frustrated with? Are you working in a job you don’t enjoy? Are you living in a personal relationship or marriage that no longer feels like an equal and supportive partnership? Do you feel as if your chosen career no longer suits your life goals?
  • Monitor your thoughts – Are your thoughts mostly negative, leading to the belief you can never recover from your illness? Do you constantly worry and feel anxious about the future?
  • Allergies – Are you dealing with chemical and /or food sensitivities?
  • Infections – Could you have some yet un-diagnosed bacterial, fungal or parasitic infection?

Managing The Stress In Your Life

Whilst it is important to identify the major cause(s) of stress in your life and work on removing them, this can take some time to arrange. I had to eventually leave my job and the country I was living in and change my work life completely in order to remove the major stressors in my life.

Some people will need to change from full time to part-time work, or work from home to reduce their stress load. Many will leave toxic relationships. These changes are major lifestyle changes and will take time to implement.

In the meantime there are several approaches you can use to help manage and reduce the current stress in your life. Because there are many types of stress in your life, it can be helpful to use different strategies and techniques to manage your stress.

The relationship between the mind and body is well-known, your thoughts affect your body’s health. Mind/body techniques can help re train the HPA axis and in turn help you feel better and reduce symptoms.

It’s important to find techniques that you enjoy and create a regular daily practice. The more regularly you practice the more beneficial it will be. Try some of the following techniques and see which ones work for you.

how stress can affect your health

  • Yoga – Gentle restorative yoga which doesn’t cause further stress on your body can have a beneficial effect on the HPA axis. It can reduce depression and anxiety and has an overall calming effect on the mind. Learn 3 easy restorative yoga poses to to every day here.
  • Meditation – This is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress by relaxing your mind. Several types of meditation can be used, you need to find one or two that suit you best. Breathing meditation is simple to use and can be utilized any time you feel stressed. Breathe deeply in through your nose to a count of 6 then breathe out to the same count. Simple deep breathing will help you feel more relaxed quite quickly.
  • Massage – Having a regular relaxation massage helps relax tight muscles and reduce aches and pains. Cortisol is decreased and the fight or flight switch is turned off. It helps get you ‘out of your head’ and shifts your attention into your body.
  • Gentle exercise – Moving helps use some of the anxious energy you might feel. It calms the mind and helps release tension. Gentle walking and swimming can both be beneficial but need to be carried out according to the available energy you have and should not make you feel fatigued.

Putting It All Together

Understand the importance that stress plays in HPA axis dysfunction and work to identify and remove major stressors in your life. Use stress reduction techniques on a regular basis to help reduce the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome. Try some adaptogenic herbs proven to help manage your body’s response to stress.

I hope this information is helpful, please feel free to leave a comment.

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16 Comments

  • Josephine April 13, 2018 at 1:57 am

    I realized my stressor was a certain person in my life once I finally cut them out. Once they left, I noticed my headaches started to go away and I was also able to sleep better because I was less anxious.

    You’re right, it is so important to handle the stress in your life before it gives us some really bad ailments, or even worse kill you.

    Your tips were very helpful. I think I may start implementing more massages into my life to help me relax.

    • Ann April 13, 2018 at 7:44 am

      Josephine

      Thanks for your comments, glad you identified the stressor in your life and took action. Massages are great, I find they take me out of my ‘head’ and into my ‘body’…. important for relaxation. 

  • Norman May 22, 2018 at 10:47 am

    Hi Ann,

    Thanks for the article. I find that regular meditation really helps. I usually do short 3 to 5 minute sessions 3 times per day in the morning, afternoon, and evening. Not only does it help me calm down in a moment of acute stress, but it also helps me be more creative – more open, if you will, to ideas that just start appearing and usually turn out to be extremely constructive.

    Thanks a lot for sharing, and all the best,

    Norman

    • Ann May 22, 2018 at 11:30 am

      Hi Norman

      Thanks for commenting. Sounds like you’ve found something that really works for you to reduce stress. It’s great that you can break meditation down into small timeframes to use it during your day.

  • Chris November 10, 2018 at 1:48 pm

    Excellent article on a subject that is close to my heart, as I also used to suffer from stress that led to mental issues (depression eventually). 

    Stress can be the start of so many bad things in your life – we hardly ever realize how important our ‘inside health’ is, with most of us worrying more about our physical health. 

    This is actually the first time I have come across the theory of the HPA axis – is it a relatively new angle on stress in medical circles?

    • Ann November 10, 2018 at 2:07 pm

      Hi Chris thanks for leaving a comment. I agree, stress can be responsible for poor health and understanding how it affects you personally is an important step in getting a handle on it. The HPA axis has been known for quite some time in medicine.

  • Darren November 10, 2018 at 1:51 pm

    Stress is a horrible thing to experience for a prolonged amount of time, I have had alot of stress that lead to a breakdown and depression however after the breakdown of years of build up I felt loose and ten years younger! 

    The draw back is I now suffer from adrenal fatigue. I have changed my diet to help combat this which really helps but still get tired in the afternoons. 

    I can relate to the majority of the symptoms in your article and I’ve actually bookmarked your page.

    I’m so happy I came across your website 

    Thankyou! 

    • Ann November 10, 2018 at 2:01 pm

      Hi Darren thanks for stopping by. I’m glad to hear you overcame your stress and health issues. It seems that adrenal fatigue s almost an epidemic, a symptom of our crazy busy lives. Happy to hear you found the article helpful. 

  • Emmanuel Buysse November 23, 2018 at 7:49 am

    Great post and good info.

    Yes indeed, stress is very bad, your heart, brains, and even yoir hair suffers from it.

    In the world nowadays it is hard to think without stress, but let me say it like this, what does stress help to complete your work.

    I made a switch and since then I’m more relaxed, less problems with my health, and my work is better!

    I do this by exercising, yoga also helps!

    Thanks for sharing it!

    • Ann November 23, 2018 at 7:58 am

      Hi Emmanuel Thanks for stopping by. Glad to hear you made a switch in your work and find great ways to keep stress at bay. Agree, yoga and exercise are great stress relievers. 

  • YU-SIANG LIN May 18, 2019 at 3:35 am

    everyone will have stress, it is hard to avoid, it will seriously affect your health, I have some of my friends because of the stress from the job, they become very unhappy, suffering from some mental illness, you have a great article to let me know how to fix the stress, so I will share this to those friends who have this problem, thank you so much! It helps me a lot!

    • Ann May 19, 2019 at 9:31 am

      Thanks for your comment and it’s great you found it useful.

  • Stella May 18, 2019 at 4:41 am

    Hypothalamic adrenal pituitary axis can  release hormone like adrenaline into our body system whenever we are faced with stress. Stress can come in various ways. In the case whereby high blood pressure arise as a result of stress, is it also as a result of those hormones you mentioned?.

    Whenever I’m stressed out, I normally feel acute headache which will not go until I take drugs. The moment I knew about meditation, I tried it out and it works perfectly for me. Massaging is my top stress reliever. This review is interesting.

    • Ann May 19, 2019 at 9:24 am

      I’m glad to hear meditation works for you as a stress reliever to get rid of your headaches in a natural way. 

  • Nekko May 18, 2019 at 4:42 am

    I’ve always heard that too much stress on someone wasn’t good and could even cause health concerns, but I would have never imagined how big of an impact stress can have on our bodies,  let alone on how we feel physically and mentally! Thanks to your in-depth post, I’ll definitely be paying more attention to my stress and I’m going to try some of your advice to see if it works for me.  

    • Ann May 19, 2019 at 9:22 am

      Thanks for your comments, I hope you get some benefit from de-stressing. 

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