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Cumulative Stress Load and Adrenal Fatigue


August 27, 2009 | Published by

stressed man at deskYour body is designed to handle a certain amount of stress. In fact, a low level of stress appears to strengthen it and help keep it in good repair. However, when the total amount of stress is greater than your body can adequately compensate for, the signs and symptoms of stress begin to appear. Because stress includes all physical, emotional, mental, chemical and biochemical deviations from homeostasis (physiological stability), many of the stresses your body handles on a day-to-day basis are imperceptible. They can be internal or external, imagined or real. Their effects can surface in your conscious or remain unconscious, but your body has to mediate every stress from every source in order for you to function properly and remain healthy.

It is important to remember that there is what I call a “cumulative stress load.” This is the sum of the total number of stressors, plus the severity of each stressor, plus the length of time that stress has occurred. You many only be consciously aware of trying to get to work on time, but your body has to also compensate for the distresses of waking up before you are ready, skipping breakfast, frustration and impatience with traffic on the way to work, your unresolved argument with someone 12 days ago, the tight family finances, that chronic upset stomach, the upcoming report that is due, and your high blood pressure. If it is not able to physiologically compensate for all of these stresses, optimum functioning of various health preserving systems in your body begins to break down. This deterioration usually begins slowly and innocuously, but can be reversed given the right conditions. However, if your body is over-stressed for long, the negative effects on your health and state of mind gradually become noticeable, and begin to interfere with your ability to work and live life fully.

Stresses that are chronic or severe have a pervasive physiological impact that can negatively affect your physical and mental health, sometimes in surprising ways. To find out if stress is affecting your health, honestly answer the questions in the following short quiz:

  • Are you tired for no reason?
  • Are you having trouble getting up in the morning?
  • Do you need coffee or colas to keep you going?
  • Are you feeling run down and stressed?
  • Do you crave salty or sweet snacks?
  • Are you struggling to keep up with life’s daily demands?
  • Are you having difficulty bouncing back from stress or illness?
  • Do you notice that you’re not having fun anymore?
  • Are you experiencing decreased sex drive?

If you answered ‘Yes’ to even one of the above, stress may be silently undermining your health. The more questions you answered ‘Yes’ to, the more likely it is that stress is seriously interfering with your ability to feel good and function at your best, and with your defenses against metabolic and degenerative disorders like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and autoimmune problems that are gaining such prevalence in modern life.

Take Dr. Wilson’s full adrenal fatigue questionnaire

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