If you didn’t know already, today Wednesday, 1st November 2017 is international stress awareness day. Stress is your body’s way of responding to any sort of external stimulus, writes Reflex Osteopath Seb Murtagh. Stress is often seen as a negative and in many ways it can be. However, stress plays an essential part in our day-to-day lives and our development from childhood into our adult selves. Stress is an essential aspect of growth. Muscles build strength in response to stress, your bones won’t be strong unless subjected to stress, and even your brain can’t develop without appropriate stressors to challenge it.
The best-known stress responses is the ‘fight or flight’ response. This encompasses the body’s standard physiological reaction to any perceived attacks or threats. When the brain perceives threat it starts a chain reaction of hormone release including cortisol and adrenaline which can have far-reaching physical effects. You might recognise some of these as; increased heart rate, dry mouth, shaking, bladder relaxation and slow digestion. Non-essential bodily functions are put on the backburner to give you the best chance of survival. Whilst this is great if you happen to be faced with an angry Lion and you need a boost of energy to outrun it, it’s is not so good when the stressor happens to be your daily commute or meeting your weekly targets at work.
These constant stresses in modern life are what really cause problems with the long term effect of cortisol (a major stress hormone) on the body. In small doses cortisol can have a positive effect on the immune system. However with chronic stress comes a constant heightened level cortisol, potentially leading to decreased immune response, reduced bone production and disrupted sleeping patterns.
There are also clear postural effects of stress. Often people will hold a lot of tension around the shoulder and neck area by raising the shoulders up to your ears, hunching forward and clenching your jaw. Do any of these sound familiar? This constant strain on your muscles to hold this poor posture can lead them to become sore and over tired. The increased tension around your neck and jaw can cause headaches.
Firstly, some advice… Take a break! Do something relaxing that you enjoy, read a book or go for a walk in the park. If you can do some exercise then that’s even better. Exercise naturally reduces the body’s level of stress hormones with the added benefit of releasing positive chemicals such as endorphins. This will help to relax you both physical and mentally.
Next, come and see one of our amazing clinical team at Reflex Spinal Health. Our osteopaths, chiropractors and massage therapists are all well equipped to give your body that little bit of help in reducing stress levels. Working with the muscles and joints can influence the autonomic nervous system. Specifically aiming to re-activate the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) and switch off the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and return normal functions of the body. There is an ever increasing body of research showing the benefit of chiropractic and osteopathy in lowering stress, and why we support international stress awareness day.
Finally, try to remember that not all stress is negative. If you can focus it and control it then it can help you grow and strengthen as a person. To do this, forget about all the stuff that has no real consequence on your life (eg Traffic jams) and focus on those things that can help you improve. Use international stress awareness day to kick start your fight back against stress!
17 Church Road, Caversham, Reading, Berkshire RG4 7AA
Reflex Spinal Health are a passionate, dynamic spinal health team. We are committed to help as many in our community of Reading, Berkshire and South Oxfordshire to enjoy the vitality of great health, to reach their health goals and feel truly alive! Our chiropractors and osteopaths offer the highest standards of care in a superb environment.