What Stress Does To Your Body

Stress: We've all felt it. Sometimes stress can be a positive force, motivating you to perform well at your meeting or job interview. But often - like when you're stuck in traffic and you’re going to be late, it's a negative force. If you experience stress over a prolonged period of time, it could become chronic unless you take action.


Stress is the body's reaction to harmful situations -- whether they’re real or perceived. When you feel threatened, a chemical reaction occurs in your body that allows you to act in a way to prevent injury. This reaction is known as "fight-or-flight,” or the stress response. During stress response, your heart rate increases, breathing quickens, muscles tighten, and blood pressure rises. You are ready to act and it’s how you protect yourself.


What Are the Consequences of Long-Term Stress?

A little stress every now and then is not something to be concerned about. There are different symptoms of stress- such as emotional, physical, cognitive, and behavioral symptoms. Ongoing, chronic stress, however, can cause or exacerbate many serious health problems, including:

  • Mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders

  • Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, and stroke

  • Obesity and other eating disorders

  • Menstrual problems

  • Sexual dysfunction, such as impotence and premature ejaculation in men and loss of sexual desire in both men and women

  • Skin and hair problems, such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema, and permanent hair loss

  • Gastrointestinal problems, such as GERD, gastritis, ulcerative colitis, and irritable colon

Stress affects your central nervous and endocrine systems, respiratory and cardiovascular systems, digestive system, muscular system, sexuality and reproductive system, and the immune system.

-Central nervous and endocrine systems

Your central nervous system (CNS) is in charge of your “fight or flight” response. In your brain, the hypothalamus gets the ball rolling, telling your adrenal glands to release the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones rev up your heartbeat and send blood rushing to the areas that need it most in an emergency, such as your muscles, heart, and other important organs.

When the perceived fear is gone, the hypothalamus should tell all systems to go back to normal. If the CNS fails to return to normal, or if the stressor doesn’t go away, the response will continue.

Chronic stress is also a factor in behaviors such as overeating or not eating enough, alcohol or drug abuse, and social withdrawal.

-Digestive system

Under stress, your liver produces extra blood sugar (glucose) to give you a boost of energy. If you’re under chronic stress, your body may not be able to keep up with this extra glucose surge. Chronic stress may increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The rush of hormones, rapid breathing, and increased heart rate can also upset your digestive system. You’re more likely to have heartburn or acid reflux thanks to an increase in stomach acid. Stress doesn’t cause ulcers (a bacterium called H. pylori often does), but it can increase your risk for them and cause existing ulcers to act up.

Stress can also affect the way food moves through your body, leading to diarrhea or constipation. You might also experience nausea, vomiting, or a stomachache.

-Immune system

Stress stimulates the immune system, which can be a plus for immediate situations. This stimulation can help you avoid infections and heal wounds. But over time, stress hormones will weaken your immune system and reduce your body’s response to foreign invaders. People under chronic stress are more susceptible to viral illnesses like the flu and the common cold, as well as other infections. Stress can also increase the time it takes you to recover from an illness or injury.

Stress is a part of life. What matters most is how you handle it. The best thing you can do to prevent stress overload and the health consequences that come with it is to know your stress symptoms and take preventative action, such as meditation and changing thoughts.


For more articles on stress and the body, check out How Stress Affects Your Body and 9 Ways Stress Messes With Your Body


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National Suicide Prevention Text Number

Finally - A crisis number that can be reached by text!

The headline in “the Morning Call” on Sunday March 17, 2019, outlines the rise in suicide in the Lehigh Valley. The overall rate has risen and the younger population has been hard hit. No one seems to know the exact cause or reason.

Now there is an easier way to reach out.

741741 is the number for the Crisis Text Hotline in the United States and Ontario’s Online and Text Crisis and Distress Service in Canada. The number is available to anyone in crisis:

Q: HOW DOES CRISIS TEXT LINE WORK?

You text 741741 when in crisis. Anywhere, anytime. A live, trained crisis counselor receives the text and responds quickly. The crisis counselor helps you move from a hot moment to a cool calm to stay safe and healthy using effective active listening and suggested referrals – all through text message using CTL’s secure platform.

Q: WHO SHOULD TEXT IN? A: We exist to help anyone in crisis any time.

The Crisis Text Hotline also notes in their FAQ that all text messages are anonymous and free, although charges may apply with carriers other than AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, or Verizon.

In a June 2015 article published by the Chicago Tribune, Nancy Lublin, the CEO of DoSomething.org, explained why she founded the Crisis Text Line:

The text message to a DoSomething.org staffer read: “He won’t stop raping me. He told me not to tell anyone.”

Those words quickly made their way to Nancy Lublin, the CEO of the New York City-based youth empowerment group, which runs do-good campaigns by text, like initiatives for gender-neutral bathrooms and sharing tips to prevent texting while driving.

Lublin’s staff had received a few messages — concerns about bullying and the like — unrelated to their campaigns, but “that one message stopped me in my tracks,” Lublin said. “It was like being punched in the stomach. The first rule of marketing and sales is: Go where demand is. People want this by text. We should be supplying crisis counseling by text.”

That week, Lublin started building Crisis Text Line, a national 24/7 text number — 741741 — available to everyone but mostly used by teens. It went live two years later in 2013 in Chicago and El Paso, Texas. Chicago was chosen because of the influence of an early funder, the Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation. El Paso was a data-driven decision based on its large Latino population.

Within four months, the line had been contacted by cellphones from every area code in America. The organization is expected to surpass 7 million messages by July, and Lublin is now in need of more counselors.

The service is available 24 hours a day in the United States.

What Sugar Does To Your Body

Do you love your sweets? You might rethink all of those sweet treats after you hear what they are doing to your body.

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Your Mind

It starts right when anything sweet touches your tongue. You're sending signals to your brain that's similar to a satisfaction and rewards sensation. Your brain releases dopamine, the same hormone you experience when you're in love, or if you ingest a methamphetamine drug, and you'll quickly begin to crave more. But is that a bad thing? Sugar might taste great but it can have some negative effects on your body.

Your Skin

"When your body digests sugar molecules such as fructose or glucose, they bind onto proteins and fats and form new molecules called glycation end products, or AGEs," says David E. Bank, a dermatologist in Mount Kisco, NY. As AGEs collect in your cells, they start to destroy skin's support system, collagen and elastin, which are the proteins responsible for keeping the elasticity in your skin and warding off wrinkles and sagging.

Your Pancreas

The pancreas goes into help mode by releasing its stores of insulin, a hormone that takes glucose and transfers it to cells throughout the body to be used as energy, in an attempt to bring down blood sugar. When sugar is eaten in excess, the pancreas has to work harder to keep up and produce more insulin. If overworked, the organ can shut down and stop producing insulin altogether, ultimately accounting for type 2 diabetes.

Your Heart

"Sugar contributes to inflammation of arterial walls," says Marci Clow, R.D., a senior dietician at vitamin manufacturer Rainbow Light. "When insulin spikes, it damages the lining of the blood vessels and can cause can heart damage." Too much sugar can also lead to weight gain, which, combined with insulin resistance, contributes to metabolic syndrome and will increase your risk for cardiovascular disease.

Your Gut

Artificial sweeteners, which often contain naturally occuring sugar alcohols, don't initially cause your blood sugar to spike as high as completely natural sugars, but the trick here is that these faux sugars cannot be completely broken down and absorbed by your body. This can cause digestive stress, bloating, or even a laxative effect.

Your Hips

The sugar your body doesn't immediately use as energy , is stored as fat. Those love handles you can't seem to whittle away might have more to do with your candy habit than your gym rut.

Your Joints

Inflammation and weight gain can greatly impact the health of your joints, and both can be caused by sugar. The same AEGs that destroy collagen in your skin also destroy the collagen the surrounds and protects your joints. What's damaging to the body is how high your blood sugar level gets, and how many times throughout the day you're doing that. A little bit of glucose throughout the day won't be as bad as one big spike.


For more information on what sugar does to your body, checkout these articles! 11 Scary Things Sugar Does to Your Body or How Does Too Much Sugar Affect Your Body?


All About Vitamin B12

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An essential nutrient that keeps your metabolism in check, vitamin B12 is found in many foods, especially animal products. Also available in supplement form, vitamin B12 is involved in regulating metabolism, aiding in the formation of red blood cells, and maintaining the central nervous system. Vitamin B12 is also required for the proper function and development of the brain. It is said to help with a host of health concerns. For instance, research suggests that vitamin B12 may preserve your eyesight as you get older, fight heart disease, aid stroke recovery, and rev up your defense against some forms of cancer. Other uses include to enhance mood, increase energy, improve memory, stimulate the immune system, promote healthy sleep, and slow the aging process.

Increased energy and vitality

One of the most notable vitamin B12 benefits is a boost in energy. So if you’re feeling sluggish and you’re not sure why, a lack of vitamin B12 may be to blame. This water-soluble vitamin aids in red blood cell formation, which prevents against a type of anemia that can often make people feel weak and tired. Vitamin B12 is found naturally in a wide variety of animal foods like fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and other dairy products, plus fortified foods like breakfast cereals, nutritional yeast, and some plant-based milk (like almond milk and soy milk).

 

Improved heart health

Vitamin B12, B6, and folic acid work together help to reduce homocysteine, which is a protein that can build up in blood and damage arterial walls, thus playing a role in heart disease. When B12 is low, it can’t do its job effectively, which means your heart is at risk.

Healthy nervous system

Vitamin B12 benefits your nervous system directly and keeps it in tip-top shape; when this nutrient is in short supply, you may develop that annoying “pins and needles” sensation in your extremities and/or numbness or tingling in the hands, legs, or feet. This usually occurs with anemia, but that’s not always the case. Vitamin B12 helps produce the fatty sheath (myelin) that surrounds and protects your nerves. When you are deficient in B12, your nerve cells can’t function properly.

Your ability to walk and move

Tingling and numbness may be among the first signs of B12-related nerve damage, but if it continues unaddressed, it can alter the way you move. This can sometimes affect balance and make you more likely to fall. This is one of the easier things to correct, and by doing so we can prevent any declines in quality of life that occur with mobility issues and falls.

 

Your oral health

There are many signs your tongue can reveal about your health, and a B12 deficiency is one of them. A mild deficiency can trigger tongue inflammation. This painful condition can affect how you eat and speak. Your tongue may be red and swollen or look smooth since the tiny bumps along your tongue that contain your taste buds stretch out and disappear.

Your eyesight

Another important function vitamin B12 benefits is our vision, and vitamin B12 deficiency is typically related to nervous system damage that affects the optic nerve leading up to the eye. The best defense is always a good offense. B12 is found mostly in animal foods such as meat, poultry, fish and dairy products. If you don’t eat animal foods, be sure to get B12 from fortified foods or a supplement.

Your memory

Some research suggests that a vitamin B12 deficiency is linked to dementia and memory problems, but it’s not clear whether supplements might help. The potential link may be a result of high levels of homocysteine in the blood, but it’s too early to draw any firm conclusions, according to the US Office of Dietary Supplements.

Your glow

People with a B12 deficiency often look pale or have a slight yellow tinge to their skin (jaundice). Glitches in your body’s red blood cell production affect the size and strength of these cells. They may be too big to travel in your body, resulting in pale skin. If they are too fragile, they may break down and cause an excess of bilirubin, which results in an orange-yellow skin tone. But a healthy, non-orange glow is one of the surprising vitamin B12 benefits.

Your gut health

We all know that eating enough fiber and drinking enough water are keys to healthy bowel movements, but a vitamin B12 deficiency can also cause constipation, diarrhea, loss of appetite and weight loss, says Will Bulsiewicz, MD, a gastroenterologist in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. A vitamin B12 benefit can be a healthy gut. Sometimes these GI symptoms are a result of B12 deficiency, but other times B12 is a marker of an underlying digestive disease.

For more information on vitamin B12 checkout 9 Health Benefits of Vitamin B12, Based on Science or Vitamin B12 Benefits That You’re Probably Missing



Make Your Morning Routine More Successful

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Before making any changes, evaluate your current morning routine.

If you're picturing a hurried image of yourself running from one task to the next as you scroll through the news on your phone and spill coffee down your shirt, this article is for you! The best thing about constructing a mindful morning is that the change doesn't have to be monumental, all it takes is a few minutes to make a huge difference.

1. Leave the phone alone

While quitting social media for good shouldn’t be completely out of the question, a great way to build a more mindful morning routine is to delay checking your social apps in the morning. This can be hard for many of us, especially if you run an online business or keep up profiles that feel like they require your full attention at all times. What you'll quickly find, however, is that avoiding social media in the morning will allow the calm of the night to carry on a little bit longer. Leave the phone alone (no matter who is calling) when you are in the process of gathering your things and getting ready to leave in the morning.

2. Give yourself some “me time”

If you’re an introvert, the concept of "me time" will ring much more true to you than if you’re an extrovert. Regardless, we all need some time to ourselves throughout the day, and the morning is often the easiest time to get it. It doesn’t matter what you do with this time, for the most part, so long as you take it. This time can be used for meditating, journaling, or simply taking the time to grab your favorite warm morning beverage and actually enjoy it.

3. Move before the rest of the world is awake

Running and walking are both great because they're accessible to most everyone, they can be your gateway to a healthier lifestyle, and they can even give you the momentum to design a whole new morning routine. Working out at your local gym, yoga class, or even biking to work, can all put you into this same mindful state, so find the movement that makes sense for you.

4. Be mindful

You can seek out moments of mindfulness in the mundane every single day. For example, take the first minute upon waking up to simply lie there without reaching for your phone. Or, if you prepare coffee or tea in the morning, close your eyes while the water boils instead of rushing around. This time is precious, and if when you build small pockets of mindfulness into your morning routine, you will be truly making the most of it. Mindfulness is merely paying attention and bringing your awareness to what is actually going on around you instead of being caught up in your head.

For more ways to create a successful morning routine, check out 11 Tips to Transform Your Morning Routine and Make Your Entire Day More Productive or 23 Things That Will Help You Create a Powerful Morning Routine

For more information on mindfulness visit the Mindfulness website on how two get started:


Dryuary - what is it and what's it about?

DRYUARY

Thinking about lowering your alcohol intake?  Can’t image life in a “never drinking” mode?  Looking for a new way to manage your drinking without AA?


Moderation management is a nonprofit organization dedicated to merely lowering your alcohol consumption to healthier levels.  This organization is not for everyone, but if drinking causes some problems in your life, if you just want to reduce your alcohol consumption but don’t have a plan, check out this organization:

Dryuary


Every year, they sponsor the month of January to raise awareness and to get people’s attention regarding the possibility of detoxing and giving up drinking during that month.


Moderation management has weekly meetings to focus on reducing your drinking by giving good helpful strategies, sharing stories, giving general support for others to reaffirm your own commitment to reduce your overall drinking. 


Moderation management is not for everyone.  But might it be right for you?


Think about giving it a try during the first month of the new year! Sign up for daily encouragement at the dryuary website


Interested in attending a moderation management meeting?  Contact us a lvccounselor@gmail.com.  If there is enough interest, we will host!

How To Shift Your Mindset When You're Overwhelmed

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Know that you can't fail at self-care.

There will always be times when you get off track times you accidentally oversleep and don't get to the gym, times you forget to plan for dinner and end up going out. There will always be unexpected losses and disappointments, and there will always be situations you don't handle as well as you'd like. Overcoming the feeling of being overwhelmed is a process of learning what is most important so that you can make choices and adjust them over time to ensure that they're lining up with your values and goals. You can't do it all, but as long as you are making empowered decisions, you can't help but go in the right direction.

Remember your power.

Part of feeling overwhelmed can be feeling like you are at the mercy of all the things that are happening around you. Things may be challenging, life may be hard. You may have circumstances that are difficult. But there are always things you can do to lighten your load. You have power over your own choices. You can say no to things without the world ending or people being disappointed with you. Acknowledging this truth and acting on it will give you a sense of power in your own life, which in and of itself decreases your experience of stress and overwhelm.

Believe in yourself.

If you can put your skepticism aside and fully believe that you can say no and people will still love and appreciate you, that you can get out from under your overwhelment, you'll have more strength and a stronger foundation to make a change. And if you don't believe it yet? Fake it until you make it. Faking it can actually help give you more confidence towards things over time.

Have good judgement.

If you try to do too much at once, especially if you're already overwhelmed, you're likely to fall short. You can't solve being overwhelmed by adding more and more to your plate. Choose the things that will take the least amount of effort with the most amount of benefit. Set your sights on those things, even if they're small things, and over time those small things will add up. Every single step you take in the direction you want to go gets you that much closer to being there. And if you take on too much, step back, regroup, and try again.

Be realistic.

Sure, it's good to be positive, but for many of us, if we think positively and our desired outcome doesn't occur, we can feel sad, down, disappointed, and even hopeless. Life can be hard and unfair, so in addition to believing in yourself, check your expectations, as setting an unrealistic bar is a sure way to feel like you're failing (even though you're not!).

Be kind to yourself.

The only thing worse than not taking care of yourself is giving yourself a hard time about not taking care of yourself. Piling on guilt and self-judgment doesn't help you make better choices. It doesn't motivate you. It doesn't do anything except make you feel bad. If you hear a voice in your head that repeatedly puts you down, tell it to step aside. Replace the unkind thought with a kind thought.

Be flexible and willing to let go.

In order to make positive change, we need to be willing to let go of parts of our lives and ourselves that don't serve us. Sometimes these things give us comfort even though they aren't the best choices. If we are to truly create a life in which we don't feel overwhelmed, and we are surrounded by things and people that support us to be our best selves, we have to stand up to our patterns and tendencies with an open mind and an open heart and be willing to make a change.

Be yourself.

Don't worry about what anyone else is doing. Forge your own way. Be the person you want to be, not who you are told to be by anyone. Know that who you are in your core is good and worthy. Decide what's important to you, how you want to feel, what you want to accomplish, and how you want your life to look, and start working toward that goal with the choices you make. Every step you take in the direction of where you want to go will get you that much closer to being where you want to be.


For more articles on how to shift your mindset, not only when you’re upset, but all the time, check out How to change your mindset or Change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset


Meditation gone wrong...by guest writer Emily

Can Meditation Cause A Panic Attack?

 For me, at first, it did. I’m so grateful I had a friend who encouraged me to stick with it. Evidently, I’m not the only one who has experienced this seemingly adverse relationship with stillness. This morning, as I walked in Central Park at sunrise listening to Pema Chodron’s book, “The Places That Scare You”, the following passage spoke directly to my experience:

 “Why do we meditate? … Why even bother to spend time alone with ourselves?” It’s important to understand that meditation is not just about feeling good. To think that this is why we meditate is to set ourselves up for failure. We’ll assume we are doing it wrong almost every time we sit down. Even the most settled meditator experiences psychological and physical pain. Meditation takes us just as we are: with our confusion and our sanity. This complete acceptance of ourselves as we are is called Maitri – a simple, direct relationship with the way we are…..Its only when we begin to relax with ourselves that meditation becomes a transformative process. Only when we relate with ourselves without moralizing, without harshness, without deception, can we let go of harmful patterns.”  

 I’ve lived with anxiety and depression for my entire life. Most people would probably never know this, because I [almost] never show it. I am an extrovert and I love being around people and laughing so  people say things like “Wow Emily, you’re always happy”, and “You are sunshine.” But, the truth is  - that’s not the whole truth. I’ve recently become aware that one of my primary coping mechanisms for anxiety has been socialization.  Being around people and staying constantly busy became a way for me to avoid the terror inside.

 It wasn’t until three summers ago that I began a meditation practice again in earnest and with a renewed daily vigor. It was a good thing, too. On the surface, my life seemed perfect. I was a project manager devoted to my bosses and working 80 hour weeks. I ran 4-6 miles every day and was in impeccable physical shape. I had a beautiful apartment, a very successful boyfriend, basically everything I had always thought I wanted in life.

There was just one thing I hadn’t asked for….declining mental health.

 Looking back, I realize I tolerated a dull, nagging feeling in my body I couldn’t put into words. It felt like an emptiness inside, like something was missing. One day at work as I was sitting in front of my computer preparing a presentation for a client, I felt a pain in my chest. My Solar Plexus became  tighter and heavier as I tried to breathe through it. I wanted to call an ambulance because I felt like I was dying. In this moment, I heard a previous therapist’s voice inside my head saying, “this is a panic attack.” This awareness kept me from hospitalization, but didn’t bring relief. I stood up and walked outside, around the block, struggling to breathe deeply through the physical pain and wearing sunglasses to cover the tears that flowed. Eventually, I went back to work and struggled through an ache that didn’t subside for several hours. Nothing had triggered it, and I was baffled. I decided to take a few days off from work and that evening, a friend from high school called to invite me on a weekend retreat.

 It was during this weekend that I was blessed with a reintroduction to mindfulness meditation. My friend Laura Ball , who is a powerful meditation, yoga and healing teacher in New York suggested I join her for a meditation following my morning run. As I sat down cross legged in the grass, my eyes closed and my attention focused on my breath, I felt a tightening in my chest. My stomach churned and my breath quickened. My throat began to close in a painful way and I felt the panic coming back all at once. The rising sensation in my belly was decidedly uncomfortable, but I continued to breathe and sit, becoming aware of the sensation while staying in one place. It did not get better for the entire meditation. Afterward I told Laura about my experience and asked her what had just happened, “Isn’t meditation supposed to make me feel better, more calm? I think I just experienced another panic attack.” Her reply shocked me - she told me that it is very common for students to experience panic in meditation, especially at first or after some time off.

 Over the course of that Fall, I stayed with meditation and saw a shift in my persona more profound that I could have imagined. I meditated every day, first for 5 minutes, then I increased by one minute each day until I gradually got to 20 and 30 minutes. Over time, the panic I experienced during meditation subsided, and I began to see things more clearly in my daily life. Occasionally, I even began to receive answers to practical questions during meditation.  I realized that I had been suppressing a part of myself and some of my feelings by putting on a smile all the time and by being preoccupied with working, working out and socializing. I hadn’t listened to myself in a while, and my heart was dying to be heard.

 I’m still on a journey of discovering a stillness, warmth, comfort and joy inside myself that was previously hidden, and that I had mistakenly thought came from my interaction with others. It was underneath my anxiety and need for perfection all along, and meditation has helped me start to bring this light into the rest of my life. This is not an easy practice every day and I still feel uncomfortable, angry and anxious at times during meditation [and life]. But, as these feelings come in meditation, they also leave in meditation, and I am happy I allowed myself to create that space. Thank you Pema, Thank you Laura.