Are you dealing with chronic headaches and muscle tension, but aren’t sure why?
Having trouble sleeping, or sleeping too much?
Are you easily irritated, anxious, restless, or unmotivated?
If so, it could have something to do with stress.
While we all deal with stress in different ways, there are a number of naturopathic methods for handling stress that can help ease your mental load.
What Is Stress?
Stress is a regular part of life. No matter who you are, from the poorest of the poor to the richest of the rich, you’ll deal with stress at some point in your life.
Stress is your mind’s way of reacting to stressful situations. While it may be felt most acutely in the mind, there are a number of physiological changes that happen when you’re dealing with stress, including:
- Tensing of muscles
- Triggering of asthma symptoms
- Constricting of airways
- Increased heart rate
- Increased appetite
- Gastrointestinal discomfort
- Constipation or diarrhea
The reason why stress occurs is actually to protect us. It’s how we managed to survive in the wild against all the dangerous predators with sharp teeth and fangs that would have loved to have made us their lunch. When you experience stress, your endocrine system flushes your body with hormones to keep you on the ready, to either fight the danger present or run away from it. This is known commonly as the fight or flight response.
This tenses your muscles, increases your heart rate, and increases your alertness. It also decreases a number of your body’s other functions, including digestion. in a short-term perspective – say, running away from a sabre tooth tiger – this is a good thing.
However, it’s only a good thing for a short amount of time. Prolonged stress, or chronic stress, can have a number of detrimental effects on the body.
What Causes Stress?
The source of stress is different from person to person based on experience.
For example, someone who has been attacked by a dog in the past may be terrified to see a golden retriever bound toward them, while another person may be delighted.
But regardless of what it is that triggers a stress reaction – referred to as a “stressor” – your physiology will change in the same way.
When Is Stress A Problem?
If you have a big presentation tomorrow, or a deadline to meet, you may react to it the way you would a stressful situation. This is perfectly normal.
Once the situation passes, though, your body should return to normal. If it does, this is considered “acute stress”. If it doesn’t, you may be dealing with chronic stress.
For others, their stress comes from being placed in a longer-term difficult scenario. In this, their stress is still situation-based, but because it goes on for so long, it can cause health concerns. This may include situations like:
- Difficulty in school
- An extremely demanding job
- Job loss
- Being trapped in an abusive situation
- Relationship troubles
- Ongoing poverty/homelessness
- Death of a loved one
- Post-traumatic stress
If your stress lasts longer than a month or so, it’s likely chronic stress.
But why is this a problem? Chronic stress can interfere with nearly every part of your body. It can cause new health concerns and exacerbate existing ones. Your body will bring you into a state designed to move you away from the danger it perceives you to face. However, your mind isn’t very good at distinguishing between physical and emotional threats. So, if you have an argument with your spouse or co-worker, your body will react as though you were in physical danger.
As a result, it reduces energy to the systems it doesn’t immediately need in favour of the ones you’d use to run away from a threat. This includes your:
- Immune system
- Digestive system
- Reproductive system
- Emotional regulation
If these parts of your body are impaired over a long period of time, it can cause major health concerns.
Health Issues Triggered By Chronic Stress
If you’re dealing with chronic stress, you may experience any of the following:
- Memory problems
- Difficulty concentrating
- Impulsive behaviour
- Negative or racing thoughts
- Anxiety and depression
- Appetite fluctuations
- Sleep pattern changes
- Substance abuse
- Vulnerability to infections
- Low libido
- Nausea or dizziness
- Aches and pains
- Chest pain
You’ll likely also see an increase in nervous habits, like biting your nails or pacing.
Beyond the above symptoms, however, chronic stress can exacerbate existing conditions as well. These include any autoimmune conditions you may be dealing with, as well as skin conditions like eczema, digestive disorders, or chronic pain.
Finally, those dealing with chronic stress are more likely to suffer from heart attacks and strokes and are more prone to suicidal ideation.
Naturopathic Solutions For Stress
A naturopathic approach to stress considers your whole body. So, while you may feel the stress more acutely in your head, there’s more to address.
For example, those dealing with chronic stress may be deficient in certain nutrients because of the reduced digestive function. As a result, Dr. Maria often looks at your current nutrition levels. Sadly, some of these nutrients are actually linked with calming stress, including B-complex, calcium, and magnesium.
Stress management techniques are also an important element to consider. While the ideal scenario would be for you to remove yourself from your stressors, reality doesn’t always allow for that. As a result, part of your treatment plan may include some coping mechanisms that work for your lifestyle.
Acupuncture has been shown to reduce stress in a number of studies. As a naturopathic doctor, Dr. Maria is trained in the use of acupuncture for stress.
There are also a number of herbal remedies which can help you deal with stress. This includes valerian root, chamomile, and lavender.
To find out more about your naturopathic stress-management options, contact the Mindful Healing Clinic today.