Do you often feel tired, tired and out of touch with life? You’re not alone. Stress is one of the most common causes of illness. But there are ways to get back to life, energy and balance, and most of it you can do yourself. Maybe life will never be the same again – probably it will be much better.
The stress response is an ancient survival function. A little simplified it is usually said that we would not have survived as hunters and collectors just over 10,000 years ago without it. When we were attacked, the body needed the extra hormonal power, like a higher gear, to be able to fight for our lives – or run for our lives. But the stress response is much more multifaceted than that – and especially important for us today, from morning to evening.
Our bodies are completely dependent on a functioning stress response. We need it to cope with physical and mental difficulties, and to regulate and balance the body. Getting up in the morning, coping with an infection or injury, coping with a task, some unforeseen event, or just ”grabbing” things – all require functioning adrenal glands that provide an appropriate stress response.
The big problem is not the stress response itself, but the lack of recovery. We are drawn with low-intensity stress that rarely or never lets go of us. We are good at delivering, leaving and retrieving, are the perfect mom, colleague, wife and “just go”, constantly on the move, careless with food, exercise, laughter, life… Recovery is prioritized down – instead we wear out our tires and finally drive on our rims. Having constantly elevated levels of stress hormones in the blood rears on the body.
Stress takes the body off balance
It is the hypothalamus, an area of the midbrain, which together with the hormone gland pituitary gland, maintains the chemical balance of the body, and that our basic life-sustaining processes work as well as possible.
The hypothalamus links the nervous system and the hormone system. It acts as a thermostat that scans our current state without interruption, decides on which hormones to release, and in what amount.
The hypothalamus takes in a large amount of information, both from within the body and from our surroundings. It listens to our thoughts and beliefs, notes our body temperature, chemical balance, fatigue and blood pressure. Hypothalamus is affected by stress factors such as emotional stress, perceived helplessness, infections, shock and trauma. Also ambient light, temperature, seasonal changes and input from our five senses (vision, taste, hearing, feeling and scent) affect which hormones the hypothalamus gives orders to produce.
The hypothalamus communicates with the pituitary gland, the head of the body’s hormone glands, via so-called neurohormones. These neurohormones control the body’s hormonal balance by either blocking or stimulating the release of the pituitary hormones.
The pituitary gland, in turn, determines most of the body’s other hormone glands and their secretion. It is the pituitary gland that stimulates the thyroid to release its hormones, which, among other things, controls the metabolism. The hypo-physical also stimulates the release of our sex hormones and oxytocin (feel good hormone) as well as hormones for body growth and metabolic processes – and it stimulates the release of adrenal stress hormones.