Adrenals Part 2: When Your Body is Stressed But Your Mind Isn’t

Your body is stressed but your mind isn’t? How can this be? Normally you know when you’re stressed because you feel it. For example, you feel physical stress from triggers like pain, loud noise, extreme temperatures, abuse, hunger, demanding work, or insomnia. You also feel mental stress from things like public speaking, difficult jobs or people, or unstable finances. You know what physical and mental stress feels like.

What about the stress that you don’t know about and aren’t even aware of? Or the stress that may actually be pleasurable or addictive? These are the types of stress we discuss today – when your body is under stress and your mind is calm, happy, invigorated, or simply not feeling the stress. During these situations, you don’t perceive or feel the stress, or you feel it and like it. Yet these are dicey because on a biological level, your body experiences the same stress chemistry described in Part 1 of this series.

busy, multitasking

When your body is stressed and you don’t feel it

This is a type of stress that you don’t necessarily feel, but exists nonetheless, due to biological situations that stress your body on an ongoing basis. You’re calm, happy, or relaxed even though your body is inflamed from the chemistry of chronic stress. Examples of biological stressors include:

  • Processing prescription medications
  • High blood pressure
  • Inflammation
  • Allergies
  • Infections
  • Unregulated blood sugar
  • Elevated insulin
  • Food intolerances
  • Gut dysbiosis
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Chronic or degenerative illness
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Autoimmune processes

The list goes on….

Stress that feels good

This is stress you seek out and enjoy. After all, there are hormonal and chemical effects of physical stress that can be pleasurable and addictive (think exercise, roller coasters, skydiving, video games, scary movies, and reckless behavior). Here are examples:

You’re pumped up on caffeine, zipping through your day, feeling wired, great, and productive. Your body does not know that the stimulation is intentional, and responds to the caffeine with the same stress chemistry.

You exercise for sustained amounts of time and feel a “good” physical exhaustion and soreness. This can feel good in the moment or day to day, yet the stress chemistry exists, and cumulatively can cause significant inflammation and damage.

You stay up late watching high-drama Netflix shows or TikTok videos on your phone. This may feel fun or relaxing at the time, but staying up late, exposing yourself to blue light, and getting worked up all raise your cortisol (at a time it’s supposed to be low) and interferes with your circadian clock.

You use alcohol, sugar, or recreational drugs. These substances may make you feel good or relaxed at the time, but all of them create added biological stress for your body to process.

Stressing about stress yet?

Some folks I work with say they don’t have any stress or anything to complain about (and wonder why they have stress symptoms such as anxiety). Don’t get me wrong, I am glad these people don’t feel their stress! However, it’s useful to know that your body can demonstrate stress chemistry even if you aren’t aware of it. Your body doesn’t know the difference between physical, mental, biological, or fun stress.

In the next post, we dig into “adrenal fatigue” and how to test for it.

Please add comments or questions below.

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