Stress and Life Load

Metrifit Athlete Monitoring System

Nutrition, quality of sleep and stress levels are the key players for both your short and long-term health.

If a person is experiencing chronic levels of stress this can set up a cascade of health issues from simple blood sugar dips, cravings, stored weight around the belly, prone to injury, diabetes to cardiovascular disease and many more.


Our bodies run like two basic operating systems:

  1. The “fight or flight” system and
  2. The “rest and digest” system

There is a dance between both of these and a trained clinician can spot when a patient is more dominate in one. Adrenal stress is one of the most common issues we encounter in functional medicine, because due to our life-load nearly everyone is dealing with moderate to high levels of stress.

In a healthy individual, cortisol is high in the morning and decreases throughout the day.  But, when our bodies react to stressful situations, such as a looming deadline, overtraining, relationship woes our body reacts.

Research proves that long term stress can not only increase cortisol levels in that moment, but more importantly it disrupts our natural cortisol rhythm, which can play havoc on your body. When we are stressed, our cortisol levels may be higher than normal, but may also change in pattern. Cortisol affects everything in our bodies:  insulin spikes, insulin sensitivity, hunger/cravings, mood/concentration, gut function/ digestion, immune system/ability to recover, fertility and libido.

How do you know if your cortisol is high? 

Answer these questions:

  • Are you wired and tired?
  • Do you have trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep?
  • Do you wake up unrefreshed after a sleep?
  • Do you carry extra weight around your middle?
  • Do you suffer from frequent urination in the middle of the night
  • Do you feel tired for no reason?
  • Do you feel run down / over whelmed?
  • Do you crave sugar or salty snacks?
  • Do you feel more awake or alert in the evening?
  • Are you overtraining and not sleeping?

If the answer is yes to any of the above questions, then cortisol may be to blame and it’s time to start addressing this.

Sleep and stress are linked, a lack of sleep triggers inflammation, and getting enough beauty sleep can help protect against it and the many negative effects of exhaustion. Melatonin which is released at night, slows the inflammatory process, allows for a faster recover from training or injury, and slows the aging process due to its powerful antioxidant potential.
When an athlete doesn’t sleep well for longer periods of time, he/she is more prone to injury.

 How to Measure Stress 

  • An Adrenal Stress Profile test can gives you a snapshot of what is happening that day in relation to Cortisol and DHEA
  • HRV and glucose or insulin monitoring can be useful tools to monitor stress response when used on an on-going basis

Self Care Tips

  • Eat right!
  • Increase downtime: spend more time in nature, with loved ones, away from laptop / phone.
  • Use an app or program for monitoring your training and illness
  • Deep breathing exercise: yoga meditation, mindfulness.
  • Establish a consistent circadian rhythm (sleep and wake at same time).

How can you better manage your response to stress and stressful situations? What small things can you add or remove from your life to help?  Can you take a minute to breathe slowly and deeply for 60 seconds to 5 minutes?  Can you ask somebody for help? Laugh more?  Reduce stimulants / caffeine, sugar, processed food? How about waking up in the morning and listing 3 things you are grateful for?

Life can be stressful, but you do not need to stress over it all the time.  Your physical, mental and emotional health is more important than anything else.  The beautiful part is that you always have options, if you can’t change a situation, you can change your response to it!


“Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one”. – Hans Selye.


Maev is an active member of the American Institute of Functional Medicine, runs her own private practice and lectures in nutrition. You can view more on her website Maev Creaven Nutrition