How to recognize stress before it takes
over your life.
Stress affects different people in different ways, but affect
them it does. Whether you recognize it or not, if you are stressed, it is
only a matter of time before something has to give - and that something is
likely to be you!
So what exactly is stress, and what does it do to you?
Stress is a collective term for a whole series of effects, mental, physical
and emotional, that occur as a result of excess. Excess work, excessive
partying, excess food, excessive crying by the baby - it doesn't't matter
definition, you are doing more to your body than it can cope with and sooner
or later, it is going to let you know - usually in a hurry and with little
or no warning. What is common to virtually all types of stress is that
they result in release of the stress hormone - adrenaline (epinephrine).
Although adrenaline is entirely necessary and has essential
functions in the body, it can, like most things, cause problems in excess.
As a hormone
(definition - a chemical released in one part of the body that has effects
on other, distant parts of the body), very small increases in adrenaline
have very large effects on the host, a.k.a. YOU. Hormones are incredibly
potent by nature and even a small increase can have hugely significant
effects. In the case of adrenaline, these effects include increase heart
breathing, higher blood pressure and reduced digestion.
The easiest way to understand the effects of adrenaline is to
think of the "fight or flight" response. We have all experienced that rush you get when faced with a sudden fright or imminent danger - pounding heart, knotted stomach, tingling palms and acute awareness. This is the body's way of preparing either to confront the situation at hand - "fight", or get the hell out of there - "flight", hence the name. In nature it is invariably followed by an intense period of physical activity (either running away or battle) which "burns up" the
adrenaline, allowing a return to the normal, resting state. It is when
this physical activity does't happen that stress becomes dangerous.
When a period of stress is prolonged, and especially when it
is not followed by some form of physical exertion to "relieve the pressure",
several things happen. Firstly, all forms of stress are cumulative - that
is, they add up on one another, building up more and more pressure on the
system and requiring more and more "release" to restore balance. As a result,
the levels of adrenaline build up in the body, causing chronic, long-term
increases in blood pressure, heart rate etc, which are themselves damaging,
requiring more and more repairs by the body to put them right.
of this is that stores of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, balancing
hormones and all sorts of other "goodies" are
used up (if you drive with your engine at 6000 revs instead of
2500 you use more fuel, more oil, and your engine wears out faster - the
is no different).
This leaves your body in something of a dilemma. It needs to
replace the things you have used up, and fast. However, if you are still
stressed, your digestive system is all but shut down, so you can't
body is not interested in that - it needs those nutrients and it
needs them NOW, so it has to get them from ANY source possible.
body processes that are not ESSENTIAL to survival right now get
reduced or even shut down completely to conserve energy and nutrients.
enough of itself, additional nutrients have to be found from any
In extreme cases, this means that your body starts
down existing structures - muscle, bone, connective tissue etc.,
the nutrients from them for use elsewhere.
Clearly, this is not a good thing long-term, and its results
are as predictable as they are damaging. What started as a position
and "ease" becomes a position of imbalance and "dis-ease" or
disease! This one fact accounts for virtually all chronic disease.
hat at first perhaps seemed preposterous, now becomes obvious.
Recognizing stress comes down to two things. Firstly you must recognize
that you are stressed and secondly you need to identify the
sources of your stress.
Discovering that you are stressed is not so difficult for most
people. If you have chronic disease of any kind, e.g. high
skin problems, arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis etc, then
your body is suffering from at least one major source of stress.
disease is a sign of
stress on one or more body systems and, as stated by twice
Nobel laureate, Linus Pauling, is a sign of a specific nutritional
that stress can, and does take many forms, not all of which
straightforward or even obvious.
Identifying the specific source (or sources) of your stress
is not so simple. Perhaps you get stressed in specific situations,
times of day
or in response to certain people, events or situations.
it is a
certain physical activity that leaves you feeling stressed,
element, an environmental factor such as driving, a noisy home
or the ring of the 'phone (or baby crying). You may even get
palpitations, a throbbing
pulse or chronic muscle/other pains caused by being too "tense" or
any other variety of symptoms, but that I all they are - symptoms
of a greater, and
more fundamental problem that if dealt with, will go away by
themselves with little or no specific help from you.
Most people will benefit from seeing a suitably qualified alternative
medicine practitioner dealing in one of the stress-related
fields such as acupuncture,
reflexology, massage, reiki, kinesiology etc.
therapies such as Tai Chi and yoga will help you not just to relax, but
to identify where the
stresses are in your body in order that you treat them
specifically. Medical tests will help to define irregularities in your
system that reflect the
sources of your stress, therefore helping practitioners
identify the best route to resolution and health. Note here, that
we are not talking
symptomatic relief, but actually getting rid of the problem
once and for all (unless you continue to put yourself under
case, you can expect the problems to return in a hurry!).
Once you have identified your stressors you can take appropriate
action to resolve the issue. Your practitioner will advise
you accordingly, likely along the lines of The Principles
This article is Copyright 2005 Natural Health Information Centre,
but may be freely distributed in its entirety when properly attributed to
Principles of Stress Relief.
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