A Very Basic Overview of Stress…

Written by Grant Munro DC.

In order for our interventions at the clinic to be as successful as possible and promote healing, a large part of our job is working with the client to reduce the overall stress load their bodies are dealing with.

Our response to stressful situations is governed by the part of our nervous system which operates in the background usually out of our conscious control – our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). The ANS regulates all of our internal processes, which is why we don’t have to consciously think to increase our heart rate and breathing rates when we exercise, or know which chemicals to release to help us break down our food to use it to repair our bodies.

The ANS is grossly split in to two parts – the sympathetic nervous system, which in response to a stressor gets us ready to ‘fight or flight’ by releasing hormones to get us a rapid supply of fuel and transport it quickly around the body; and our parasympathetic nervous system, which helps us rest, repair and digest. When we are healthy these two systems work in harmony to create balance.

Our stress response evolved in our ancestors to help keep us safe from predators and to hunt for food. For example, a tiger jumps out at us, our sympathetic nervous system floods our body with chemicals to do everything it can to help us fight, or more likely in this case run away to safety. Once we’re away from danger our parasympathetic helps us repair our bodies from the exertion.

Modern day living gives us continual things to be stressed about throughout the day, broadly categorised into four commonly overlapping groups – physical stress, nutritional/chemical stress, emotional stress and other, newer lifestyle stresses from our environment such as light pollution and the increased radiation around us from sources such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The ANS cannot really differentiate between these different stressors, therefore we get chronic over activation of our stress response. Not only does this mean we don’t give our bodies chance to heal as well, but it is also implemented as causes of modern day lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke etc.

Chances are if you’re in pain, you can’t sleep very well, you breathe through your mouth or notice yourself trying to catch your breath between talking, as a start you could do with implementing some of the tips below to help your body heal better and balance out the stress response.

1) Breathing techniques – put your tongue flat on the roof of your mouth, teeth apart but lips together and breathe quietly through the nose. Take 6 breaths – in for 3 seconds and out for 6 seconds. Do this at regular intervals throughout the day. This has been shown to activate our parasympathetic nervous system, and in practice I have seen this technique alone significantly reduce clients’ pain levels.

2) Exercise – as little as a daily 30 minute walk has been shown to have significant health benefits. Increase the stress reducing response by making it outside in nature, such as a field, wooded area, lake etc

3) Adequate hydration – with our bodies made up of anywhere between 70 and 80% water, and all of our internal processes requiring water, it would make sense that chronic dehydration would be a significant stress on the body. The commonly quoted 2.5 to 3 litres a day should suffice, but you probably want to increase that if you sweat or talk a lot through the day. Again in practice I have seen many a low back pain case sorted by adequate GG

4) Get checked by your chiropractor – we can uncover areas of stress in the body – and use various techniques to bring the body into a better state of ease while working with you to find further techniques to help you manage your stress load.

We will talk about these more in a later posts, but if you are interested in how the stress from modern living is having a great effect on our overall health, check out Robert Sapolsky’s ‘Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers.’