The good and bad of stress
A GOOD, manageable level of stress can help us to stay motivated, achieve goals and help keep us physically fit and ready for unusual or unexpected physical demands.
Twentieth century physiologist Hans Selye discovered that the body responds in much the same way to stress regardless of its source, whether it is physical, chemical or emotional in nature.
Stress produces a “fight or flight’’ response that is largely driven by the adrenal glands. This response is important as the surge of adrenaline allows us to run faster or react more quickly and strongly in a life-threatening situation. It can produce superhuman feats to rescue a mate in danger or even a world record performance at the Olympics. However, to live in a state of high stress continually can have major health implications.
So when does stress become too much? Fatigue, irritability, poor sleep, inability to focus and cope with basic tasks are some of the early signs that you are not coping with the overall level of stress in your life. More concerning signs can be headaches, back or neck pain, allergy reactions, digestive upsets, and even anxiety or depression. Significant stress can also contribute to life-threatening events like cardiac arrest, an asthma attack or triggering of seizures.
Identifying and addressing the different stresses in your life can help ease the overall stress response and help to improve your health. For example, sharing worries and concerns with a friend or family member you trust, or taking a well-earned or much needed holiday to get away from the grind of everyday life. A regular six to seven hours of sleep helps to ensure that your brain is functioning well and ready for the demands of the day. Taking five or 10 minutes at the start of a day to sit and relax can also better prepare you for the day.
Maintaining good hydration and eating well are very important parts of supporting the body in times of stress. High levels of sugar intake have been shown to be associated with depression and suppress immune system function. Fruit and vegetables, especially lots of leafy greens, help to provide essential nutrients to eliminate environmental toxins (such as vehicle exhaust in traffic) and repair the body.
A regular walk, run or workout improves fitness, strength and movement and helps to protect the body from physical injury and trauma. Your local chiropractor is highly trained in identifying stress in the skeletal and the nervous systems. Getting checked and adjusted by your chiropractor can help to re-establish better movement, reduce stress, assist your body to better cope with stress and help to improve the function and health of the body.
Dr Steve Osborne is a chiropractor, the principal of HealthGuard Wellness and a member of the Chiropractors’ Association of Australia.