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By Dr. Joanne T. Gjelsten

Stress Anyone?


So here’s my ski club story, and there is a point to it somewhere in here. In the distant past I joined a ski club because I thought it might be nice to have company once in a while in case I got stuck on the ski lift. That particular Ski Club decided that during the off season everyone should participate in something called a “Work Weekend Up At The Lodge” to get it ready for winter. So, I’m thinking, cool; just like in White Christmas where “the gang” meets up there and we all have a blast! I decide that since I haven’t been there, perhaps someone in the club would like some company on the ride “up”, and sure enough, Uncle Bub, not his real name, is my guy. We meet, I get in, he goes the wrong way, and we’re on our way south instead of north. No problem. I have all day, and he’s nearing, oh about 110 years old so he’s happy to have company any which way we go, and good company he turns out to be. We arrive 8 hours later at the lodge, a huge house with 10 rooms, each with 4 “bunk beds”, the tops of which don’t have sides so good luck if you toss and turn at night. The lodge needs a French drain ‘cause it’s wet in the crawl space, so the place smells like mildew and is hot & humid. I guess I picked the wrong month to do this (July). I have my own room the 1st night. I hit my head 5 times on the upper bunk as I picked the bottom bunk near the ergonomically incorrect shelving, placed inconveniently next to my bunk; my head hurts. Now I’m asleep. Now I’m awake. It’s 6 am.  Someone is banging on the outside of the wall next to my ear. I stumble downstairs for coffee. After I learn to make the coffee for everyone, I am taught to chop fruit for breakfast. Breakfast is wonderful; lots of great food. My job today is to whack weeds. Given that I’ve never done that, I gladly accept this responsibility as the other job, hauling gravel in, and pulling stuff out of the hell-hole down stairs, fun as it sounds, could be lethal to my back, which I like to use from time to time. I whack weeds for all I’m worth until Uncle Bub says “uncle”, and off we go to the pool to cool off. The pool, 2  miles away, is in the middle of the woods.  It’s cool, murky, and loaded with flies that bite you when you get out, unless you stay in. Thunder-clouds appear on the horizon, we don’t have a ride back as Bub went shopping, and I want my Mommy.  I’m going to bed. I now have a room-mate who claims to be a “night person”. “Night person” comes crashing in about 1 am, goes right into a LOUD snore.  I root around for my ear-plugs before I commit murder right then and there. At three am I finally fall asleep. Sleeping past 7 am (God FORBID) I stumble down to breakfast, just making the end of it, dirty looks from all present, aimed at me. I decide I really like to ski alone. Because of all this stress my “zona fasciculata” which sounds like an Italian Opera, is pumping out cortisol like a fire hydrant.  What’s that?  Your zona fasciculata is part of your adrenal glands, the outer part called the Cortex. It makes cortisol, hence the name. What is cortisol? It’s a hormone that says “STOP some things”!! That means stop bone formation, and inflammation, and sneezing, stop proper immune system function, stop smoking and get a haircut. Ok I made that up. It also normally says to START SOMETHING like fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism, the production of glucose (sugar) in the liver, and it is released in response to stress to promote homeostasis. What’s homeostasis, pronounced “homeostasis”? From the Latin or Greek because they thought of all our words, homeo meaning same, and stasis meaning stay, the same sweet person you are, don’t change a hair, and stay balanced, sort of. Let’s talk about chronic stress from, say, shoveling THIS WHOLE BLEEPING WINTER LONG!!!!: Oh boy you do not want this. Why? Because other than making you and your back cranky, you’re making lots of cortisol. Long term cortisol overproduction can lead to  increased abdominal fat, inflammation, ironically from abdominal fat and therefore cancer promotion, memory impairment, what was I saying…oh memory impairment. An important aside:  Cognitive impairment can be from a lack of the right kind of Iodine. (Re-read my past article “Iodine” on my website).  There are several adrenal gland conditions that can lead to the overproduction of cortisol, which won’t be discussed here, but a diagnosis, usually blood work and other tests may be necessary to rule out serious problems. We’re talking here about chronic stress, which could be a factor in the development of disease, given what it does to the immune system. How does cortisol affect immune system function? By preventing “the proliferation of T cells”. What to do? Assuming you’re not in that category, feed your adrenals with the proper herbs ala your health care practitioners advice, enough Vitamin. C and B-5, and get some exercise, everyone who writes articles will tell you. After shoveling your brains out who wants to exercise? Not me. Now what? Don’t exercise, until you first get some rest. Make time to do nothing on one day of the weekend. Then when you feel like hauling yourself out of bed, take a walk somewhere that you haven’t been before. (Doing any kind of exercise you hate will increase cortisol, so please do something fun. Find your “Flow”, Flo!). There are several walking/hiking places I didn’t know existed until I volunteered to be a docent for AmeriCorps of Rockland County and got a great little booklet with all the parks this area has to offer. Last weekend I found a great rail trail in Pomona..easy, flat walking, and I have so many other places I’ve taken people in the past within 20 minutes driving distance. The AmeriCorps program is doable no matter what your abilities. Bob Goldberg, an amazing historian, did a terrific talk with fascinating history about a railway that was started and stopped up on Dunderberg Mountain (up off 9W) on an easy hike last November, so I’m excited about getting out there this year! Whether you like music, a walk or a movie, just do what calms you down Bunky. Your health will suffer without you protecting you, Yolanda! See my website www.godrjo.com and e-mail me for more info, or go and volunteer at Rockland Americorps. It's like the domestic Peace Corps. (Google it).   See what great walks and hikes are offered this year. I’ll be starting as a new docent this year, so I may not be listed yet, but maybe I’ll get to meet you out there! Happy trails to us!☺♫

©Copyright Feb 3 2011 



NOTE: Nothing in this article should be construed as medical advice. It is informational in purpose only and taken from numerous readily available articles written by physicians and researchers. For medical advice consult with an informed physician.




The products and claims made about specific products on our site have not been evaluated by any regulatory health authority and are not approved to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. The information provided on our site is for informational purposes only. You should consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise or supplementation program, before taking any or stopping any medication, or if you have or suspect you might have a health problem.





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August 11, 2016
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Joanne Gjelsten

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