We all live in a very fast-paced world, with constant demand on us to perform various tasks, to wear multiple hats, if you wish. We are mothers and fathers, spouses, children of aging parents, employers and employees, and we shift our gears at ever-increasing speeds. With so many “jobs” to do, we all know what stress is.
Just to make it plain and simple, you cannot avoid experiencing stress. It is just a part of the game called being alive. It is a natural way of the body in response to any threats or challenges arising. This response is meant as a way of protecting you by implementing the well-known “fight-or-flight” response. When the stress response mechanism kicks in, your body starts producing higher levels of stress hormones, such as epinephrine and cortisol. These dutiful agents make your heart rate speed up and raise your blood pressure. Blood supply to the major muscle groups increases while less blood is flowing to internal organs. Your strength, stamina, reaction time are at their max. You are operating in what is called in medicine “the sympathetic mode”. This mode is all about survival and giving you the best chance to either fight the challenge or get out of the harms way fast.
Short-term, manageable doses of stressors are actually good for you – they help you stay alert, increase levels of your concentration, hone your coping skills, build up your confidence, and motivate you to perform at your best. But as with any good thing: too much of it becomes trouble.
When your stress is chronic, these bodily responses of kicking you up in high gear is less pronounced, but nevertheless, they keep you on constant alert. It is easy to miss signs of chronic stress because they are so familiar with any stressful situation. You might just notice that it is harder for you to concentrate, you feel more anxiety; you worry more, and sometimes get stuck in a loop of repetitive negative thoughts, that erode your positive outlook on yourself and your future. Add to that inability to relax and get a good night sleep, and it becomes easy to see that chronic stress takes a huge toll on your health. Your body now has troubles shifting into the parasympathetic mode, where your muscles relax, your blood supply is focused on supporting the normal function of internal organs, such as digestive or reproductive functions. Those functions, in turn, are now compromised, and you are facing a lot of serious consequences, such as, let’s say gastritis or duodenal ulcers( digestive disorders), or fertility challenges. Stress strongly contributes to a wide range of other conditions, such as heart disease, autoimmune disorders, eczema, weight problems, depression and anxiety, insomnia.
While it is impossible to eliminate stress from our lives, we can build up our resilience. Getting regular exercise cannot only act as a distraction but also lift your mood by introducing some feel-good hormones to your bloodstream. Yoga, meditation, and deep breathing techniques are particularly helpful in teaching us how to relax. Another great modality that has shown amazing results in activating your parasympathetic system is acupuncture.
Ladan Eshkevari, Ph.D., CRNA, LAc, a physiologist and assistant director of the Nurse Anesthesia Program at the School of Nursing & Health Studies, published a new study in the Journal of Endocrinology on acupuncture and the stress hormone response. “We found that electronic acupuncture blocks the chronic, stress-induced elevations of the HPA axis hormones and the sympathetic NPY pathway.” Study ->
As a practitioner with over ten years of experience, I see the evidence every single day. Majority of my patients fall asleep during the treatment and feel very relaxed and rejuvenated afterward.