Since the recent referendum results in the UK, I have been observing a lot of emotions flying around on social media. Many people are shocked, anxious and wondering how to live with the uncertainty that will likely linger for some time.
So, without wishing to get drawn into the political discussions here, I wanted to deviate a little and look at the effect these kinds of emotions can have on us. On a chemical level, ongoing anxiety releases cortisol into our system. Cortisol is a hormone produced in the adrenal cortex of your kidneys, and in normal healthy life its levels change with the time of day, being highest when we wake up in the morning, as the cortisol helps us to feel alert and ready to go. It also helps the body to deal with stress or imminent threat by shutting down less necessary functions such as the immune system (hence we tend to be more susceptible to infection when we are stressed and anxious) so that we can save our energy to flee dangers such as sabre toothed tigers. Well obviously most of us don’t get chased down by hungry animals anymore, but we lead life styles where the short lived stress response has developed into a chronic one, and thus our systems are flooded with cortisol on an ongoing basis.
When your cortisol is in balance with your serotonin and dopamine levels you are able to regulate your sleep, appetite (for food and sex), and your energy levels, but when you are stressed and worried for a more extended period the over-production of cortisol and resulting stress on the adrenals can lead to signs you may recognize, such as poor sleep, waking feeling tired, craving unhealthy foods, putting on weight, low blood sugar, brain fog and eventually symptoms of depression.
The French have a phrase ‘Débrouiller’ which means to unravel or unscramble. So if you have spent the last few days feeling like you need to unscramble your brain and emotions, then here are some tips to help:
During a particularly stressful period in my life, a wise friend once said to me “it’s just a piece of time”. This might be a worrying time for you at the moment, but eventually it will pass and one way or another you will survive it.
If you are feeling unusually stressed and anxious, then counselling can be helpful in providing support and a non-judgmental space to help you move forward. For more in-depth help and counselling, consider contacting Dr Jules in person