Stress is a Many-Splendored Thing
By Dr. Tim Fargo, Chiropractor
There is a funny dynamic about stress- you can’t live with it, and you also can’t live without it. Some stress is needed to create a sense of excitement, a feeling of being alive, and a source of challenge in life. Without stress there is no growth possible. On the flip-side stress can be overwhelming and debilitating. There is a magic middle ground wherein there is just enough to make life exciting, but not so much that one feels imperiled.
Your nervous system responds to all the stimuli you encounter. When the experience you are having is perceived by your brain to be a threat to survival, then a mechanism called the “Stress Response” kicks in, and with it come a host of alterations in your physiology. The other term for this response is the “Fight/Flight Response”. This change in physiology occurs whether the stress is mental, physical, or chemical and is the same for any or all such stimuli. Regardless of the source of the stress, the brain engages some or all of the following:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Shunting of blood away from internal organs and toward large skeletal muscles
- Increased “bad” and decreased “good” cholesterol
- Decreased cellular immunity
- Decreased serotonin production, resulting in anxiety and depression
- Decreased melatonin production, resulting in sleep difficulties
- Increased sensitivity to sensory stimuli, including pain
- Decrease production of sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone
- Accelerated loss of muscle and increased fat accumulation
All of the changes listed above are good in the short-term, allowing you to survive long enough to change your environment and/or escape from danger. The problem for modern, information-age humans is that the stresses we face are unrelenting, and thus the stress response is in chronic activation. Chronic activation of the stress response predisposes us to heart disease, high blood pressure, infection, anxiety, depression, sleep difficulties, obesity, loss of libido, fertility issues, accelerated aging, and even things like ADD and ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Think for a moment about all the people you know who suffer to one extent or another with these manifestations of chronic stress.
If chronic activation of the stress response is the result of the cumulative impact of mental, chemical, and physical factors, then the solution is to address each of these in turn. If you want to lower the impact of stress on your body, then start with the nervous system itself. Reducing spinal misalignments (subluxations) reduces physical stress and effectively expands the capacity of the nervous system to handle all the other stresses. Got stress? Get checked and adjusted by a good chiropractor!
Once you have a well-functioning nervous system it is time to handle the other factors. Here are some basic tips for reducing stress and boosting your body’s ability to better handle its effects.
- Get regular, even modest, exercise. Combine stretching, strength and aerobic conditioning.
- Eat whole, unprocessed and unadulterated foods- plenty of fresh veggies and fruit.
- Take basic vitamins like a multiple, magnesium, Vitamin D, fish or flax seed oil, and extra B vitamins.
- Reduce your intake of refined sugar and other carbohydrates, coffee and other caffeinated beverages.
- Breathe fresh air and feel the sun on your face every day.
- Find something to laugh about every day
- Watch less bad news, whether on television or online.
- Read, listen and watch things that give you feelings of enjoyment and appreciation.
- Find 3 things every day for which you can feel grateful.
- Surround yourself with people who make you feel good and who validate you and your goals.
- Organize your life, your home and work surroundings.
You will notice that the list above encompasses the physical, mental, and chemical arenas. If you do even a couple of the things listed, you will start to feel better, and the seemingly inexorable drip, drip, drip of stress will diminish. Your life and your health future are largely in your own hands. Choose wisely and choose to live well each day. Your life depends on it!
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