Stress and Anxiety
By Dr. Tim Fargo, Chiropractor
I probably don’t need to tell any of you what stress and anxiety are, but I think it fair to say that there is plenty in our world about which you might feel stressed and anxious. We are, arguably, coming out of 2 ½ years of a global pandemic. We are experiencing rising costs (inflation) for many of the basic needs in our lives. There are concerns about climate change, the war in Ukraine, and political and societal polarization. Those are just some of the big themes and then, of course, we have the normal work and financial and familial stresses. It is no wonder, then, that stress and anxiety are at an all-time high. I do remember a time that felt more stressful, but that was in 1962 at the height of the Cuban missile crisis, 60 years ago.
It is important to remember when talking about stress, that anything you perceive as a threat to survival will engage the stress response in your brain. Think “fight/fight response” when you hear about the stress response. Humans, and all animals, have evolved a means to deal with circumstances that threaten survival. In humans, perceived threats to survival provoke a series of responses in the brain that result in some or all of the following:
- increased heart rate and blood pressure
- increased blood clotting
- increases in “bad” cholesterol and decreases in “good” cholesterol
- decreased cellular immunity
- increased sensitivity to sensory stimuli
- decreased short-term memory and ability to focus
- increased insulin production and decreased insulin sensitivity
- decreased serotonin production
- decreased melatonin production
- decreased lean muscle mass and increased fat mass
There are more responses than those listed, but the items above account for the fact that people under chronic stress experience sleep difficulties, cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, attention deficit issues, accelerated aging, and anxiety and depression.
It has been my observation, both personal and with patients, that often times the things that create stress and anxiety are not even here in the present time environment but are part of the past, and the present time environment is simply triggering or re-stimulating things from the past. These are circumstances that defy logic because when you look at what is creating the stress, most outside observers would find it difficult to understand why the person feels the way they do. I certainly cannot begin to do justice to the entire panorama of reasons for, and consequences of, long-term stress and anxiety. I think there are some basic things that each person can do to help alleviate some of the causes and some of the negative consequences. Listed below are a few action steps:
- Quit listening to the news and see if you don’t feel better.
- Make sure that you get adequate sleep by going to bed at a decent hour. The most mentally restorative part of sleep (REM sleep) happens primarily in the early part of the evening.
- Boost your nutrition by decreasing your intake of alcohol, caffeine, and processed foods and increase your consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and vitamin supplements.
- Take, at minimum, a good quality multiple vitamins, extra B complex, vitamin C, vitamin D3, magnesium, and fish oils or another source of omega-3 fatty acids like flaxseed oil.
- Spend as much time outdoors and in the sun as you possibly can. That can be challenging in Minnesota, but it’s still helpful getting outside even if we don’t have much sunshine.
- Get regular physical exercise, including some aerobic, resistance, and flexibility training.
- Spend time with friends and family, people that you love and who love you back.
- Take time to be conscious of things for which you can be grateful.
- Come in for a chiropractic adjustment with any of the doctors at Chiropractic Health and Wellness. Chiropractic adjustments reduce the stress response by increasing the flow of positive messaging into the brain and, at the same time, decreasing the flow of negative body messaging.
No, doing the things listed above will not solve the war in Ukraine, change Putin’s attitude, forestall climate change, or reconcile the political forces in this country. However, doing something about the things in your life which are within your control will allow you to better handle those things which are, at least ostensibly, beyond your control.