Stress and How it Affects Your Health
By: Dr. Peggy Malone
On this week’s episode of my television show ‘Living Well’, we discussed stress and it’s effects on our health and wellness.
Dr. Patricia Doris, a clinical psychologist came on the show to discuss stress and to give some strategies to manage it’s negative effects in our lives and in our health.
I also chatted with Osteopathic Manual Therapist, Rebecca Gilchrist who gave my viewers a brief introduction into her profession and then explained how the treatments that she offers can help to alleviate negative stress.
Stress is a normal part of our daily lives. Why then has it received such a bad rap?
Because our bodies are designed to handles short bursts of stress followed by periods of relaxation.
However, our modern lifestyles create long periods of stress which we call "chronic stress" that tend to bombard us from many different directions at once. As a result, our stress response starts to deplete our bodies of energy, cause health problems, and leave us feeling emotionally exhausted and overwhelmed.
In fact, many people get so overwhelmed that they start to ignore their stress and wait for it to pass. Or worse, begin to engage in unhealthy coping strategies because they are easy and offer immediate gratification.
A little attention to the idea of stress management can go a long way to mitigating the damaging effects of chronic stress.
Stress management is the term used to describe the strategies and coping responses that we produce in response to stress. While most of us know that there are lots of things we could be doing to improve our overall ability to manage stress, many of us end up feeling overwhelmed and unsure how to best spend our time and resources.
The following are some simple strategies that can be included in any healthy stress management routine.
If time is extremely limited, most people would argue that there is nothing they can do to manage stress. However, even one minute of stress management can go a long way towards to reducing the effects of stress on the body and mind.
One of the best ways to use a minute is to focus on decreasing physiological arousal and cultivating a positive frame of mind.
Here's one way to do it.
Get comfortable and start with taking a breath. Now start by slowing down your breath, deepening it, and making it quiet. On the inhale, your belly should expand, and on the exhale, make sure you expel your breath fully. In addition, when you exhale, think of relaxing your shoulders and letting them drop (a place where many people hold tension).
Once you've taken 2 or 3 breaths, turn your attention to something that you feel grateful for in your life. The most important aspect of this technique is to actually let yourself feel gratitude, rather than just thinking of things you know you should be grateful for.
The feeling of gratitude generates positive affect and a feeling of pleasure which works as an antidote to stress.
If you're ready to incorporate some more stress management strategies into your life, remember that the fitter and healthier we are, the more resources we can generate to cope with stress effectively.
Some of the things that are effective at reducing the effects of stress include regular physical activity such as exercise, sports, or even just taking the dog for a brisk walk. If you can make it fun, even better!
Adults don't play enough. Remember how much fun playing was when you were a kid? Just because you're all grown up, doesn't mean that play time is over. Get the kids, the dog, or the spouse and go play. Maybe you'll go throw a ball around or jump around in the sprinkler or watch a funny movie, but playing is a great antidote to stress.
Getting enough high quality sleep is extremely important as well along with making sure that you're putting high quality fuel into your body (i.e. eating well).
Finally, make sure to get some fun into your day. Pleasure, laughing, and having fun is a great antidote to stress because these activities release endorphins in our body which make us feel good.
The bottom line is that there are lots of things we can do to manage stress so pick one and get started.
For more information on Dr. Patricia Doris and her services go to: www.drdoris.ca
What is Osteopathic Manual Therapy?
It is a highly specialized form of treatment based on extensive understanding of anatomy and physiology; and the interconnections of the entire body.
Osteopathy is based upon 3 Principals:
- 1. Health encompasses a persons mind, body and soul. If one or all are out of balance, there will be a diminishment in health.
- 2. Structure and function are interrelated. When the body is unbalanced and not functioning properly, it will show itself in the structure of the body.
- 3. If given the chance, the body will always strive for a state of health and homeostasis.
Proper spinal mechanics is the key to optimal health and longevity. The goal of treatment is to restore proper movement and improve structural stability, allowing the body to return to normal physiologic function.
Housed within the spine, the nervous system controls every cell, organ, muscle, and tissue in the body, all the veins, arteries and lymphatic’s.
Unbalanced spinal mechanics causes the nervous system to function improperly; it will eventually lead to pain and disease.
Osteopathic treatments will trace the symptoms back to the source. Compressions, stressors or strains within the structure will be corrected allowing the nervous system to function normally and to repair and restore balance.
How can Osteopathic Manual Therapy help decrease stress?
There are two parts of the autonomic nervous system.
The Parasympathetic Nervous System, which is active during a relaxed state which allows for rest, repair, and digestion to occur.
The other part is the Sympathetic Nervous System which is active during states of stress, the fight or flight response.
These parts of the nervous system are constantly active and help maintain a state of homeostasis in the body. When the Sympathetic Nervous System is activated the Parasympathetic Nervous System will then become active to return a state of balance and vice versa.
When these parts of the nervous system get out of balance due to constant stress, we start to experience symptoms.
Too much stress, not enough rest!
To the osteopathic manual therapist, these parts of the nervous system specific locations within the body.
The Parasympathetic Nervous System can be found within the Cranium and also at the bottom of the spine exiting from the sacrum (tail bone area).
The Sympathetic Nervous System is located from the first Thoracic vertebrae to the second Lumbar vertebrae.
Rebecca described seeing patients who are in states of stress and she said that typically there is an imbalance between these parts of the spine and often various compressions in the area of the spine that houses the Sympathetic Nervous System causing constant stimulation of that part Sympathetic Nervous System.
For more information on Rebecca Gilchrist and her services, go to: www.heritagehealth.ca
Stress is something that in our modern culture is making us sick and all of us need to find some strategies to better manage it.
Have a lovely and stress-free day.
Dr. Peggy Malone is a Chiropractor and an Athlete who helps other athletes to overcome injury and get back to their sport. Her weekly Television Series 'Living Well" inspires people from all walks of life to take control of their health to be as happy and as healthy as they can be.
A former varsity Basketball and Rugby player, she has since entered the world of endurance athletics where she has completed 2 Ironman Triathlons, 3 Marathons, several Half Marathons and many other Triathlons, Road Races and Off-Road Adventure races of varying distances.
Her own athletic endeavors and injuries have given her valuable insight into working with athletes in her practice for both the care of injuries as well as for the improvement of athletic performance.
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