Everyone knows stress is a part of life and that too much stress is bad for you. However most people have a poor understanding of how stress affects health. To deal properly with stress you need to know what it is, how it is caused, and how many symptoms of stress mirror or mask other health issues.
What is Stress?
Stress is often seen as a form of mental fatigue as in “I’m under a lot of stress right now.” The truth, however, is stress is the result of our bodies reacting to a real or perceived danger which triggers a fight or flight response. When confronted with a potential danger, our bodies automatically go into a flurry of activity in preparation for fighting or fleeing. Our heart rate increases along with our blood pressure and blood is directed away from digesting food. Less blood flows to our feet and hands (the most likely areas to be wounded) and our hearing and vision sharpen.
All of this happens so we are able to rapidly respond to a threat. This system works very well when the stress is something like a barking and potentially hostile dog or even when playing sports. However plenty of activities in modern life create prolonged periods of stress which can lead to all kinds of health problems.
Seven Signs of Stress
The signs of how stress affects health are often easy to miss because they mimic so many other health problems. So it is important for people to look at potential stress in their lives when they have chronic problems which do not respond to treatment.
1. Physical Pain: This usually manifests as headaches or muscle tension or pain. In this case stress acts much like stress does in an engineering sense. When muscles are kept at a state of heightened readiness, the tire quickly in the same way physical activity can. Gripping the wheel of your car during a bad commute is a good example as the tension causes you to grip far tighter than you normally do. Higher blood pressure and change in blood flow translates into headaches and even chest pains as the heart works harder to keep the blood pumping. Sadly, pain is also one of the leading causes of stress.
2. Fatigue: One of the ways the body reacts to danger/stress is to release adrenalin into the blood stream. Like getting hyped up on caffeine then crashing, the lack of the adrenaline can worsen the fatigue factor. Long periods of stress will tire the body out quicker and lead to sleeping problems due to the body being still at a higher level of alertness. This usually leads to a ‘crash-and-burn’ problem of insomnia followed by trouble waking up.
3. Anxiety: Our mind responds poorly to long periods of stress since the source of stress is often hard to pin down such as in a bad commute. Without an obvious source, we quickly become anxious. This leads to lack of motivation, lack of focus and restlessness.
4. Anger: When not anxious, people under stress are often irritable and quick to anger. This can either be in angry outbursts or the slow burn where small things can set off a violent reaction.
5. Depression: As with anxiety, the lack of a clear target of our stress can lead to feelings of helplessness, sadness, and depression. By being unable to avoid stress, one feels powerless which can feed depressive states.
6. Substance Abuse: While we may not consciously realize we’re stressed, often people will take actions to try to make themselves feel better. This can lead to overuse of tobacco and alcohol as well as abuse of over-the-counter medications. Feelings of anxiety or depression can lead to drug use as a form of escapism. Heavy alcohol use can rapidly cause feelings of anger to spiral out of control.
7. Withdrawal: Being unable to deal with stress can cause people to try to avoid it by avoiding people. This can cause them to turn away from friends and family. This often makes the problem worse due to avoiding many activities like sex which are very positive in nature.
What can you do?
At Texas Spine & Wellness, our Garland chiropractors understand how stress affects health. We can also help you manage one of the leading causes of stress: chronic pain. Whether from an old injury or poor body position while putting in long hours in front of a computer, untreated pain can create stress just as much as being in the presence of danger.
We offer several ways to treat stress and chronic pain. Our customized nutrition programs can offer your body the nutrients it needs to overcome common symptoms of stress like depression, fatigue and anxiety. To learn more about Nutrition Response testing and how it can help you, visit our sister site at www.garlandchiropractor.com.
So, if you feel chronic pain is keeping you in a state of constant stress, contact our Garland chiropractors today to schedule a visit. We can help you regain control of your life.