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Stress and Hormone Function

Stress is an unavoidable part of our world and our life. As individuals, we are starting to understand more and more that when we experience stress it has an impact on our physical body and our health.

Some of the hormones in our bodies are designed to help us deal with stress. The adrenal glands produce adrenaline. Most of us are familiar with the term adrenaline rush, which is the fight-or-flight response when we are in an emergency situation.

Adrenaline can also serve us for a long period of time when we are feeling under stress, such as a period of pressure at a job. For example, tax season for accountants or young mothers trying to balance a newborn and a toddler.

Have you ever wondered why you can put in a huge effort at work to get ready for your annual vacation, working overtime and skipping your lunch break, all the while staying healthy. Finally your vacation arrives, and within the first two or three days of your time off you come down with a cold or flu. This is because, while under stress, adrenaline protects our immune system. This protection is one of the functions of adrenaline. Then, when you change your environment and start to relax, this protection falls away and any latent virus which has been waiting in the wings has a chance to pounce. Also, our alcohol consumption tends to rise on while we are on vacaion which also suppresses your immune system.

This is why, when you go on holiday, it is a good idea to plan some activities in the first few days. Keep your body somewhat busy and wind down slowly instead of just arriving at your destination and sitting in a deck chair.

While researching the effects of stress on hormones, the advice is usually “avoid stressful situations”. I can’t help but chuckle at this because really, we have to live in the real world. How do we avoid stressful situations when we have kids to pick up from school and ferry to various other activities, we have jobs, the house is a mess, and we still have to get groceries. Stress is with us. The only way we can manage our stress is to…manage it.