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A little bit of stress is normal, and it can even be healthy! If you’re someone who feels a small amount of stress about getting places on time, it can help motivate you to wake up with your alarm and head out the door. However, too much stress can be harmful to your physical and mental health.
So what’s happening in your body when you feel stressed? Let’s say that you’re confronted with a deadline you don’t think you can meet. Your worry about this deadline can trigger a fight-or-flight stress response in your body through the release of norepinephrine, which will increase your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, sweating, and adrenaline. Those symptoms will happen right away when you’re reacting to stress.
After that immediate response, your body will start to release hormones that trigger the release of cortisol, the hormone that helps make glucose, break down glycogen, and gives you energy. When you’re stressed, cortisol shuts down some functions in your body and redirects the energy to try to help you. This stress response system is called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis), and it’s really useful in dealing with occasional high-stress situations, but it can be dangerous with chronic or frequent stress.
It’s true that stress can also affect your fertility. You might have missed periods in the past because you’d had a stressful month, and that’s because stress can shift your cycle and ovulation dates. A study in Fertility and Sterility also showed that women with high levels of alpha-amylase, an enzyme associated with stress, have a more difficult time conceiving.
It’s not always easy to know whether you’re experiencing stress because the word “stress” can feel very general. People use it to describe feelings ranging from “I wish this weren’t happening” to “I can’t do anything because I’m panicking too much.” The most common definition of stress is as general as the feeling: “a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.”
That’s the root of stress – you feel like there’s something you have to do but can’t, and you’re having a reaction to that feeling. That reaction can vary between people and situations, and sometimes it might be manageable. When it’s not manageable, your stress can have a negative effect on your life or your health. High stress levels can cause high blood pressure, trigger stomach ulcers, or make you exhausted or depressed.
If you’re feeling overly stressed, your healthcare provider might recommend therapy, medication, or lifestyle changes like a healthy diet, fresh air, and a good support system. There are many lifestyle or home remedies you can use to relieve stress, including things like meditation, exercise, sleep, and massages.
One surprising thing that can relieve stress is the stimulation of the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is the longest nerve in your body, touching almost every organ and sending instructions to release enzymes and proteins throughout your body. When your nervous system triggers your fight or flight responses and releases stress hormones, the vagus nerve can tell your body to relax by releasing acetylcholine.
Wayv is a headband that provides a gentle massage to your cranial and vagus nerves through low-power acoustic vibrations, like those used in electric toothbrushes. The non-invasive device sends acoustic waves through the skin to nerve mechanoreceptors that stimulate nerves. Basically, Wayv is safe technology that allows you to unwind and counteract stress without taking time away from all the things you have to do.
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