Who are you in times of crisis and what happens in your body when you are exposed to longterm stress? A crisis is the single most difficult challenge for anyone. No one is ever ready for the unexpected, especially when it comes in the form of a virus that takes the entire world by storm.
Until this year, a crisis was for most people equal to a severe accident, a natural disaster, a divorce or a death (just no name a few examples). A true crisis will cause stress to the mind and body that most often will have longterm negative consequences. This is the year of THE PANDEMIC. A true crisis for many people. A crisis that will cause prolonged stress on our systems. My general observation is that people are overwhelmed and confused, letting fear drive their actions. Fear is a stressor. Necessary for our survival in the short term. Deadly in the long term.
SA – axis
From a physiological point of view – fear will stress the system. Short term stress activates the Sympathetic -Adrenal axis causing increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, dilation of bronchioles, increased metabolic rate, changes in blood flow patterns leading to decreased digestive activity and liver will start to convert glycogen to glucose and release this glucose to the blood. We call it the “fight or flight system”. This physiological response is also what happens to you when you exercise and is not bad for you in the short term. The primary stress response goes through the spinal cord and via neurons and ganglions to specific organs.
HPA – axis
But let’s talk about what happens to your system during prolonged stress. During prolonged stress, like the sort of stress a crisis can cause, but also overtraining – the endocrine system gets activated and there is a direct link between your hypothalamus – pituitary gland and the releasing hormon called cortisol in your blood stream. Basically what happens is that the hypothalamus will release hormons (CRH and ACTH) that directly activates the adrenal gland that distributes and release cortisol directly into your bloodstream. Too high levels of cortisol in your system will cause sickness and you will experience symtoms of increased blood volume and blood pressure, retention of sodium and water by kidneys (you will retain water), increased blood glucose (can cause hyperglycemia and diabetes), suppression of immune system (you are more susceptible to catch a virus or bacteria), proteins and fats get converted into glucose (you will gain weight). In other words – prolonged stress is terrible for you. And it will effect your mood and judgement. Because your mood is also effected by your endocrine system and the BOSS, your hypothalamus. If the BOSS gets out off balance, so will you.
So what can we do about this?
Well, first of all – be aware about the BOSS and your hormones.
Secondly, crises don’t just test our smarts; they test our characters. We cannot control the crisis, but we can control how we respond. Try not to allow emotions to bring the worst out in you. Think in slow motion. Become an example of calmness, inspiring others to keep their heads, too. Staying calm requires taking a moment to figure out what’s really going on. Focus on facts, not on people’s fears or anxieties. There’s a lot of misinformation going around, from people minimizing issues to others seeding panic or believing they know what is right because they are surrounded by friends or social media enforcing this information on them.
Third – Try getting a good night’s sleep and start fresh the next day. Sleep not only helps us think clearly; research has shown that it also boosts our immune systems.
Fourth – Don’t turn the quarantine into a pause. Life must go on. The paradox of time is that we always complain that we don’t have time for what we want, but when we get free time, we waste it. Maybe you cannot see your family or friends right now, but you can maybe spend more time outdoors, read, learn a new skill and hammer down new good behaviours. Maybe this is the unique opportunity to focus on what really matters. Social distancing doesn’t mean distancing ourselves from crucial activities and responsibilities. Spend your time wisely.
Fifth – In times of crisis, it’s more common to step back and see how things go. However, uncertain times require us to be brave and calm; I will argue we must do what is uncomfortable to do.
200m Run w/Med Ball (20/14)
*Box Step Ups (24″/20″) while holding Med Ball ‘bear hug’ style