Focus on Stress

What is Stress?

In 1936, medical researcher Hans Selye defined the term “stress” as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change.” In other words, stress is your reaction to something (the stressor) that threatens to disrupt your internal balance (homeostasis).

A stressor, whether it’s harmful (like too little sleep) or beneficial (like the excitement of attending a live show), moves your body out of optimal homeostasis, creating stress. The job of your stress response is to both protect you from the stressor and move you back to a state of balance.

The Stress Response System

Your body has the same response to all stress, regardless of the cause, and the glands of your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis are central to this response. It starts when the hypothalamus in your brain signals your pituitary gland to activate stress hormone production by your adrenal glands.

Adrenal stress hormones like cortisol prepare you to physically respond to the stressor while also preserving physiological balance. These adrenal hormones affect every cell and process in your body, including energy production, immune activity, cellular maintenance, gastrointestinal health, sleep, and mental focus.

Supporting your stress response system can help you become more stress resilient.

stressed woman sitting on edge of bed

Supporting Your Stress Response System

There are many things you can to do support your stress response system and boost your resilience to daily stress. Here are some lifestyle tips:

  • Deep breathing – Even 3 minutes of conscious breathing (inhaling all the way into your belly counting slowly to 5, exhaling completely counting slowly to 5) several times a day helps shift you out of being stuck in high gear.
  • Adaptogenic herbs and other nutrients – Certain herbs and nutrients can support and balance the stress response system, leading to more stress resilience.*
  • Exercise – Since your fight or flight stress response prepares your body for physical action, regular light to moderate exercise in the morning or afternoon can help you feel less stressed.
  • Sleep – It’s recommended that you get 7-9 hours of restful sleep per night for optimal health.
  • Engage in a hobby - Spend time daily doing something you enjoy.
woman stretching her arms in a field