What can I do about being stressed?
Lots of things! There are always little changes you can make to help decrease the stress load on your body and decrease your sympathetic dominance. It is easiest to look at it through the 3 key pillars of physical, chemical and emotional health.
Some physical changes you can make:
3. Confronting, or at least acknowledging the biggest stress in your life. For many people, they are stressed by a lot of little things adding up, or one big issue they can do little about. It is a good idea to sit back and look at your life and where the stress comes into it. Maybe this will give you some perspective and allow you to let go of some of the smaller stresses, or at least name where your stress is coming from and give you the chance to compartmentalise or separate it from your everyday life.
4. See an emotional support professional- counsellor, kinesiologist, best friend over coffee – a shared is a problem halved. If you need any additional support to work through your emotional stresses, please seek help. It’s OK to not be OK, but often reaching out for help can seem too hard. See your GP, call a helpline, text your mum, whatever you need to, to support yourself through whatever you are going through.
Some of these changes are easier to implement than others, so start with the easy ones and work on the rest one at a time. Make sure you pick some from each section (including the scary emotional one, it’s kind of the most important), and strike that balance within your own life. Most people notice some pretty big changes within the first two weeks, some will have to stick with it for a bit longer. Thanks for taking the time to learn a bit more about how you can improve your health; the more that we know about how our body functions and why we’re in the state that we’re in, the more we can do about it.
What is SD Protocol?
The SD Protocol recognises that a lot of chronic health conditions can be linked back to the ‘fight or flight’ response being constantly switched on. It provides advice, tools and tips to allow you to calm down your system, letting your body recover and achieve greater health.
What is the sympathetic nervous system?
In our body we have many processes that happen automatically. We don’t have to consciously direct our body how to digest food, or tell our heart to keep beating, these actions and more are the responsibility of the Autonomic Nervous System. To allow our bodies to adapt to different situations, we have two settings for our Autonomic Nervous System- Sympathetic (Fight or Flight), and Parasympathetic (Rest and Digest). When it is working well, our body will fluctuate between the two settings, allowing us to get the energy to run from predators (back in caveman days) and then also calm down enough to get nutrients from the food we eat and sleep restfully to recover.
What is Sympathetic Dominance?
Sympathetic Dominance is when your Sympathetic nervous system is ALWAYS switched on. This causes your body to be in a state of constant alert, always ready to run away or fight for your life. Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it? For many people, this is how they live every day. As we have evolved from cavemen, our stresses have evolved too. Our stresses are not just trying to survive being chased by the lion, we now get stressed by work (too much, not enough, toxic workplaces), relationships, kids, bills and mortgages, body image, being constantly contactable, screen time…I could go on, but you get the picture. Stress can be a constant in our lives, and our body responds accordingly. So when do you get a chance to ‘Rest and Digest’? You don’t, and it can make you sick.
What is stress?
I have outlined a few reasons why we can be stressed, and everyone will have something that could keep them up at night with worry. Now we can talk about what that does to your body. Speaking of being up all night, let's start with sleep. It is not easy to drift off to sleep when your body is in a state of constant alert and looking out for predators. You are woken by the slightest sounds, even the lights from your alarm clock/phone are too bright to let you sleep. This is good for when you need to make sure you don’t get eaten in your sleep, not good for when you need to go to work tomorrow and the reason you’re stressed is money, not lions.
Why are my shoulders always tight?
The ‘fight or flight’ response also tenses large muscle groups, so it is easy to run away at a moment's notice. Have you ever heard someone say they carry their stress in their shoulders? It’s true! Our body tenses our fighting muscles- our pectorals and upper trapezius, muscles that allow us to throw a punch or protect our head, and our flight muscles- glutes, hamstrings and gastrocnemius(calves) so that we can jump, run or crouch easily and quickly.
Why am I so tired all the time?
Being chronically stressed can affect quality of sleep, which naturally leads to being tired. It is often described as ‘waking up tired’ where you have had a full 8-9 hours sleep, but feel like you could just stay in bed all day.
Can stress affect my hormonal systems?
Yes, stress can also affect our hormonal system. To allow the stress response to occur, our body releases hormones to signal what our cells should be doing to create fight or flight. Trouble is, these hormones (mainly cortisol) actually steal components from other hormones, as it was designed as a short-term response. So when we are constantly stressed, our body can’t function as it needs to on a cellular level, which can cause a multitude of problems, not always immediately, but often years down the track if we remain in this stressed state.
Can stress affect my digestion and cause bloating?
When we’re busy running away from a bear, we’re not too interested in digesting last nights’ dinner, so our brain slows down blood and nerve information to our gut. Inflammation levels also increase and this all leads to a very sluggish digestive system that means a stressed person can feel bloated, sensitive to some (usually complex) foods, and have a very unhealthy gut flora.
Can stress affect my anxiety/mood/depression?
It’s super tiring running from a bear for weeks/months/years and part of cortisol stealing important hormonal components means that happy hormones, like serotonin, aren’t being produced in sufficient quantities. (Serotonin is 90% made in the gut, which isn’t functioning well anyway).
As you can see, a system that is stuck in sympathetic dominance can have MANY systems affected. Some people will have all the above systems affected, some just one or two. Either way, there are plenty of ways to reduce stress and ways to counter balance those that you can’t! Our next blog will go in depth on how you can reduce stress and return your body to optimal function.
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At Ballarat and District Chiropractic Center, we want you to be empowered when it comes your health. We want to help you by sharing all our knowledge about Chiropractic.