In our faced pace life, the majority of us have been ignoring and pushing off our internal maintenance to fill it temporarily with a short term outside solution of caffeine and denial. Add stress and the temporary fixes no longer cover the symptoms or warning signals that your body is screaming for you to address as the stress on the system is far greater than the body can cope with. Because our bodies are so adaptable, we often manage to ignore them in spite of a growing problem that keeps nagging us. We may not even be aware or may have missed the subtle symptoms, but our capacity to adapt is diminished. Then, all it takes is a sneeze, tying our shoes or the stress of a deadline to put us over the edge and symptoms appear.
Stress can hit you from many angles, for many different reasons, mental and physical. Job security, working too hard, not working at all, commuting, relationships, illness, worry about a loved one, lack of sleep, retirement, bereavement, moving house – all can serve to create stress. A recent survey by the American Psychology Association revealed that 54% of Americans are concerned about their stress levels, and two-thirds would likely seek help for their stress.
Many people are stressed without really knowing it; it’s just the way of modern life and we get used to it. However, it still creates genuine strains on your body that are manifested as an increase in: blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, metabolism, and blood flow to your muscles. This is your primitive fight-or-flight reaction kicking in, preparing you for action in the face of a stressful situation.
Your Stress Response
Your stress (fight-or-flight) response, while useful in threatening and dangerous situations to preserve life and limb, is not healthy when it pretty much never goes away. Nowadays, it is rarely triggered in response to an aggressor who must be fought off or a predator that must be fled from; instead, as an ongoing reaction to life’s stresses, it is highly likely to be harmful to your health.
Of course, different people will react to the same situation in different ways. It is not the situation, then, as much as the individual’s reaction to it. What might stress one person may not bother another.
Your Body’s Coping System
When stressed, your pituitary gland releases a hormone called adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which acts like an alarm system inside your brain. It instructs the adrenal glands on top of your kidneys to dump stress hormones into your bloodstream, including cortisol and adrenaline. These cause numerous physiological changes in your body, including a rise in your heart rate and blood pressure, shutting down your digestive system, and affecting your immune system. Following the panic, the cortisol and adrenaline in your bloodstream should decline to normal levels, as should your heart rate and blood pressure and other affected bodily functions.
The problem is when these levels are not allowed to reduce to normal levels, but instead remain raised due to the ongoing perceived stress of various situations. The body then never has a chance to fully recover its natural and healthful state. Long-term, this stress response can badly disrupt practically all your body’s processes. You will probably have experienced some of these effects yourself: headaches and upset stomachs are common results of stress, thanks to the effects of your stress hormones.
Stress and You
Stress is known to affect the nervous system as well, causing anxiety, panic attacks, depression and even dementia, because the chronic release of cortisol can cause damage to certain parts of the brain. It equally affects sleep patterns and sex drive. The rise in heart rate and blood pressure for the cardiovascular system is a very dangerous mix, with the potential for heart attacks or strokes.
Your immune system also suffers with chronic stress, becoming weaker and less able to fend off colds and other infections. Working well, your immune system responds to infection by releasing several substances that cause inflammation. However, when chronic systemic inflammation takes place due to stress, degenerative diseases can become the order of the day.
Chiropractic Can Help!
You may be so used to being stressed that you may miss or dismiss the signs, so it’s good to take stock and consider whether you are experiencing any of the following: anxiety, insomnia, back pain, constipation, shortness of breath, stiff neck, fatigue, upset stomach, weight gain or loss, depression, problems in relationships. Any of these may indicate you are stressed and are in need of a stress relief solution.
Chiropractic adjustments have proven to be just that solution. They have been shown in many research studies to be very effective at treating tension headaches, especially those that stem from the neck. A 2001 report by researchers at the Duke University Evidence-Based Practice Center in Durham, NC, found that chiropractic adjustments provided almost immediate improvement, with far fewer side effects and more long-lasting relief than prescription medications. The majority of cases were greatly improved by an adjustment of the upper two cervical vertebrae and the vertebrae at the junction of the cervical and thoracic spine.
Our Team is Ready!
We all have a different threshold of “body awareness.” Become more aware of your body. Take note of even small changes in your energy level, sleep habits and elimination.
If you do note any of the warning signs, take action while your body is still whispering, rather than waiting until it’s shouting for help!
For Your Health,
Dr. Scott Van Dam