While it is true that a little stress short-term can be good for us, chronic (long-term) stress can have serious and sometimes debilitating effects. Stress reduction is important for our psychological wellbeing and our physical health as well.
The Role of the Autonomic Nervous System in Stress
Bathurst Chiropractor Ben Purcell describes, the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) governs those functions of the body that help keep us alive without any conscious thought, for example flowing blood to different parts of the body or the beating of our heart.
The ANS comprises a vast network of nerves that branch out from the brain and spinal cord and carry information to and from the brain and every part of the body.
In simple terms, the ANS comprises two types of branch, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. In the case of stressful situations, the sympathetic branch initiates the fight or flight reaction, making us ready to deal with danger. Although the worry of not meeting a deadline at work or realising there is not enough in the Bank to meet the next mortgage payment are not as physically deadly as our ancestors being confronted by a sabre-tooth, our body’s reaction has not changed!
The sympathetic ANS initiates physical responses such as; raised heart rate, respiration rate and blood pressure, increased adrenalin levels and dilated pupils in the eyes. Other signs are butterflies in the tummy and colder hands and feet as blood circulation is diverted away from the stomach and extremities to our muscles to help us to either fight – or run away! After the danger has passed, the parasympathetic ANS takes over, returning all our bodily systems to normal once again.
As Dr. Purcell explains, while this ‘switch on’, ‘switch off’ effect between the sympathetic and parasympathetic ANS is what should happen, but in our increasingly busy and stressful lives things can go wrong! Things can get out of balance when the effects of the stressor do not get switched off properly. In this scenario, we risk developing a variety of stress-related physical and mental symptoms.
The Causes of Stress
Causes of stress can be external; problems at work or school, financial worries, relationship difficulties with a partner, children or other family members. Or perhaps it is just having that feeling of being a ‘hamster on a wheel’, too busy rushing from one task to the next and with no time to just ‘be’.
Stress can also come from within. Common causes include; worrying, being unrealistic in our expectations of ourselves or of others, becoming pessimistic, feeling inadequate or even worthless, becoming inflexible, set in our ways, developing a ‘glass half empty’ outlook.
How Stressed Are You?
As a Chiropractor who focuses on the role of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) in health, Ben Purcell uses a hi-tech but very user-friendly, visual computerised assessment of how well your nervous system is functioning. This short stress response evaluation is painless and non-invasive and provides a very accurate method of measuring a patient’s response to stress via sensors attached to the skin of the head, shoulders and hands.
Most of us simply get on with managing our busy lives as best we can, believing that stress reduction is just not possible given the demands of our jobs, family and modern living. Often we are unaware that stress could be making us unwell – but it can be a cause of all of the following problems. How many of these can you answer “yes” to?
- Are you suffering from problems with your digestion (diarrhoea or constipation), sleeping or managing your weight?
- Have you developed an autoimmune problem or a skin condition such as eczema?
- Have you been suffering from low mood, anxiety or even depression?
- Have you found it difficult to concentrate or experienced problems with your memory?
- Are you worrying more than you should, feeling overwhelmed?
- Have you felt more irritable or short of patience than usual?
- Have you experienced loss of libido?
- Are you experiencing lowered immunity, with frequent colds or infections?
- Do you find yourself drinking alcohol or smoking to help you relax?
How did you do? Surprising isn’t it!
Get your stress response evaluation at Bathurst Chiropractic today! It can provide a useful barometer on how your body is handling the stress in your life. Call us today on (02) 6331 1004 for an appointment and take the first step to stress reduction and taking back control over the stress in your life.