Spotlight on conditions - Stress

What is Stress? Is it bad for us?

There are two types of stress we can experience:

The first is Acute stress such as when we are temporarily under pressure or challenged, or in a situation where we need to react extremely quickly. This type is the ‘flight or fight response’ mechanism. We are in danger and need to act quickly to get out of that situation. This type of stress is not only beneficial, it can save us in dangerous situations – it can, in the short term, generate immense power, we can perform what later would seem to be superhuman deeds in order to save ourselves or loved ones from danger.

The second is chronic stress, this is experienced when we are under pressure, but instead of being short lived it continues, day in, day out, possibly for long periods of time. Not necessarily extreme pressure, but also continuing ongoing pressure ‘no light at the end of a tunnel’. This may be related to our working environment, an underlying acute or chronic medical problem we are ‘stressing’ about, or it could be a traumatic event such as bereavement or relationship breakdown.

Acute stress passes once the causal situation is resolved – for example, we jumped out of the way of the car mounting the pavement – or managed to outrun the predator. This stress is healthy and beneficial, it is an automated and incredibly swift response and extremely powerful in the changes it causes in our body in order that we can consider options, decide upon an option and action that option. In a relatively short space of time after the event the body resumes it’s normal state.

Chronic stress however, can become ‘a way of life’. If the situation that caused the stress response in the body is not resolved then the body continues in ‘stress mode’.

The side effects of the stress response instead of fading continue for as long as the situation doesn’t change. Eventually it can have a long term effect not only on the balance of the body – disrupting sleep patterns, digestive issues, lack of energy and motivation – but also on our mind and can lead to depression.

Most of us can identify the situations that cause us chronic stress, but apart from those mentioned above stress can be caused by an overload of the immune system following an illness, long term continuous exercise, chronic pain or insufficient sleep over a long period.

Whatever is the cause of our chronic stress there are methods we can utilise to alleviate, or cope with, stress. The most important that we should recognise is that most people struggle with stress – we just don’t talk about it – we feel that we are failing in some way if we admit to being highly stressed, so talk to someone.

Don’t be afraid that if you go to see your GP you won’t be taken seriously, yes treating chronic stress costs the NHS money – but the costs of not addressing stress early are far greater. Chronic stress over a long period of time leads to much higher costs to the NHS in treating the resulting illnesses.

Don’t be averse to taking counselling if it is offered, or medication for a time to kick start your recovery.

In addition, there are complementary therapies that can help as well as reviewing carefully your dietary habits to make sure that you have the right balance of nutrients to ensure optimum gut health – did you know that the brain produces 0.6 litres of serotonin per day but the gut (given the right ‘ingredients’ ) produce 6 litres of serotonin per day – 10 times as much as the brain!

When the body is in ‘stress’ mode the digestive system does not have the right conditions in which to function properly.

Our body is a story of 2 halves (to put it simply) one part of the Autonomic nervous system is all about action, movement, cognitive speed etc. The other is all about rest, digest, relax.

When the two halves are in balance then the body is ‘at ease’ (balance, homeostasis) but if the ‘stress’ side is in a chronic dominant state then the body will be at ‘dis-ease’.

Complementary therapies can help in restoring and maintaining homeostasis. However, they should not be used as an alternative to seeking medical advice.

Contact me to see how I might be able to help you on your journey  to restore the balance the body needs to be at ease.