How Stressors Affect Wellness
I am grateful that so many patients are sharing with us the joys and positive delights of the Holiday Season. Many are also sharing, however, that along with family visits, travel, sharing joys and events, come so not so very pleasant effects of Stress, which they are also experiencing. While pain and spinal care are the "reason for the visit", as a chiropractor, I know the effects of stress on the body can interfere with both the quality of our life and our true health status. While the Holidays and special events come and go, stressors can constantly exist and affect our health. Also, the coping lessons of the Holiday stressors may help with your year round skills for better health. This knowledge of stress effects and stress "busters" or coping skills is a wonderful and powerful gift of health for yourself and your loved ones.
What you may not realize is that your body naturally is constantly adapting and changing to what it is experiencing or expressing. The body will try it's hardest to compensate when something is not quite right. Physical, emotional and chemical stressors, or as I call them - the three T's(traumas, thoughts and toxins), begin to cause the body to try to balance itself out or acclimate to the stress. Problems start when the body, in a constant state of instability, begins to wear down. This is when our or well-being becomes compromised and affects our health and well-being.
Some physical stressors (traumas) are obvious - falls, injuries, or sudden impacts to the spine, head or other body parts. Even overwork - or over-play - the weekend warrior state, for example, can create a stressed body. However, less recognized or known, micro-traumas, caused by on-going improper posture - sitting at a desk or traveling too long without a break, or one-sided repetitive movements can also stress our physical system.
Emotional stressors - (thoughts) worry, fear and grief, are more difficult to avoid, but can be equally damaging to our wellness. Some well-known effects of emotional stress on our physical body include increased blood pressure and digestion difficulties. But think for a moment how these type of emotional stressors can affect the muscles of the neck and back to tighten, potentially affecting the alignment of your spine, or creating not only painful muscles, but headaches and other more serious physical issues. And I have recognized that with every injury - every stressor - there are associated emotional states that, when neutralized, assist the body to repair faster and get back on the road to health.
Finally, chemical stressors (toxins) are one of the leading causes of distress to the nervous system and affects our wellness. Included in this area is diet and nutrition - as one of the most frequently discussed underlying factors. From drinking the chemicals and sugars in sodas and energy drinks to processed foods and preservatives, our body is constantly adapting to a chemical attack, working overtime to remove toxins and chemicals in an attempt to maintain balance. Other toxins also affect us just as much, the quality of the air we breathe, for example, and the body does it's best to juggle and balance, detox and upregulate for your health needs.
Finding True Wellness
I believe that the term wellnessis overused and abused today - often it's simply being used as a gimmick to improve sales of products that have nothing to do with improved health and function.
The definition of the "state" of true wellness - to me -is achieved when all of the body's systems are receiving their signals from the brain and are properly providing the body with what it needs to not only survive, but to thrive! ~ Too often, we mistake an absence of symptoms as the presence of health, when the reality is that the two are not even related.
Part of my job as a chiropractor is to help patients identify these outside stressors and as a team with my patients, assist in their removal. I recognize and teach the importance of the prevention of dis-ease and conditions by regularly focusing on improving function rather than hiding symptoms.
With regular adjustments, spinal health is maintained, encouraging proper nervous system function and allowing for the body to perform at its best.
Steps to Reduce Outside Stressors
Chiropractic adjustments, to assist the body in returning to pre-symptom status, is step one. Step 2 is educating patients and their families on how to reduce the outside stressors that can lead to pain, conditions and dis-ease in the first place.
Stress affects nearly everyone, but some people handle it better than others. And the simple truth is the people who are good at dealing with stress live healthier and happier lives compared to people who struggle with stress. The good news is if you are one of the many people who get caught up in life's sticky web of stress, you can get untangled and stay untangled.
So here are a few things that you can use and share to reduce outside stressors both this Holiday Season and beyond:
1. Enjoy a Laugh and Focus on the Positive. An emphasis on negative news and information adds to your stress and a feeling of hopelessness. Sure, you need to stay informed of current events, and all you have to do is check out a summary page on any Web browser to catch yourself up to speed. What you focus on becomes your reality. So stop focusing on the bad things in life and zero in on the positive. Read the daily comics or check out a joke or two a day. Studies show laughter lowers levels of stress hormones. Of course, it's also easy to appreciate that when you're laughing, stress has to take a back seat, at least temporarily
2. Lighten up. When the body absorbs sunlight, it enhances the effect of mood-stabilizing brain chemicals. So enjoy lunch out in the sunshine or walk a few blocks during your afternoon break.
3. Get moving and Listen to both Calming and Energetic Music. Exercise, even something as simple as dancing for a few minutes, or going on a brisk walk, triggers mood-lifting endorphins. The repetitive motion required of most simple exercises also makes you relaxed and focused. Listening to energetic music will help get the body parts moving and then switching to more calming music will reset you to a refreshed and relaxed state.
4. Take a breath. Sometimes, just breathing deeply can help center and relax you. Try it the next time you're stuck in traffic or have a decision to make. And be sure the breath is deep and relaxed. I can usually assist you to determine if your diaphragm is moving and releasing properly, an important step to deep refreshing breathing.
5. Get your Sleep - Sleep is necessary for the regeneration of body and mind. Lack of sleep leads to stress on the immune system and makes you more prone to illness. Consistent poor sleep leads to irritability and fatigue, too. Sleep gives the body cells an opportunity to rid themselves of waste and repair themselves. How much sleep should a person get each night? The answer depends on the individual; however it is recommended to get eight hours of sleep per night for maximum benefit.
6. Hydrate. Dehydration stresses your body and nervous system. Adequate water is essential for cellular processes, tissue regeneration and detoxification. The advice to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day is antiquated. Instead, multiply your weight in pounds by 0.5 and 0.7. The numbers generated are the range, in ounces, of water you should drink each day. There is no need to start slamming down water today. Instead, gradually increase your intake over a four-week period. Keep in mind that caffeinated beverages are natural dehydrators, so for every cup of caffeine beverage you drink, replace it with 2 cups of water.
7. Eat Healthy and Snack with Real Food Regularly. When you go long periods between meals, a hormone known as insulin spikes. This hormone controls how fast sugar enters your bloodstream after eating. Big surges in insulin occur when you wait too long between meals, which may increase stress on your body chemistry. You can get cravings and mood swings. Eating only three meals a day is insufficient for keeping this delicate balance of hormones in check. It is recommended that in addition to eating three smaller regular meals a day, you mix in 2-3 healthy snacks. You will notice a renewed sense of energy and vitality as you provide your body and mind with the nutrition it needs.
8. Meditate - A recent study suggests just 20 minutes of meditation for five days will significantly diminish anxiety and stress by reducing the amount of stress hormones released into the body. Use the meditation time to let you mind go blank or Go on a (virtual) vacation. Picture yourself on a tropical island or a serene, majestic mountaintop - wherever you'd rather be instead of here, stressing out. It will give you a few minutes to unwind and relax instead of focusing on the ongoing stressors of the day.
9. Dropping into Heart-Space - If 20 minutes a day is even too much for your schedule, I teach a tool in the office and in seminars and in offices for reducing stress in the work-place. It takes less than a minute to get to a very relaxed state where stress can take a break.
It works easier while you are standing, but if that presents a problem, feel free to sit while exploring this tool. Take a breath, slowly breathe in with a deep breath and slowly breathe out, dropping your shoulders, and softening your knees if you are standing, with your arms at your sides. Closing your eyes helps, but is not necessary.
Think "behind belly button, or feel your attention "dropping" to heart space, which is in the middle of your body. Just notice what you are noticing now. As you do so, the majority of people experience an expanded state of relaxation, increased potential and clearer thinking. It allows you to come to a state of Present Time Consciousness or a state of NOW, allowing you breathing room from your stressors.
We use this 30 second tool as part of our daily morning office meetings and whenever we wish to "regroup" as individuals or as a team. It is like a "reset" button to assist when multitasking gets out of hand, or when recurring worries start to beset us. It Always helps, like a glass of water assists one who is thirsty.
Most people can experience this relaxed state very easily from the steps above, but if you cannot, and need a little assistance, give us a call. I can pace you thru the steps in the office or teach it to a family or work place team very easily in person. It would be a wonderful Blessing to be able to teach you this valuable tool to disarm the stressors in your life!
30 Days to a Healthy New You with Less Stress
Keep these tips in mind the next time you're feeling the pressure, and remember that it takes 30 days to form a new habit. Try these stress busters for just one month and you can change your life. Even if you can't do all of them, start with a few and see how much less stress you have in your life. There seems to be no end to the amount of stressful situations we encounter, but taking simple steps to ease the burden can go a long way toward making every day count.
Give us a call at 852-8000 if I can help you with any of the items mentioned above. Providing Health and educational tools is my passion.
Dr. Brad, DC