You might be feeling exhausted because of a build-up of something called Allostatic Load which is basically the wear and tear your body experiences (inside, on a hormonal level) when it tries to deal with all those consistent daily stressors you experience, like paying the bills or your daily commute. Your body responds to, and removes these stressors like a thermostat responds to, and removes unwanted changes in temperature: If the temperature strays from the desired temperature, the thermostat kicks in to bring the unwanted temperature back to the desired temperature. The same thing happens in your body when you get stressed out. Your brain notices a change in its internal environment (created by the stressor) and corrects the change by releasing hormones. But, if you keep getting stressed out consistently, your body’s ability to control the amount and timing of the hormones released diminishes. This loss of hormonal control can cause you to not only feel stressed out constantly, but also destroys your body on the inside, because these hormones are good for short bursts, but if they stay in the bloodstream for a long time, they tear down your body. Literally. For example, Cortisol is a stress hormone released when you stress out. Cortisol is really helpful if you’re getting mugged, because it makes you super strong and alert, but if it runs around your blood stream too long, like when your stressed out about something for days, weeks, or months, it starts to breakdown a significant amount of muscle, and causes you to store fat, which is really bad for your health for many reasons beyond the scope of this article. My point is: when you’re constantly stressed, your brain may eventually start to malfunction, like a broken thermostat: the temperature in the house becomes undesirable, but no corrective temperature change occurs, so it just keeps getting worse. Until you fix the thermostat of course.
So how do you fix the thermostat (i.e. your brain)? I’m not a doctor, psychologist, or endocrinologist, so this is merely a suggestion: figure out the real cause of your chronic stress, then remove that stressor, slowly, over time. Because if you consistently lower your stress levels, your hormonal system may start releasing hormones at levels closer to normal, thus countering the ill-effects of allostatic load. Furthermore, consider this: If you try to remove the stressor(s) all at once, the removal process may be overwhelming and cause you more stress, because these–consistent– stressors are typically habits. Habits, overt or not, take a while to get rid of, so be patient. For example, if you find yourself staying up late watching Netflix and not sleeping enough (which, if done consistently will throw off your hormone levels, leading to an unhealthy build-up of Allostatic load and a broken brain thermostat) maybe try to figure out why you feel the need to stay up every night to watch Netflix. Is it to replace something that’s missing? Once you figure out the cause of the stress, set a goal to go to sleep 15 minutes sooner per day for a week until you’re asleep at a time that gets you at least 8 hours of sleep. Because lack of sleep is a major contributor to building up unhealthy allostatic load.
Also, another extremely easy and effective stress-reducer is meditation. Meditation allows your body to recover and reset itself after continuous stress has broken your thermostat. I highly recommend the free app called “Headspace”. I use it a lot and it works really well for not only reducing my stress levels immediately, but it has a lasting effect throughout the day and even into the next day, and if you keep meditating everyday, the stress-reducing effects only get better. And no I’m not getting paid by Headspace to say this. I just like the effectiveness of their app. If you don’t have a smart phone or don’t know how to use apps, you can use Headspace on your desktop computer at home as well.
So, the take home message is: Figure out what the true, root cause of your stress is, and remove it slowly by changing one small lifestyle habit at a time.
Exercise is also a supremely effective method for lowering your allostatic load. So, if you want to learn how to exercise with proper form and the lowest injury risk possible, just let me know. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a message at facebook.com/coachskene or fill out the blanks below and click submit and your comment will be sent to my email.