How Stress is Affecting Your Body and How to Fix It
“Reality is the leading cause of stress for those in touch with it.” – Jane Wagner
According to a new survey, released by Bupa, stress is at chronic proportions in Britain with 44% of the adult population suffering from debilitating stress levels. Out of all these frazzled people, 27% say they regularly feel close to a breaking point. This is an epidemic and we should be concerned. Stress damages our health, decreases our quality of life and reduces our productivity.
Check Your Stress Levels
Here’s how to do a simple check of your stress levels: try to lower your shoulders. If you can’t because your shoulders are tense, your body is in defense physiology because of chronic stress. Keeping your shoulders raised is just one clue that you are chronically “stressed out.” Other stress clues include sensations of a “knot” in your stomach or your heart pounding, feeling tense or nervous most of the time, habitual foot-bouncing or finger-tapping, teeth-grinding, jaw-clenching, or becoming easily “unglued.”
Additionally, the extra tension in your muscles may cause excessive pull on the spinal bones that they attach to and cause them to become misaligned. This is called a subluxation, which further aggravates the problem. These misalignments may irritate the nerves that they are close to and create a vicious cycle of adding even more stress in your physiology.
What Happens to Your Body When You’re Stressed
When you are under any kind of stress–whether life threatening or just irritating–your body goes into “defense physiology,” known as the fight or flight response. It is preparing for danger. It’s as if it is getting ready to outrun a lion. Organs and glands change gears, your adrenal glands are activated, blood pressure goes up, digestion slows and muscles tense; your overall physiology prepares to help you survive.
Stress from an emergency is over in a short time; however, stress from anxiety, worry or anger keeps your body in defense physiology 24 hours a day. Every organ, tissue and cell is working overtime. Eventually, your body becomes exhausted and your normal healing processes shut down. You become a candidate for chronic fatigue, depression and disease.
Additionally, when your body is in a chronic state of defense physiology, you are unable to process information correctly. Your brain is constantly being updated with information. There are approximately 300,000 impulses per second coming into your brain from your five senses. The problem is, if you are in defense physiology, the information coming up to the brain is altered and therefore your response to this information may not be appropriate. This negatively affects your mental, physical and emotional well-being.
Unless you are in a crisis situation, you should be reasonably relaxed and your mental emotional default should be one of ease, joy and happiness.
Three Types of Chronic Stressors
Stress shows up in many forms. Below are three types of chronic stressors that bombard you daily:
1. Mental or emotional stress (including job pressure, family problems and deadlines)
2. Chemical stress (processed foods, drugs, chemicals, poisons, pollution, etc.)
3. Physical stress (bad posture, falls, injuries, repetitive movements, sedentary lifestyle, etc.)
Five Remedies for Chronic Stress
If you are suffering from chronic stress here are some suggestions that may help you:
1.Take an inventory and clean out your stress. Review the three types of stressors in your life and decide where you can reduce the stress that is bombarding you. Often, awareness is 80% of the solution. Are there some projects that you could drop? Can you extend some unrealistic deadlines?
2. Treat your nerve-rich spine like gold by having your subluxations corrected by a good chiropractor. Start practicing good posture and getting plenty of stress-busting exercise, such as yoga and swimming.
3. Eat stress-busting foods such as avocados, whole grains, almonds and sunflower seeds.
4. Avoid stress promoting foods such as coffee, energy drinks, sodas, alcohol, fried foods and foods high in polysaturated fats (found in processed foods).
5. Chill and cleanse your mind with daily meditation. Think of meditation as your daily brain shower, cleaning out toxic and stressful thoughts every day. Large bodies of research show that even with as little as 20 minutes per day, meditation can help to combat the negative effects of stress.
A little stress is good as long it is keeping you challenged and engaged. But remember:
“Stress is like spice – in the right proportion it enhances the flavor of a dish. Too little produces a bland, dull meal; too much may choke you.” – Donald Tubesing
Naturopathic Medicine: The Therapeutic Order
Naturopathic doctors seek to heal the whole being. Rather than medical doctors who look at symptoms (pathology) and treat and prescribe the problem to force healing to occur, naturopathic medicine seeks to find natural balances to bring the body back to wholeness with gentle support.
The most basic tenant of naturopathic medicine is that healing is available within.
When we pay attention to our bodies and shift our way of life to support these most natural functions, the body will heal itself. The Earth around us is in harmony and we can use the elements – air, sun, food and herbs – to gain internal symbiosis. Contemplating the totality of the being, psychology and spirit may also play a part. Invasive treatments are the last resort and every effort is offered to support the internal wellness of the human system.
Principles of Naturopathic Medicine
Every ounce as valuable as medical doctors, Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) adhere to a strict code which differentiates them greatly from their pharmaceutical and surgery-seeking counterparts:
- Do no harm
- Treat the whole person
- Prevent disease
- Doctor as teacher
- Support the body
- Treat the cause
Beyond this alternative view of illness and disease is wellness. Health is the perfect state and every effort must be made to bring people back to their optimum alignment. The restoration of health is the goal, not treating symptoms alone.
If we can look at the symptoms – see what the disruption is to health and address those imbalances – we are empowered to restore well-being. Terminal and chronic conditions appear only when this disruption of ideal wellness is prolonged.
A client of mine once had liver cancer. Her prognosis was bleak but she was unwilling to give up alcohol to save her life. From a medical perspective, chemo and radiation were the only way to go. A naturopathic doctor instead may look at the underlying emotions which created this devotion to her addiction. Of course, the patient must be willing to seek help and be ready to address the changes necessary. Free will is key and doctors, no matter what their leanings, cannot save those who do not make their own well-being a priority. For my client, her comfort was more important than fighting for a life that had been filled with strife. Rather than impose our own fears, we can instead provide a space of respectful loving confidence in her decision and ease the end of life process.
The Therapeutic Order
The Therapeutic Order provides guidelines for NDs to make decisions to treat patients that are in alignment with the philosophical considerations of this natural model of care. It represents a hierarchy of elevation to treat in the least invasive and most supportive ways and avoid excessive procedures.
Remove Obstacles to Health
The first consideration is the optimum health of the patient. What are the circumstances or behaviors that are obstructing health and happiness? If we remove the obstacles to health, the body will restore on its own. Such inquires as nutrition, sleep, stress, spiritual practices and time in nature are the first step. When we can sustain happiness in a patient, they are well on their way to health.
Stimulate Life Force Energy
Life force energy is crucial to well-being. Prana must flow to enliven the organism and stimulate the energy centers which sustain life. After prolonged periods of dis-ease, the energy becomes stuck.
Many ancient practices understand the necessity for flowing prana and have sophisticated systems to address stimulation of the life force. These include acupuncture, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, yoga and spiritual endeavors like journaling, prayer and mediation. Any combination of these modalities may be offered to support the return to wellness.
Strengthen the Weakened Systems
While doctors may start treatment at this stage, this is where the body can begin to reveal that which is deeply compromised. NDs instead witness the affects of lesser modalities and the body illuminates where true support is needed. By addressing what is unable to restore itself, vitamins, minerals, fish oils, probiotics and holistic treatments may offer significant benefit.
This is often a desperate space for patients and it is where they begin to seek drastic intervention for the prolonged discomfort. By building upon life force energy and honoring what is working, suggestions are offered to strengthen the true depletion.
Correct Structural Integrity
As the issues at the organic and glandular system are soothed, it is the spinal and muscular system which require attention. Proper alignment brings the body into balance and can be achieved through massage, exercise, chiropractic care and stretching.
A compromised spine will block the flow of prana and affects every system in the body. Spinal Health is a cornerstone of yogic practices and fundamental to support the harmonious integrity of the soul in physical form.
Natural Substances to Control Symptoms
When required, vitamins and minerals may be the next step to restore wellness. Cautious efforts are considered and natural remedies are employed, as to not overtax the recuperating body system.
Use Pharmaceuticals to Control Symptoms
When the foundations of the Therapeutic Order stall, it might be beneficial to consider pharmaceuticals. Note: not all NDs may prescribe and each law varies by state.
Patients will often need to be referred to a medical doctor who can treat them with access to chemical remedies. In many cases, an ND can work with the medical doctor to ensure all aspects of care are being honored.
Use High Force Interventions
At this last stage, all other avenues to natural care have been exhausted and invasive interventions may provide the only relief. Terminal conditions and severe chronic pain are most common when this drastic step is the best outcome.
This resort recognizes the body cannot be wholly restored unless something is removed– surgery, lasers or chemo– to kill off the affliction in the sincere hopes that with its removal, wellness can be discovered. Patients can be supported naturopathically as they undergo these treatments and its continuance will contribute to prolonged wellness and self-care.
It is heartening to remember ways to empower our own health and to seek alternatives to the reliance on the current medical model.
Naturopathic doctors are in place to bring us back to these places of well-being with gentle support to heal ourselves. It is up to us to take the steps toward self-love that creates a resonance within for this healing to occur. There is no quick fix or magic pill, as all challenges are those which encourage our Ascension.