Feeling stressed? This may helpApril 27 2020
With the current situation that we are all facing, many of us may be feeling the strain. The pressure of our jobs, financial difficulties, health worries and relationship difficulties. But what actually is stress, and what causes it?
Stress can be broken down into three main categories
This would be a physical trauma like falling off a bike or a motor vehicle accident, repetitive lifting, old injury flare ups. These can all lead to reduced movement, muscle spasms and eventually pain.
This is what we are all most likely dealing with now; stress about work, family, health and finances can all seem normal, but it has an enormous effect on the body’s ability to function well.
Stress from the environment and the things we are putting inside our bodies such as: processed food, sugar, medications, alcohol, smoking and pollution. Again, this adds strain to our body and reduces its ability to function at its best.
How does stress affect the body?
Regardless of the cause of stress, our body’s response is flight or fight. This was helpful when we were trying to survive in the savannah and avoid being eaten by a lion! (thank goodness we are not in that situation anymore!!) The flight or fight response is directed by the sympathetic nervous system, which sends a stress signal to the hypothalamus ( the brains command centre) communicating with the rest of the body through the nervous system.
The sympathetic nervous system is like the accelerator pedal in a car. It triggers the flight and fight response, providing the body with a burst of energy to get away from danger! The sympathetic nervous system sends signals to the adrenal glands which release the hormone epinephrine (adrenaline) into the bloodstream this leads to:
Increased mental alertness
Increased blood flow to our muscles
Mobilization of energy reserves
Decreased blood flow to skin, kidneys and digestive tract
Increased blood pressure
Increased heart rate
Increased respiratory rate
All these things happen without us been aware of them. That is why we can jump out of the way of an oncoming vechile before we even think about it! If the brain continues to perceive something as dangerous, the hypothalamus will release cortisol from the adrenal glands so the body can stay in the revved-up state and at high alert. When the threat has passed, then things can slowly return to normal.
When we are in a persistent stressful state, we may get stuck in a long term flight or fight response, with increased blood pressure, heart rate, sweaty palms and high levels of anxiety or agitation, but there is no lion to run away from! This can lead to the damage of blood vessels, increased risk of stroke and heart attacks. Persistent tension can cause the muscles to contract and the spine to “lock” in an abnormal position causing pain and stiffness. This may lead to secondary problems like weight gain, smoking and disturbed sleep.
How to counter prolonged stress?
Find hobbies that YOU find relaxing to take your mind off the stress around you, such as reading, painting, gardening, and cooking. Try and do something you enjoy at least once a week.
Learn techniques through yoga and mindfulness apps like headspace or smiling mind. This can help lower your blood pressure.
Exercising like going for a brisk walk when feeling stressed deepens your breathing and helps relieve the muscle tension. Yoga and Tai Chi help with breathing and mental focus which induces calm.
Confidants, friends, relatives and co-workers provide a social network which gives you the opportunity to talk about what is stressful in your life and help you to deal with your stress and offer you the emotional support that you need. Keep in touch on the phone or by video apps!
Chiropractic spinal adjustments help release the muscle tension, relieve irritated spinal nerves, and help with blood circulation which help the body to return to a relaxed state. While it may be impossible to completely remove stress from your life, regular chiropractic care can help negate some of the effects and prevent long term damage that stress causes to the body.