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Stess and motherhood seem to go hand-in-hand. Sometimes we’re hit with stressors on a daily basis… especially for those of us who have one or both of the 2 Ts – Toddlers or Teens. But I would venture a guess that most of us have no idea the damage ongoing stress does to your body, your energy level, your mental health, your emotional well-being and your waistline. I know I didn’t.
First of all, is stress real or is it just complaining? Well, any high school kid studying for midterms can tell you that stress is a very real experience that carries with it measurable side effects. The pharmaceutical industry is replete with temporary remedies that help us to manage the uncomfortable symptoms associated with stress. For most of us, stress is certainly no stranger.
Just about every day, we are exposed to a stressful situation, whether that situation was the threat of the neighbor’s dog being loose or the perpetual fear of being laid off in an unstable work environment. The good news is stressful experiences can often be controlled, or at the least closely monitored. The bad news is we live in a society that thrives on, glorifies and promotes stress as a way of life and a prerequisite to success.
How to Tell If Stress is Present
While the human body is an amazing piece of biological machinery, stress is one of the things that can quickly debilitate the body, both in big ways and small ways. We naturally react to change with stress, however subtle that stress may be. When we are exposed to something that we perceive as a physical or emotional threat, the body reacts by releasing a flood of hormones into the bloodstream which activate our fight or flight response. As long as the threat still looms, we get those hormones. Once the threat has been removed, our bodies can return to their natural state.
If you have ever watched a cop show during one of the interrogation scenes, you can probably remember the interrogator watching the perpetrator’s body language for signs of guilt – shallow breathing, holding one’s breath, finger tapping, and other subtle cues are all indicators of the presence of stress. The thinking is that if the accused is in emotional distress, it’s probably a good indicator that he or she has something to hide. Well, we experience little ticks like that all the time and mostly they go unnoticed.
Now, that is certainly not to say that stress is always a negative experience. For instance, the feeling of your heart racing as you whip by on a speeding roller coaster is a form of stress but the stress you experience is short-lived and translates emotionally as excitement or exhilaration.
The problem comes in when the stress is continuous. Continuous stress wreaks havoc on our bodies. Not only does stress affect our physical bodies, but it also affects our mental and emotional well-being. Continuous stress has caused hundreds of thousands of people to suffer from medical afflictions including chest pains, headaches, digestive problems, skin problems, hair loss and high blood pressure.
Stress can also aggravate pre-existing conditions such as asthma, diabetes, cold sores, arthritis and heart problems. Stress can lead to emotional problems like depression and anxiety, two culprits that can drive people to give in to appetites and addictions they otherwise would not, including overeating, alcoholism, substance abuse and physical abuse.
For us moms, sometimes stress manifests as having a short temper, becoming easily irritated or even yelling a lot at the kids.
The key to identifying stress is simply to pay attention. Easier said than done when you’re swimming in a sea of stressful situations. BUT the faster you are able to pinpoint when you are experiencing stress, the more likely you are to be able to identify your stressors before they start making you roll your eyes and think mean thoughts. In some situations, you may even be able to remove yourself from more stressful situations and eliminate some things (and people) from your life altogether.
Stress Can Make Your Belly Big, Ladies! (Oh NOOOO!!!)
Totally wish I was kidding about this, but… I’ve been doing a lot of research about the human body (which I’m chronicling in the section on this site called Health & Productivity), trying to learn how the body’s systems work together so I can get healthy without ending up in the ER again (inflamed gallbladder from eating all the wrong fatty foods on keto). Time and time again, I’ve been seeing research and data that says stress can actually affect how your put on fat and how you lose muscle mass, i.e. getting a bigger belly and those shrinking hips. I like to