Why Am I Feeling Stressed?
Our bodies can experience a “stress” response to any one of these three inputs:
- Thoughts (what we think about)
- Toxins (what we eat and put near, in or on, our bodies)
- Trauma (our injuries – physical /psychological /emotional)
Is Stress Normal?
Yes. Our bodies are programmed to react to our environment in such a way that it ensures our survival. This is commonly referred to as the “fright-flight” response. When our brains perceive changes in the environment as potentially dangerous, it triggers a response that serves to heighten our perceptions and reactions and effectively brings the issue to our immediate attention. Our heart races, our breath quickens and we begin to sweat. We get a rush of hormones and the result is that we get a “stress” response. While we often think of this as something external to our bodies, it can also occur when there is an over reaction to events that are not life-threatening. These can be things such as over work, a family crisis, and even, for some individual, chemical stress that occurs as gut changes that occur after ingesting some foods. A detailed article published in the Harvard Medical School1, gives a good detailed explanation of the background and the body chemistry involved in stress reactions.
When Does Stress Become Unhealthy?
The body is designed to manage the stress response for short periods of time. Once the stress inputs are removed, our bodies settle down and eventually return to normal functioning.
The Harvard Medical School article goes on to say: “Over time, repeated activation of the stress response takes a toll on the body. Research suggests that chronic stress contributes to high blood pressure, promotes the formation of artery-clogging deposits, and causes brain changes that may contribute to anxiety, depression, and addiction…”. We are effectively seeing permanent unhealthy changes taking place in our body.
The changes/symptoms that are connected to excessive stress include:
- persistent pain (headache, backache, etc.)
- frequent sickness
- decreased energy
- digestive issues
- changes in libido
- appetite changes
- obesity or weight loss
- increased heart rate
- excessive sweating
- addictions (smoking, drinking, drugs, gambling and other obsessions)
The problem is that once we start to have the symptoms of excessive stress, we may possibly be adding to it by eating the wrong foods, drinking too much, sleeping less, or having negative / destructive thoughts.
OK, I’m Over Stressed. How Do I Deal With It?
Most people have a clear idea that they are suffering from excessive or chronic stress, based on the list of symptoms above. Unfortunately, tackling the problem is a challenge, given that so many factors can contribute, or feed into, the stress response.
Once you have recognised that your state of constant stress is having negative consequences in your life, it’s time to seek professional help.
Chiropractors are primary health care practitioners. The first steps to addressing stress and its many consequences often starts with a discussion in your chiropractor’s office. Chiropractors are used to dealing with the physical causes of stress (that result in musculoskeletal issues) and some look further at the nutritional / biochemistry issues as well. There are a number of clinics, including ours, that include heart rate variability (HRV) testing as a biomarker of stress and use it to make sure that prescribed “exercise is having the desired effect2“. Chiropractors also “advocate for a whole-of-life approach to health – one that involves movement and social connection” in a state of spinal and neurological health.
Additionally, your chiropractor may refer you to other health professionals to assist you with the stress.
Psychologists & professional counsellors are trained to help you deal with your thoughts. We cannot emphasise how important it is to seek this type of help. Remember that some of these services are provided free, or at very low cost, from your local government.
Great Stress Reduction Strategies
It is possible to take some action immediately to help you manage some of the stress inducing factors in your life. They all help to bring your life back into your control.
Here is a list of some we would recommend:
- Talk to a friend or colleague (preferably face-to-face)
- Turn off all of the mainstream social media (including news and Facebook feeds) as they thrive on feeding you fear and uncertainty. They are designed to flourish in an environment of high stress and anxiety.
- Get a pet
- Start a hobby that makes you feel good
- Take a walk in the park (any exercise is great but doing it outside is even better)
- Get some sleep (greater than 8 hours per day) and develop a routine pattern of bedtimes.
- Look around and see whether you help those that are less fortunate than yourself. Often when we do this, it puts our perspective into a more meaningful context.
- Take up mindful thinking exercises (meditation, yoga, etc.)
Prolonged or excessive stress is bad for your health and wellbeing. Dealing with it in a timely manner is the key to recovery. This article has shown you what to look out for and where to get help.
At Happy Healthy Bodies Chiropractic we treat all enquiries discretely and are passionate about improving community health, so if you feel you need some caring professional help, just ring and see if we can help.
- Harvard Health Publishing: “Understanding the stress response”
- Australian Spinal Research Foundation: The Stress Series Part 4