If you're like most Denver professionals, you likely find yourself overburdened with stress before you even step foot in the office. From early morning alarm clocks to shuffling kids out the door to the school bus and navigating downtown traffic to get to work on time, it's not hard to believe that your alarm signals are blaring before you've even sat down to drink your morning coffee. What is a little more complicated is understanding what is actually happening to your body when you get stressed out.
With the holidays in full swing, the family traveling into town and a mountain of gifts that still need to be wrapped, we're taking a look at what's going on in your body during this time of chaos.
Stress Is Biological
There are a number of things that happen every day that can send stress signals to your brain. We perceive stress through three different avenues. The first is environmental stress. This is the easiest type of stress to understand. It's a crowded bus, a loud noise, or crazy traffic. It's anything that happens in the world around you that makes you instinctively tense up and then sends your mind into overdrive. The second type of stress is bodily stress. This can be caused by things like illness, lack of sleep, or poor nutrition. It includes anything that puts your body through additional trauma. Finally, one of the most complicated types of stress is emotional stress. Emotional stress is directly related to how you interpret things. This means that you have much more control over your reaction to an emotional stressor than you do over a bodily or environmental stressor. It includes things like someone else's behavior towards you. A clipped response to a question or closed off body language that makes you wonder if they are upset with you or if you have done something wrong. All of these types of stressors set off a chain reaction that takes a toll on your body.
What's Actually Happening?
When you encounter any type of stressor, alarm signals are sent to your amygdala. The amygdala is the part of the brain that regulates your emotions. Your amygdala then alerts your hypothalamus, which is the part of the brain that handles hormone production.
Your hypothalamus then releases a number of different hormones, including epinephrine and cortisol, which triggers the “fight or flight” response in the body. This is the automatic biological response to a threat that generates energy and gives you the ability to physically respond to a situation.
When the fight or flight response is triggered, your body goes into overdrive. Your heart rate and blood sugar increase. Your breathing becomes more rapid and metabolism is stimulated. Your muscles begin to tense up and your oxygen flow is increased.
If this reaction is in response to a controllable stimulus, it will likely be short-term, or acute, stress that will resolve upon removal of the stimulus or completion of a task. However, some stimuli are not as easy to deal with or repeatedly appears in your everyday life. This is called long-term, or chronic, stress. These everyday annoyances or sustained crises are what causes detriment to your body.
Your stress responses are not able to return to normal levels, causing physical and mental damage. According to the American Psychological Association, these ongoing stressors can cause irritability, anxiety, depression, insomnia, headaches, muscle tension, and joint pain, as well as compromise your immune system, leading to illness.
How To Manage Stress
Stress is an inevitable factor in our everyday lives, but you can manage it by incorporating some different techniques that help you respond to stimuli in a different way. Some ways to avoid stress when encountered with a stressful stimulus include focusing on your breathing try the 4-7-8 method or to count to 10 before physically responding to a situation.
Long term, you can help prevent stress responses by exercising regularly, sticking to a well-balanced diet, and making time for things that you enjoy or that help you relax, like meditation, massage, chiropractic or acupuncture.
Chiropractic medicine is focused on the spine, the core of the central nervous system, which is where your stress response originates. Not only does seeing a chiropractor regularly help keep your central nervous system working properly to prevent stress, it can also help your body recover from the everyday stressors that you encounter. Book an appointment today and see how chiropractic care can help you manage your stress.