Really, How Bad Is Stress?

First of all, I know that you’ve heard the ‘stress is bad’ mantra for years.  In fact, the concept of how stress affects our physiology is actually a decades old phenomenon.  Hans Selye is really credited with the majority of the work in describing the process.  He presented his work way back in 1936.  The concept had been used in Latin context of ‘being drawn tight’ before then.

What Selye did was reposition how this actually affects us and the repercussions it creates.  Today, we are still learning the invasive and pervasive effect that stress has in many of the diseases and symptoms experienced in our modern world.

So, rather than tell you how bad stress really is and make you feel guilty because you’re not doing enough to manage yours better, let’s discuss some possible lesser talked about ideas regarding this ubiquitous issue in our culture.

stress

It does look appealing, doesn't it?

Signs and Symptoms of Stress

There are a host of these.  You might think that you are handling your stress just fine or that you can take it.  To a certain degree, your body can actually thrive and perform better under the presence of stress.  This is part of the phase that Selye, himself, described as the resistance phase. During this period, you actually have a greater ability to respond to your life circumstances.  This whole phasing process is time dependent, though.

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That is to say, the longer that the stress is present, without being truly adapted to or effectively dissipated from within your physiology, the more likely the toll it will take.  This is when you may start to experience any number of the signs of stress discussed below.  You’ll quickly notice that these are not just physical in nature.  In fact, a great majority of symptoms or signs that stress is taking a toll on you, your health and your life have to do with the emotional and behavioral spheres.

Impatience and Anger

While there are times when you may find yourself becoming angry or have impatience at the DMV, stress that you are not properly managing will lead to more outbursts of anger.  Many times, this anger can also be turned inwards and lead to depression or anxiety at some future point. This will also show up in your posture as described here.

Sleeplessness

Stress affects the quality of your sleep, but also your ability to go to sleep.  The thoughts on your mind, the demands, bills, etc. will cause you to find it difficult to get to sleep at night.  Even after sleeping for many hours, you may not feel rested.

Fatigue

This is due not to physical exhaustion or a cold or flu, this is from a prolonged stress response.  Feeling slow and sluggish is a consequence of losing your passion and focus that stress can induce.  You see, it affects how your emotional capacity responds by changing brain ‘wiring, firing and biochemistry’.

Physical Symptoms

These neck and back pains that you’re feeling are quite common.  Without a ‘thing’ that we can point to saying ‘that is what I did’ to cause this pain, stress is often the culprit.  You can point the finger at stress saying ‘it’ is what is leading to your pain, but really it’s your inability to adapt effectively that is to blame.

Colds, flus and other diseases that arise from a taxed or overworked and under-performing immune system are also related to stress.  Because of the way that the nervous and immune systems are interconnected, your health may suffer when you are experiencing long-term, even if low-level, stress.

Difficulty with Memory and Concentration

Stress will direct or re-direct your mental attention and energy toward more ‘survival based’ concepts rather than other tasks, work or what you were planning on doing.

Difficulty Controlling Impulses and Cravings

Impulse buying, cravings for comfort foods and the like are signs that your body is turning to a more ‘comfortable’ existence.  While comfort isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, when you are having a hard time controlling your impulse to purchase or eat, you have a problem.  Stress hijacks your brain, make no mistake about it.

Postural Changes

This one is a little bit more difficult to appreciate until you understand the way it works.  As your spinal cord and peripheral nerves are the aspect of your body that must respond to the incoming signals from your environment, it is what is responsible for ‘interpreting’ the messages first – even before they reach your brain.  Then, once the messages have entered the brain, they can be interpreted and adjusted as various ‘output’ responses.

Some of these output responses will be emotional changes, behavioral changes and physical changes.  The physical things can be in the form of musculoskeletal changes.  The smaller muscles around the spine have nerve fibers that are branches of your sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight system).  When enduring stress, these nerves tell the muscles to contract and tighten to prepare you for what is coming.  When the threat leaves, your body CAN go back into ease.  However, if the stress does not leave –or, more importantly, HOW YOU RESPOND OR INTERPRET the stress doesn’t change – your body will continue to remain in this state.

Prolonged contracture of these muscles will alter the tension on your spine, altering the natural curves and contours of your spine.  You may even have new, sideways or lateral bending curves (scoliosis) created.  You will also see this in terms of your head being carried forward of your shoulders, a hump in the upper part of your back forming, tingling and numbness in your hands, arms, feet or legs, headaches, etc.  Many physical aches and pains can be traced to this very fundamental spinal tension physiology.

The good news: this is reversible!

What Can You Do About Stress?

We’ll end on this because happy endings are always better.  The research evidence is in and many mind-body techniques and approaches prove that physiology and life are enhanced through these practices.  One such practice and the one near and dear to my own heart is Network Spinal Analysis.

This approach has at its core the ability to help you unwind spinal tension and nerve system disturbance and dysfunction giving you a better way of adapting to stress and living your life in a more creative and passionate way.

While you might find that statement to be a bit grandiose, I can assure you that since 1998, I’ve witnessed people’s lives changing.  They tell me all the time how they didn’t think something so gentle could be so effective.  They say that they are so thankful that they found Network Chiropractic and can’t imagine life having to live they did before.

Sure, escaping for a weekend retreat or getting away from work for a while can help.  But, these things are just temporary.  You aren’t actually changing anything, you’re just ‘getting away from’ or ‘escaping’ them.  Vacations and get-aways are vital and important, please understand this point.  The problem is that a vacation doesn’t mean that you will be different when you get back.  Sometimes, the post vacation high is more temporary than you would have hoped for.

If you can relate with anything you’ve read here or you know you should do something about your stress, but don’t know what, contact us today and we’ll get you started down that path.  There has never been a better time in your life than right now. It’s why you’re reading this article and it’s why ignoring this message would be a big mistake.  I invite you to learn more about our office or contact us and let us help you find a practitioner close to you.  I wish you all the best and brightest that YOUR life has to offer!


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