Stress and its effect on our lives is big news and as a Chiropractor I see patients every day in clinic with physical manifestations of their stressful lives.
We mostly think of stress as when we are tearing our hair out and rushing around feeling out of control but there is more to stress than that. It is our bodies response to danger and when we lived in caves and were at risk of being eaten by predators it was very effective.
When we go into our stress (fight or flight) response there are physical reactions created in our bodies, including:
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Bronchi are dilated to increase airflow to and from the lungs and breathing increases
- Increased blood flow to muscles required for energetic activity
- Decreased gastrointestinal blood flow and motility, slowing digestion
- Increase in blood glucose to support high energy use
- Sweating occurs to increase heat loss
Back in the day these reactions would be short lived – we would either quickly survive the danger (or we wouldn’t) and then the fight or flight response would be finished and we would go back into the opposite state of our rest and digest response where all the above examples are reversed.
A great system right? But think about how we live our lives now – we don’t have those life-threatening dangers anymore we have constant levels of stress from many aspects of our daily lives and so our systems are in our stress response for long sustained periods of time and this starts to affect how our bodies work and function.
Referring to the above list is it any surprise that people need to; take medication to control their high blood pressure or have achy tired muscles from them constantly being switched on and ready for action, or gut issues due to their digestive system being dialled down. Sadly, no it isn’t! But what can we do for ourselves today to help this epidemic of stress related issues affecting our lives and those of the people we love?
Let’s start by better understanding what might cause us stress in our lives today – mostly we are not in life threatening danger but we still activate our stress response every day.
There are 3 different types of stressors that our bodies react to:
Physical stresses include: sitting for long periods, lifting and carrying heavy items, wearing bad shoes
Chemical stresses include: junk food, pollution, chemicals in toiletries and household cleaning products
Emotional stresses include: difficult work situations, trying to keep up with society, family issues
As part of modern society the daily experience of many of these stresses means that often our stress response is firing very regularly and for some – constantly.
This is why it is important for us all to add de-stressing activities into our lives. Research has shown that deep breathing is one guaranteed way to take your system out of it’s fight or flight response and into its rest and digest response. This is because when you are in a stressful situation your breathing rate naturally increases and so if you intentionally slow your breathing rate down then your system recognises that you cannot possibly be in a dangerous (stressful) situation and so it calms down.
Deep breathing can be done in any moment to help reduce your stress levels but it is also part of why certain other activities are valuable resources for de-stressing – such as; meditation and exercise.
Exercise also burns off some of the stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) that are released into your body during your stress response and therefore further adding to the reduction of stress reactions in the body.
So, with all this in mind there are many things that you can do today and everyday to help reduce your stress levels and increase your health and feelings of wellness. Here are a few examples to get you started:
- Breath well
- Reduce junk and processed food in your diet and increase fresh food intake
- Exercise regularly
- Try some meditation or simply take time every day to calm and relax yourself – even 5 minutes helps
- Reduce your use of chemicals on your body and in your home, there are lots of great more natural products to choose from
- Make sure you are taking regular breaks at work and from work
- Think about your posture; sitting at work, sitting on the sofa, walking, carrying a heavy bag and how you can improve it
If you would like further information or would like to see how Chiropractic can help you manage your stress levels call Hazel on: 07582 907702 or email at: info@360Chiropractic.co.uk
Hazel Dillon is a Chiropractor at 360 Chiropractic, serving the Reading and further Berkshire area.
If you want to look at the research click here to see one of the papers I looked at