Michael Collins from Flow Chiropractic explores the different facets of stress, its effects on the body, the stages at which it unfolds, the diverse types of stressors and natural holistic stress management tools.
As a chiropractor, I navigate the intricate relationship between stress and the human body daily. Stress, both good and bad, has woven itself into the fabric of our fast-paced lives. Understanding the dynamics of stress is crucial; we generally think of stress as something that only happens to us mentally. However, it comes in a few forms (physical, chemical and emotional) and can manifest within us in many ways.
The good and bad of stressStress is not always the villain; some stress is essential for growth and resilience. The surge of adrenaline before a speech, the strain during exercise, or the heightened awareness when playing a sport, are all benefits of stress, making us stronger and more capable. Stress can help to turn our awareness up, prepare our body to react and increase our overall ability to perform.
The key lies in the balance between stress and relaxation along with our ability to easily move from a stressed state to a non-stressed state. While acute or short-term stress can be beneficial, if not even pleasant, chronic stress on the other hand can lead to long-term health issues. I see this in practice regularly, emphasising the importance of effective stress management.
The stages of stressThe body navigates stress through three stages. We should be able to move back and forth between the alarm and recovery stages. Unfortunately, sometimes there are either too many stressors or the stress that we are experiencing lasts too long. This can lock our nervous system into a chronic stressed state.
The three stages of stress are:
Alarm: Physiological alertness to a stressor, triggering the release of hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, initiating the “fight or flight” response. These hormones trigger increased heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure, while slowing down less critical functions like digestion, immune and reproductive systems. Recovery: In this stage, the body tries to return to a normal state. In an ideal situation, it can recover and functions should return to normal. However, if stress persists, the body continues to produce stress hormones while simultaneously trying to move back to a rest and digest state. Adding more stress as the body fights between the two states. Exhaustion: Prolonged stress without resolution leads to chronic stress, impacting health significantly. This can cause disturbances in immune, digestive, cardiovascular, sleep and reproductive systems – leading to fatigue, sickness, burnout and decreased stress tolerance. Your body usually lets you know when there is an excessive amount of stress in your life that isn’t getting resolved.
Symptoms often related to stressA lot of the time, many physiological symptoms are caused by stress:
Low energy Headaches Digestive issues Muscle tension Skin rashes Neck and back pain Inflammation Insomnia Irritability Trouble concentrating If you have any of these symptoms, consider the level of stress that is currently in your life. It may be the reason for you feeling unwell.
Types of stressNot all stress is the same. There are a few different type of stressors:
Physical stressors: Obvious physical stresses like injury, overuse in sports and poor posture can create significant physical stress. Sitting for extended periods of time is actually stressful on your system! Chemical stressors: Pollutants in the air / water, additives in foods and excessive consumption of caffeine, sugar, processed foods, or alcohol creates chemical stress. Emotional stressors: Work demands, relationship pressures, trauma and societal expectations lead to mental stress, impacting both body and mind. Stress can come in many different forms. Figuring out which is affecting you can help you to feel better.
Stress management toolsSo how do we deal with stress? Here are a few tried and true techniques that should be added to your daily life to help reduce and manage your stress:
Regular exercise: Physical activity serves as a natural stress reliever, releasing endorphins and promoting overall well-being. Start small, commit to just a 10-minute walk outside every day. Healthy nutrition: A well-balanced clean diet rich in real foods with essential nutrients supports the body in combating stress. An easy way to start is making at least one meal a day from scratch. Mindfulness and relaxation techniques: Practices like meditation and deep breathing calm the mind, shifting the body from stress to relaxation. A simple way to begin is to take mini breath breaks throughout the day – just take a break to take five slow deep breaths from the belly. Chiropractic treatment: Chiropractic care focuses on balancing the body, particularly the spine which houses the bundles of major nerves that make up much of your nervous system. Aligning the spine enhances the brain’s ability to send and receive messages to and from the body to help transition between stressed and relaxed states, amongst many other important tasks. It is important to incorporate at least one of these tools in your life in order to mitigate the negative effects of stress.
Limiting stressUnderstanding the nature of stress allows for a more effective approach to managing yours. Minimising physical, chemical and emotional stressors through lifestyle changes and proactive measures significantly enhances your overall well-being. Small, consistent steps towards stress management can lead to enduring benefits for both the body and the mind.
Do you need help to relieve stress? Flow Chiropractic provides chiropractic adjustments to help you restore balance in your mind and body.