Corinne Austin | Personal Training

Understanding Stress

We live in an age where stress has possibly become the most common phenomenon amongst us all.  It surrounds us, frolics amongst us, challenges us, connects us, disconnects us, invades us, and depletes us.  Although not a disease in it’s own right, it is quite possibly the most wide-spread cause of ailment, illness, and disease on the planet.  And it is unobtrusively, but rather rudely, stealing away our precious energy, health, and taking the zing and sting out of our lives much sooner than is necessary.


In 1998, Dr Bruce Lipton (a highly renowned and respected cell biologist) claimed that up to 95% of all disease is caused by stress.  The word itself – ‘disease’ – is constructed via adding the negative prefix ‘dis’ to the word ‘ease’, and infers that the body becomes a state of dis-ease (i.e. no longer a state of ease) when it’s under some form of stress.  This means that the body’s innate need to maintain homeostatis (a bio-chemical state of harmony) is thrown into turmoil, and one or more systems in the body is interrupted, dysregulated, or stalled.


Stress is not always bad – in fact, cortisol, our main stress hormone, is the only hormone that the human body cannot survive without.  But there is certainly a goldilocks level associated with it – too little and we become unwell, too much and we definitely become unwell.   Our bodies evolved with abilities for managing short term stress (i.e. running from a tiger).  But when we’re faced with stress that becomes interminable and relentless (i.e. our endless to-do lists)  that our bodies become dysfunctional and it destroys our efforts at leading an uplifting, vibrant, fit and healthy life.


And we are now realising that stress extends far beyond the psychological stressors we are familiar with.  Stress is no longer just the emotional angst we feel when we strike financial woes, or the frustration we experience when the kids are driving us up the wall.  Stress also has it’s roots in the environment that surrounds us, our food and beverages, sleep quantity or quality, our immune system, the way we over-work and under-rest, lack of exercise (or too much exercise), our skincare and personal care, heavy metal exposure, and the list goes on!


You see, our bodies can’t differentiate where stress is coming from, it only knows to respond the way it’s been evolved to.  As soon as the body is thrown something that disharmonises it’s homeostatic balance, the body’s stress response is turned on – otherwise known as the survival mechanism of fight or flight.  In simple turns, this means that two glands in our brain send signals to the adrenal glands on our kidneys to release cortisol – the dominant stress hormone.  There is followed by a complex series of processes that includes shutting down digestive and reproductive systems (because when we’re running from a tiger we don’t need to be making babies!), storing fat on our belly’s (stored energy in preparation for a potential famine), attracting us to high energy foods, breaking down muscle, interrupting ordinary hormonal flow, and making us more susceptible to illness and infection.


We are meant to be well – we are not meant to experience symptoms.  We should be considering the symptoms we feel – especially ones we have on a regular or daily basis – as little messages from our body encouraging us to take note.  Did you know that often we don’t experience symptoms until a system or process within our body has been reduced to 50% of it’s optimal?  That’s quite astounding isn’t it.  And then to think we still brush them aside, taking no real notice until things get really bad – at which point sometimes the damage is irreversible.   Here lies some mammoth potential to start listening to our bodies and to begin to heal ourselves – with good old lifestyle medicine.


The symptoms that your body is under some form of stress are pretty extensive.  Here’s a few to get the ball rolling and to get you considering what is probably connected to some element of stress and what may be worthwhile investigating further: headaches, migraines, eczema, psoriasis, unwarranted weight gain, endless fatigue, insomnia, wakeful sleep, aching joints and muscles, repeated colds or infections, sudden onset or change in asthma, irritability, anxiety, depression, bloating, gas, diarrhoea, shakey, huge appetite, no appetite, alcohol intolerance, thyroid disorders, autoimmune disease, low energy, sudden anger, PMS, tender breasts, heavy menstrual bleeding, no periods, foggy memory, feeling rushed, and the list goes on and on.  Every one of these symptoms has a reason for being there – we’re not just unlucky.  They are all messengers asking you to treat your body differently.  Remember, we only get one chance at health.


And this is why part of what I do now looks into this side of health.  Because there were pieces of the puzzle that just didn’t’ make sense to me, or had no logical foundation.  But by taking a broader understanding of wellness and wellbeing, and by understanding that our body is meant to be not just symptom-free but also full of zest and life, I can now help clients to investigate more holistic aspects of their health.  And the outcomes are just that much better and more rewarding.


Our health is our greatest wealth.  Let’s not wait until it’s too late.  Let’s apply an ambulance at the top of the cliff approach.  Let’s be mindful of every little conversation our body is having with us.  Because taking note can change the path of our lives.


  • Corinne Austin
  • Health Coach and Movement Motivator