Stress and Its Many Hats: by Dr. Damiana Corca, DOM, AP
“Every stress leaves an indelible scar, and the organism pays for its survival after a stressful situation by becoming a little older.”
Dr. Hans Selye, also called Dr. Stress
Stress seems to have become commonplace nowadays. Everybody talks about it and everybody is ready to give you a word of advice on what you should do when you feel stressed. But what does stress really mean? And is stress really only the bad guy? Most of us think of emotional pressure when stress is mentioned. The truth is that stress is much more than that. Furthermore, stress should not be viewed only as a negative feature. Most of the time it’s our friend; we just get sometimes to the point where the abuse done to our body and spirit cannot be handled anymore; and then stress can have a negative connotation.
Stress is an essential part of our physiological processes. Even when sleeping there is a minimal amount of stress exerted in our body, otherwise our heart would stop and we would die. Jogging, for example, is not thought of as a stressor, although it does impose some stress on our body. The fact that I call it stress doesn’t make it negative. Our society has a tendency to overuse this word, not really understanding the meaning of it.
So what are those common stressors that may lead to diseased conditions? Anything that comes in higher amounts than our body is able to cope with can potentially be a problem. We are all most different and as such we respond differently to different stressors. A person born with a weak digestive system will respond differently from a person with a strong digestive system.
But our body is so wonderful and it can put up for a long time with the many negative stressors. But what happens when enough is enough? Imagine a piece of elastic. You keep stretching it and for a while it is able to keep coming back. But what happens when you stretch it so much and for such a long time that it looses its ability to return to its initial state? Then it becomes useless. Likewise, our body is capable of doing the same thing, compensating and working hard to keep everything balanced. But sooner or later the body gets tired and just can’t manage everything, as it should. We tend to think that as long as we feel relatively healthy we are truly healthy. Then one day, we are “suddenly” told the shocking news that we are really sick. Did the problem really arise that suddenly? No, it was a long-term build-up; most of the diseases certainly do not develop overnight.
Let’s discuss some of the stressors that might affect you and your health.
1. Strong Emotions
Emotions poorly managed can be the source of many problems. Much research shows that many chronic conditions seem to have a strong link with psychological stress. Some of the main pathways through which stress can affect our whole body are the nervous and endocrine systems. But long before the scientific studies, thousands of years ago, Chinese medicine talked about emotions as the primary cause of many diseases.
It is really not a secret that our nutritional lifestyle is lacking much of the necessary nutrients. First, soil overuse delivers depleted foods from the start. However, most important are the foods of our choice. Living on high processed foods is really not how the human body survived for thousands of years or more. Imagine how hard our body must work to function without the adequate nutrients due to our poor diet. I cannot emphasize enough that it is of crucial importance for our body to have all that it needs to work properly. What is to be done if the cells are starving? Didn’t Hippocrates say thousands of years ago, “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food”?
Think of the kind of stress your body must endure while trying to keep its vital necessary balance. There are certain areas of your body that need just the right amount of nutrients; otherwise life would not be possible. What happens if it doesn’t have enough of those nutrients? It simply steals from other parts that can survive longer without those nutrients. Are those places happy to be deficient? Surely not! As I said before, sooner or later, some kind of diseases will appear, depending on the amount of stress, time, and your particular inherited deficiency.
3. Environmental Pollution
This is one of the stressors relatively new to the human race. Air pollution is taking its toll on our health. From the heavy smog in big cities to strong chemicals from our household, our health is more and more threatened. Furthermore, electromagnetic pollution, noise pollution, and water quality are other concerns that we have to deal with. Drug toxicities can also be a cause for internal environmental pollution triggering many consequences and easily become a stressor for our body. Some of these are harder to avoid than others but the simple fact of us becoming aware of them, shall enable us to take small steps that could make big differences to our health.
4. Severe Exertion
Overwork is our middle name in this Western society and it leaves its trace in every aspect of our life. Physically, our body can be oftentimes exhausted through lack of rest and not being given a chance to heal and recover. Moreover, it steals from our spiritual time and from the time we should dedicate to spending with our loved ones.
5. Informational Trauma
When is the last time you spent 24 hours without your good friend, the laptop or your blackberry? We are constantly hit with instant news, most of the time negative. Google seems to have all the answers, but none in the same time. There is so much information and so much confusion! We could easily call that a stressor and it can easily become an addiction. There is even a name for it – Internet Addiction Disorder – we have a definition, help line, and it is considered to be included in the near future in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). Remember, living in a virtual world is certainly not true living.
These are just a few of the stressors. We could easily add physical trauma, infections, and exposure to extreme cold or heat. Another condition not commonly thought of as a stressor is pregnancy. The body undergoes tremendous changes, as it needs to sustain another living body. This is why in pregnancy some diseases are so easily triggered if the pregnant woman is not healthy.
Bottom line is that stress is a multi dynamic process, a normal physiological activity. But when stretched over its limits, disease is facilitated and activated. This is where the concept of prevention comes in. Do not wait until the last minute, it might be too late and it’s no good crying over spilt milk. Steps that you should have taken years back and could have changed your life don’t have the same power on an advanced disease. An ounce of prevention is worth more than everything. Integrative therapies can bring solutions for each one of you and a simple holistic evaluation can be of crucial importance. Advanced Manual Techniques such as CranioSacral Therapy, SomatoEmotional Release, and Myofascial Release are such therapies; appropriate nutritional intakes, herbology, acupuncture, homeopathy, and yoga are most useful therapies.
In addition, taking time to be with your own self regularly is a therapy that can never fail. So don’t forget, PREVENTION is the key to a healthy happy life.
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