Inability in Handling Stress: Symptoms and Techniques to Help

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH


Stress and Cortisol

Our bodies have a stress response system, which can be overloaded, leading to an inability to handle stress.When the majority of people hear the word stress they usually think of stressful situations, such as financial or career problems, relationship issues, or the death of someone close. This is not entirely accurate, however, because stress can come from more than just these events. In fact, stress arises through a variety of means, be it emotional, physical, or mental. Whenever stress is experienced in a person’s life, it has definitive physical ramifications. The adrenal glands are primarily responsible for handling stress. When the adrenals become fatigued from chronic stress, an inability to handle stress occurs.

Cortisol is the most important and primary hormone that is responsible for helping the body cope with stress. In a normal body, cortisol levels naturally rise whenever stress is introduced. Generally, when the hormone is successful at its job, the stressor will go away and cortisol levels will return to normal.

If, however, the stress is perpetuated over a long period of time, the body becomes unable to produce enough cortisol for handling stress. As the hormone levels of cortisol get compromised Adrenal Fatigue begins to set in. The body further loses its ability to manage stress and this causes something of a cycle and the body’s inability to handle stress will start to compound. Stress can be very problematic to the body, especially when the body does not have a sufficient amount of cortisol to handle it.

Minute Stresses

Stress can come from a number of different situations and events, some of which were mentioned earlier. It is possible for an individual to be experiencing stress without even realizing it. What are some of the other ways people experience stress? Intolerance to certain foods, like dairy, can cause stress, as can sun exposure for a long duration, cold air from the refrigerator, going on a vacation to see friends, or even riding in the car. These are all common ways people can experience varying levels of stress.

If the body is weakened by fatigue and stress, small stressors may be difficult with the inability to handle stressOf course, not many people consider these types of situations stressful. If the body is weak, however, simple things like those mentioned above can actually cause severe stress. These are examples of minute, small stressors that, if your body is weak and sensitive enough, can lead to a crash whenever you are exposed to them.

The lesson to gain from this is that stress does not always attack through the traditional, common ways. It can come at the body through various ways, which one might not expect. The obvious, large stresses that affect everyone from time to time are still damaging to the body, but people are already prepared for these.

It is important to pay attention to and be prepared for the smaller stresses. In fact, it is actually these small stresses that can give you a lot of important information about your body. It can help you to understand the strength of the adrenal glands, the nutritional reserve, and overall functioning of your body. If you experience an inability to handle stress, your body may not be functioning at it’s optimal level.

Inflammation and Stress

Inflammation and an inability to handle stressInflammation is a major part of the body’s defense mechanism and part of everyday life. Got a mosquito bite? Inflammation. Hit your knee on the coffee table? Inflammation. Eat a hamburger? Inflammation. Inflammation is stress on your body as it requires work to keep it in check. What stops this inflammation from getting out of hand is a regulatory system that includes your adrenals producing cortisol and your liver breaking down inflammatory molecules. That is why athletes get steroid (aka cortisol) injections to help with healing and inflammation. However, if your adrenals are weak and your liver is congested, as is often the case in Adrenal Fatigue, then inflammation will start to build up in the body. As inflammation builds up, symptoms may start to arise as your body becomes more sensitive to any stimulus that increases inflammation. Eating a burger no longer becomes an enjoyable meal, but a cautionary tale.

Building the Nutritional Reserve

Your nutritional reserve is your energy reservoir, which is designed to be drawn upon when you have stress. Remember that it takes energy to overcome stress. Where does that energy come from? Your nutritional reserve. When the reserve runs low, the body becomes fatigued. It is like the gasoline tank in the car. When you are low in fuel, do not expect to be able to go too far. When reserves are replenished, the car can go fast.

It is of vital importance to the body, especially when in Adrenal Fatigue, to start to build up a nutritional reserve. Whenever an individual is stressed out their body can take advantage of these reserves to protect itself. On the other hand, when these nutritional reserves have been depleted, the body has a much more challenging time of coping with stress as it is not able to draw on these reserves and create the necessary hormones for handling stress. The problem is that most people do not know how to properly restore the reserves. Instead, the common approach is to stimulate the body to increase energy.

Stimulating the body is quite different from either replenishing or replacing those nutritional reserves. Many people do not understand this, but it is quite important. Quite often, an Adrenal Fatigue sufferer may be given stimulating supplements to help the adrenals produce more cortisol. While this may work, in the short-term and allow your adrenals to produce more cortisol, it’s like whipping a tired horse to go further. The marginal return overtime invariably diminishes as the body gets weaker and ultimately crashes. You cannot stimulate a body to long-term recovery. In the long run, the adrenals will continue to draw on your body’s nutritional reserve eventually depleting it. Long-term recovery requires that the body be properly nurtured so it can produce the proper anti-stress hormones on demand and be able to turn off the supply at the right time.

Nurturing the Body

Our society has conditioned us to be in a quick fix mode. A body that is damaged over years cannot be turned around quickly. It is not a light switch that can be turned on and off at will. Chronic minute stresses affect one’s body and they can be indicators for dysfunction and other important information going on within the body but are often overlooked until problems arise. In addition to nutritional reserve, how well an individual is able to cope with stress will depend primarily on how sensitive that person’s body is constitutionally. Some are born constitutionally strong, while others are fragile. However, anyone can experience an inability to handle stress. Nutritional reserve building therefore has to be personalized. What works well for one person may actually be harmful for another. Being in tune with one’s body and in general sensitive to it can be very beneficial. For most of us, it is a learning process. Finding the right practitioner to guide you is critical, especially if you have a sensitive body, in order to facilitate proper healing and prevent relapses.

Inability to Handle Stress and Adrenal Fatigue

If stress is a big part of a person’s life and an individual finds that they are having an inability to handle stress, then Adrenal Fatigue should be explored as the clinical presentation if fatigue, lethargy, low exercise tolerance, reduced libido, and sugar craving is on hand. Too much stress creates havoc on the adrenal glands, which makes it harder for them to produce cortisol to deal with the stress, with symptoms mentioned above being common.
Of course, stress is just one of the larger contributors and consequences of Adrenal Fatigue. If one is also experiencing cognitive issues, this may also indicate Adrenal Fatigue. Remember that Adrenal Fatigue could result in inflammation and other health conditions that might be damaging to one’s body. They include heart palpitations, depression, anxiety, bloating, constipation, insomnia, dizziness, heat intolerance, low thyroid function, menstrual irregularity, just to mention a few. In order to promote healthy balance in the body the issue must be identified. Once the issue has been identified, steps can be taken to rectify it. The nutritional reserve must be rebuilt and the adrenals strengthened. Only after this has happened can the body recover from an inability to handle stress and begin living a happy and healthy life.


© Copyright 2016 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.


Dr. Lam’s Key Question

When the maximum stimulatory level is reached, the body may send you signals such as anxiety, panic attack, brain fog, and fatigue to warn you.

If the body is weakened by fatigue and stress, instances that are normally not considered stressful may be difficult with the inability to handle stress

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