STRESS - What's causing it, and 9 ways to fight it
Allostatic load - What's that? and why you need to be aware of it.
Your body only has a finite amount of ability to tolerate STRESS before you start to encounter problems. We can use the “rain barrel effect” analogy to perfectly describe this as all stress is like rain filling up the barrel. When you experience too much stress its like the rain barrel overflowing as it cannot take anymore, just like the body breaking down as you have simply exceeded its tolerance levels.
So with that being said in simple terms allostatic load is a combination of ALL the stressors that you are currently experiencing. These stressors can include many things with most of the major ones below:
• Work related stressors (long hours, strict deadlines etc)
• Family related stressors (babies, young children, relationship or marital issues etc)
• Sleep related stressors (less than 6 hours a night, broken sleep, waking up at odd hours etc)
• Toxin related stressors (excess alcohol, smoking, overusing cosmetics, environmental pollutants etc)
• Nutrition related stressors (lack of nutrients, poor food choices, packaged food etc)
• Training and exercise related stressors (training too hard or too often)
Bear in mind that the majority of you will likely be experiencing a combination of the above but it’s beneficial to be aware that EVERYTHING can contribute to allostatic overload. Once you realise this it can help you to manage your life better when you are feeling overwhelmed or getting close to that “tipping point”? For example, if work is particularly stressful then you might reduce your exercise intensity or duration and look to focus on sleep quality to ensure optimal recovery.
Some of the obvious warning signs that you are at or close to that tipping point will be things such as:
• Increase in colds, coldsores, infections and weakened immune system
• Reduced sleep quality or inability to fall/stay asleep
• Lack of energy and tiredness
• Increased need for caffeine or stimulants to get through the day
• Decrease in mood
• Increased irritability
The above list is not exhaustive but enough to give you an idea of whether you are potentially getting close to that point. So what can you do to avoid getting to that tipping point? The first thing is to be mindful of what you CANNOT currently change and make adjustments elsewhere. As mentioned above if you are currently experiencing a lot of work related stress then make sure you are sleeping as well as possible, eating healthy and nutritious foods and not taking on excess commitments outside of work.
To summarise this below are some good daily practices that will generally help you to mitigate stress, and maintain your overall health and ability to withstand stress (as its not always avoidable!):
• Practice daily mediation or breath work (5 minutes a day is a start)
• Eat a good diet of nutrient dense foods (organic where possible)
• Exercise intelligently (enough to boost the immune system without overtraining)
• Walk daily
• Get regular sunlight
• Get into nature as regularly as possible
• Drink 2-3 litres of good quality water per day
• Limit caffeine and alcohol
• Focus on getting good sleep and stick to a regular cycle as best as you can (avoid being on your phone or laptop an hour before bed if possible)