How stress affects the body

By Dr. Ann Grimwood, Naturopathic Doctor in North Vancouver

We look forward to having Dr. Ann join us at our April 19th caregiver meeting. It is always helpful to learn more about self-care-  paying attention to when the body is becoming worn out from the constant demands of caregiving responsibilities. You are showing yourself a little bit of love by reading this post!


When a stressful event occurs, be it mentally, emotionally, or physically, the brain reacts by initiating a hormonal chain reaction. The hypothalamus secretes a hormone called a corticotropin-releasing hormone, which stimulates the pituitary to release adrenocorticotropic hormone, resulting in the adrenal glands, which sit atop the kidneys, to release cortisol and epinephrine. Cortisol and epinephrine assist our bodies, physiologically, in dealing with that stressful event. Our breathing rate increases, our blood pressure rises, we start to sweat, and our digestive juices switch off to help us conserve energy. When the stressful event has passed, cortisol tells both the hypothalamus and the pituitary to stop the hormonal chain reaction because the body is no longer in need of cortisol and can now relax. But, if the stressful event persists, the hormonal chain reaction is prolonged. The body and mind do not have the opportunity to rest and regenerate, and the adrenal glands become too depleted to secrete cortisol – simply, they are burnt out!

 All too often, my patients tell me how they cannot sleep, they feel completely drained all day long, they cannot think straight, are anxious, they crave chocolate or potato chips, and they seem to pick up every cold or flu that walks through the door! Unfortunately, this is not uncommon. In fact, these are all signs that your body is unable to mount an appropriate stress response and your adrenal glands are not functioning optimally. When we are constantly exerting our energy to help and care for our loved others, to perform at work, we often forget to care for ourselves.

Daily self-care practices go a long way in helping you to increase your energy and combat stress.
One practice I subscribe to and I often encourage my patients to try is 10 minutes of meditation per day. It’s simple and easy and you can do it anywhere! I prefer guided meditations (where someone talks to me and guides me through the meditation) and use an app on my phone called Headspace.



 Meditating helps to shift your body from a stressful state to one of relaxation. Go on, give it a try every day for one month, and watch how your body and mind start to shift!

 With kind regards,
Dr. Ann Grimwood






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