Chiropractic plays a big role in stress management as it facilitates the release of stress, the stimulation of healthy responses and the restoration of the body’s own self-healing, self-regulating abilities.
Modern life is full of pressure, stress and frustration. Worrying about your job security, being overworked, driving in rush-hour traffic, arguing with your spouse — all these create stress. According to a survey by the American Psychology Association, fifty-four percent of Americans are concerned about the level of stress in their everyday lives and two-thirds of Americans say they are likely to seek help for stress.
You may feel physical stress as the result of too much to do, not enough sleep, a poor diet or the effects of an illness. Stress can also be mental: when you worry about money, a loved one’s illness, retirement, or experience an emotionally devastating event, such as the death of a spouse or being fired from work.
However, much of our stress comes from less dramatic everyday responsibilities. Obligations and pressures which are both physical and mental are not always obvious to us. In response to these daily strains your body automatically increases blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, metabolism, and blood flow to your muscles. This response is intended to help your body react quickly and effectively to a high-pressure situation.
The Stress Response
Often referred to as the “fight-or-flight” reaction, the stress response occurs automatically when you feel threatened. Your body’s fight-or-flight reaction has strong biological roots. It’s there for self-preservation. This reaction gave early humans the energy to fight aggressors or run from predators and was important to help the human species survive. But today, instead of protecting you, it may have the opposite effect. If you are constantly stressed you may actually be more vulnerable to life-threatening health problems.
Any sort of change in life can make you feel stressed, even good change. It’s not just the change or event itself, but also how you react to it that matters. What may be stressful is different for each person. For example, one person may not feel stressed by retiring from work, while another may feel stressed.
How Stress Affects Your Body
When you experience stress, your pituitary gland responds by increasing the release of a hormone called adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). When the pituitary sends out this burst of ACTH, it’s like an alarm system going off deep inside your brain. This alarm tells your adrenal glands, situated atop your kidneys, to release a flood of stress hormones into your bloodstream, including cortisol and adrenaline. These stress hormones cause a whole series of physiological changes in your body, such as increasing your heart rate and blood pressure, shutting down your digestive system, and altering your immune system. Once the perceived threat is gone, the levels of cortisol and adrenaline in your bloodstream decline, and your heart rate and blood pressure and all of your other body functions return to normal.
If stressful situations pile up one after another, your body has no chance to recover. This long-term activation of the stress-response system can disrupt almost all your body’s processes. Some of the most common physical responses to chronic stress are experienced in the digestive system. For example, stomach aches or diarrhea are very common when you’re stressed. This happens because stress hormones slow the release of stomach acid and the emptying of the stomach. The same hormones also stimulate the colon, which speeds the passage of its contents.
Chronic stress tends to dampen your immune system as well, making you more susceptible to colds and other infections. Typically, your immune system responds to infection by releasing several substances that cause inflammation. Chronic systemic inflammation contributes to the development of many degenerative diseases.
Stress has been linked with the nervous system as well, since it can lead to depression, anxiety, panic attacks and dementia. Over time, the chronic release of cortisol can cause damage to several structures in the brain. Excessive amounts of cortisol can also cause sleep disturbances and a loss of sex drive. The cardiovascular system is also affected by stress because there may be an increase in both heart rate and blood pressure, which may lead to heart attacks or strokes.
Exactly how you react to a specific stressor may be completely different from anyone else. Some people are naturally laid-back about almost everything, while others react strongly at the slightest hint of stress. If you have had any of the following conditions, it may be a sign that you are suffering from stress: Anxiety, Insomnia, back pain, relationship problems, constipation, shortness of breath, depression, stiff neck, fatigue, upset stomach, and weight gain or loss.
After decades of research, it is clear that the negative effects associated with stress are real. Although you may not always be able to avoid stressful situations, there are a number of things that you can do to reduce the effect that stress has on your body, including exercise and yoga/stretching.
What can I do at home to help “Relieve Stress”?
Home exercise for Stress Relief
This is a great exercise that you can do at home or at work when you are going to be sitting for extended periods of time to prevent the build of of stress. It is call Bruggars Stretch and you can do it as often as you can, but I recommend doing it every 20-30 minutes when you are sitting for more than an hour. Hold the exercise for 30-60 seconds each time you do it and you will see lasting results. Click Here For A Printable PDF Of The Stretch
Go for a Walk Outside Daily
This is killing two birds with one stone. If you make a point to go for a walk outside every day for 30-60 minutes you will be actively working to relief and prevent the build up of stress. By walking outside you are getting UV rays, even if it is cloudy a percentage of UV rays make it through and this improve your Vitamin D levels which decreases stress and depression. You are also getting a dose of mild cardio exercise which is proven to be a significant way to decrease and manage stress. Even as little as 20 minutes a day can make a huge difference: Here Is An Article Discussing The Benefits of Exercise
Take Regular Breaks at Work
The majority of Americans work in an office where their job entails sitting for extended periods of time, as a result of being in the prolonged position stress builds up and is carried in the neck and shoulders. Even if it is for only a minute, if you stand up and take you eyes off of your computer and take 10 Deep Breaths this will significantly minimize the amount of stress that builds up over the course of a work day.
Stayed tuned for more tips and information about chronic pain, sports medicine, and other musculoskelatal conditions. My goal as your Bend Chiropractor is to educate the community on how through some simple lifestyle changes you can find pain relief and improve your quality of life for good.