"I try to avoid stress. It makes me feel like I'm rubber-stamping all my organs 'Urgent.'"
— Berri Clove
The festive season has come and gone, and for some, to huge sighs of relief. If you've gone through it without any extra baggage around the midsection, then lucky you! If, however, Santa brought you a few unwanted inches, don't be so quick to blame the feasts.
The last five weeks of the year are, for most people, the most stressful. And stress can put on a spare tire faster than the Michelin Man.
If the previous month has seen you spending the equivalent of a small South American country's defense budget on Christmas presents, doing battle with a turkey the size of a young tyrannosaur, playing UN mediator between warring factions in your extended family over the dinner table, and entertaining thoughts of roasting an obnoxious relative or two at 450 degrees until golden brown, then this article is for you.
If the holiday season's left you feeling stressed-out and flabby, read on!
Let's discuss what stress is, how cortisol (stress hormone) may be affecting you, and how you can alleviate that stress (and its effects) using the principles of Biosignature Modulation and traditional Chinese approaches.
What's the Big Deal About Stress?
Stress isn't only the psychological manifestation of aggravation, anxiety, or anger; it can also be environmental (exposure tochemical toxicity, infection, excessive noise or light), or it can be structural (pain, trauma, excessive exercise, or poor recovery or sleep).
This means that if you're a shift worker consuming your bodyweight in caffeine in an artificially lit factory, you probably have serious issues that need addressing!
One thing's for sure, we're a hundred times more stressed than our grandparents, and it is a huge issue. 43 percent of all adults suffer from stress-related adverse health effects, and 75 to 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related complaints or disorders.
One of the first things I learned as a Biosignature practitioner is that 80 percent of diseases are avoidable or treatable if you address the adrenal glands. This should come as no surprise, as stress has been linked to cardiovascular disease, cancer, lung ailments, cirrhosis, and even suicide —which comprise all the leading causes of death (source: American Instituteof Stress, "America's #1 Health problem").
If your cortisol levels are too high, you'll be far more predisposed to fat storage around your belly. I've treated clients who've lost body fat around their entire frame, but have had a sharp increase around the midsection.
Upon questioning them, I usually discovered that they'd had work-related stress, had been working night shifts, or had recently broken up with a girlfriend or boyfriend.
What's more distressing about this fat is that it's visceral abdominal fat. It's pro-inflammatory (meaning it builds up around the heart,lungs and liver), and will also inevitably lead you to issues with insulinlevels..
The body is a homeostatic organism: It always seeks balance,increasing the yin to counter any excess of yang. When cortisol levels are up, your pancreas squirts out a nice fat dose of insulin to bring them back down again.
This puts you on the insulin-cortisol see-saw, a roller coaster ride of fluctuating blood sugar levels, erratic carb cravings, and the cannibalization of your muscle tissue (cortisol is catabolic and will reduce your muscle mass).
This is because once you're stressed, your blood sugar levels drop and the body tries to compensate by increasing blood glucose levels.Insulin is released from the pancreas, so the donut that you just chewed up because your boss chewed you out is even more likely to be taking up residence around your ever-expanding midriff.
As the effects of stress are akin to hypoglycemia, you're also far more likely to comfort yourself with a huge bar of chocolate than with an organic turkey breast with fresh vegetables. In the long term, you lose your insulin sensitivity and become insulin-resistant, which can cause big problems.
The fault here is your body's hormonal Axis Of Evil: the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands. When activated, they unleash their WMDs (Weapon of Mass Disease), the body stealing precursors of testosterone and estrogen (pregnenolone) in order to over-produce cortisol.
This depletion robs your body of a valuable hormonalconstruction in order to create more stress hormone. In serious cases, the bodystops producing cortisol altogether (which is a low grade adrenaline) and substitutes it with adrenaline, which would a bit like running a Mini Cooper on rocket fuel.
Are You Stressed Out?
It should be fairly obvious if you are, but if you still aren't sure, just ask yourself whether you suffer from any of the following?
1) Increased appetite
3) Mid-afternoon energy slumps
4) Poor immune system (constant colds, bad skin, eczema)
6) Digestive problems
7) Muscle aches and pains
8) Hair loss (hey, mine doesn't count. It's heredity, not stress.)
9) Menstrual irregularity
10) Reduced mental acuity
11) Slow metabolism
12) Low sex drive
13) Fatigue, lethargy and tiredness
Next, answer this sleep questionnaire.If you answer "yes" to two or more questions, then you need to address your sleep patterns as a priority.
1) Do youhave trouble falling asleep at night?
2) Do you have difficulty waking up in the morning?
3) Do you sleep fewer than 8 or 9 hours a night?
4) Do you wake up once or more during the night?
5) If the answer to question 4 is "yes", what time do you usuallywake up?
6) Do you sleep in a room with any light or noise?
7) Do you wake up feeling tired?
8) Do you wake up only with an alarm?
9) Do you go to bed later than 11 p.m.?
10) Do you get up earlier than 6 a.m.?
11) Do you use medication for sleep?
So What Can You Do If You Are Stressed Out?
Well, as usual, the Hitchhiker'sGuide to the Galaxy has some excellent advice, right on page one:
First off, I'd urge you to realign yourself with your circadian rhythms. This would require you to get to bed by10:30 p.m. at the latest, gradually dimming the lights throughout the evening in order to prepare the body for rest. Avoid working on the computer, watching TV, or reading anything work-related prior to sleep.
Also try to avoid having any electrical items in the room, and if you do, ensure that they're unplugged.Your bedroom should be pitch dark and quiet. If it isn't, think about fitting blackout blinds, and in the event you do wake up in the middle of the night, don't switch on the light.
Why? Because this sends a message to the hypothalamus to produce cortisol as it associates that light with morning,and the need to produce an energizing hormone. This surge of cortisol will also stop the production of melatonin and other growth and repair hormones.
Getting a full night's sleep allows your body the necessary time to repair itself physically (10 p.m to 2 a.m.) and psychologically (2 a.m. to 6 p.m.).
Waking up during the night is a classic symptom of oxidative stress. The Chinese believe that the body's internal organs respond to "watches:" natural biorhythms that work in waves, drawing energy to a particular organ at a certain time.
Indeed, martial artists became so adept in their skills that they could time a blow to an acupressure point when that organ was at its "fullest," therefore maximizing damage and ensuring death through serious internal injury!
Of course, the aim of this article is not to teach you how to dim mak "death touch" someone into permanent sleep, it's to give you the necessary tools to relax the body and harmonize the internal mechanisms.
Here's a chart I've drawn up: It lists various times when you're most likely to wake up and the accompanying exercises to deal with the problem.
Time 1 a.m. to 3 a.m
Sit cross-legged in bed (or whatever is comfortable for you), looking at the tip of your nose, with your thumbs tucked into your fists. Hold this for 5 to 30 minutes
3 a.m. to 5 a.m.
Interlace your fingers behind your head, drawing your elbows back. Look at the tip of your nose and click your teeth together. Do this for 5 to 30 minutes
5 a.m. to 7 a.m.
Place your palms over your ears, and with your index finger, tap the back of your skull 36 times. Then inhale and count "one", exhale and count "two." Do this up to the count of 9.
This article has covered the primary area of cortisol management, which is adequate rest. In future articles I'll go into greater detail on supplementation to help those of you who suffer from poor stress management, sleep patterns, and recovery.
I'll also discuss exercise and nutritional protocols to help you bring your abdominal region down to the leanest it's ever been, ridding you of that stubborn subcutaneous adipose tissue.
Meanwhile let me leave you with the words of Britain's greatest philosopher, Winnie the Pooh.
"Don't underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering."
— Pooh's Little Instruction Book, inspired by A.A. Milne
About the Author
Y.M.C.A Advanced Personal Trainer Award (Reps Level 3)
Poliquin Performance (BioSignature Modulation)
Premier Resisted Movement Training: Functional Training
1st Degree Black Sash in Chinese Kung Fu and Qi Gong