Stress.. A pandemic of its own
Stress... You know it, you feel it and unfortunately it's not going away any time soon. Here’s how you can understand the effects of stress on your health and what you can do to increase your resilience in these difficult times!
What is stress? Can it be good?
Stress is vital for survival as it defends us from the challenges of daily life, otherwise known as “stressors”. The importance lies in the type and duration of stress and how we deal with it. Good stress (Eu-stress) lasts only a very short period of time, you can overcome it and recover with a sense of exhilaration or accomplishment. Historically that stress would have allowed you to run away from a dangerous predator and reach a tree to climb to safety. Bad stress (distress) can last days, weeks or even years and typically leaves you feeling a lack of control, irritable, emotionally drained and physically exhausted.
Common stressors fall into three categories: Physical (sitting, lack of sleep, injuries); emotional (conflict, relationship issues, responsibilities) and chemical (pollution, diet, medications). It is probably quite easy for you to pinpoint some of your everyday stressors and how long they have been affecting you.
Stress is experienced through your nervous system which controls everything that happens in your body including organ function, hormonal secretion, digestion, immune response, healing and regeneration. Your nervous system has two gears, ‘fight or flight’ and ‘rest and digest’. You can only be in one gear at a time, like a car with drive or reverse, you can either be in fight or flight OR rest & digest. When you are experiencing stress your nervous system is in fight or flight.
What happens to your body when you are stressed?
This survival mode means your body is laser focused to get you to safety. Heart racing, blood pumping, muscles flexing, fuel burning, everything it takes to get you up that tree and away from that lion. But there is no lion… When your body thinks you are desperately trying to escape danger your vital centres (heart and lungs) become overworked, your creative thinking, concentration, ability to learn, problem solve, remember details or be considerate and empathetic to others goes out the window.
When your nervous system is stuck in fight or flight, your body can’t properly digest food for healing, repair and regeneration, your immune system also reduces in its capacity. These effects of long term stress often leading to aches, pains and injuries that will hang around and a body that is more susceptible to coughs, colds, flus and other viruses. Definitely not what we want this winter!
Signs your stress levels may be too high
These common signs of chronic stress can indicate you are living life primarily in fight or flight:
Sleeping less than 6 hours per night and experiencing restless, broken sleep.
You NEED your coffee and/or use alcohol or other drugs to switch off.
You are anxious, aggressive, not happy or suffer poor mood regulation.
You constantly feel overwhelmed and are increasingly forgetful.
You suffer headaches, neck pain & upper back pain.
Building resilience with simple strategies
We know reducing stress is not always easy but why not try some of the following:
Sleep - 7+ hours per night
Breathe - using your abdomen rather than your chest
Exercise - walking and yoga are an excellent to start
Nourish yourself - keep it real, fresh and nutrient dense
Limit exposure to technology and screens - these send your nervous system into 'fight or flight'
Cultivate Gratitude - Begin each day by saying out loud 3 things you are grateful for
Look after your spine - optimal spinal function will power up your nervous system to shift gears into rest & digest and may help boost your immune system
Stress & spinal function
Your spine is the protective casing for your nervous system and the motor for your brain. The function of the spine can therefore affect every aspect of your health including how you experience and deal with stress and how well your brain is able to do its job.
At LiveLoveLife we are passionate about helping people live their best. We offer world-class Chiropractic care along with proactive education, positive support and early intervention, which is key in reducing the long term impact of spinal health issues and stress to ensure you are building a strong, healthy and resilient body for the future.
Want your health to be different? Want your life to be different? Then you have to DO something different. Get in touch with us today at firstname.lastname@example.org or (02) 8091 2021. LiveLoveLife is a short walk from Woollahra Village!
Dr Erin Hawken, Principle Chiropractor, LiveLoveLife