A guest blog by Kira Bailey
Your health; physical, mental, and emotional is directly linked to how much stress you are subjecting yourself to and how efficiently your body is able to manage that load. In fact, the twin pillars of stress load and genetics are pretty much the sole determinants of how healthy you are going to be throughout your life. Even more critically, the science of epigenetic shows us that your DNA can be carrying a gene for diabetes or cancer or heart disease that lies dormant and quiet for years, until a stressful event “triggers” or “turns on” this gene. The end result of this process? Contracting diabetes, or cancer or heart disease!
BUT....stress is also beautiful! Stress keeps us alive, stress creates adaptation, stress causes growth and development. A great example of the beautiful side of stress is fitness. Running challenges our cardiovascular system while lifting weights is about placing stress on our muscles. The result of these positive stresses, called eu-stresses, is a healthier, stronger body! But if you run too long, or lift something too heavy for your muscles, injury occurs; meaning that we crossed the fine line between eu-stress (positive), and distress (negative). Another great example of the beauty of stress is demonstrated by how much more alert, vigilant and productive we can be in times of stress. Have you ever noticed how much more you can get done, how efficient you are, and how quickly you can respond or make decisions when you are a little bit stressed? Stress places your body on “high alert” and this helps your nervous system gear up to a higher level of function, resulting in better physical or mental performance.
The downside of a nervous system that’s on “high alert” comes when you get stuck in that pattern for long periods of time. If you function in high alert mode for a prolonged period (which is common in today’s crazy, busy world), your brain and your body become exhausted, depleted and start to really struggle. When this occurs, several things begin to happen physiologically. Your immune system weakens and you get sick more often. Your digestive system goes off-line and you suffer from bloating, heartburn, cramping, distress and weight gain/loss. Your body cannot generate the physical energy you need to get yourself through the day with ease and instead you start needing external stimulants such as caffeine, sugar, and energy drinks just to feel decent. Your hormonal system goes haywire and you stop being able to regulate the delicate hormonal balance which is essential for proper organ function. Lastly, your brain moves away from using your pre-frontal cortex (located in the front of the brain), that regulates concentration, focus, and emotional control/ stability and shifts into using the primal “hind brain”, that is primarily concerned with your basic survival needs and causes you to be reactive, emotional, impulsive, scattered, and isolated, and leaves no space for peace, calmness, love, feeling grounded and connected. When and if you get to this point physically or emotionally, you are very simply...a sick person!
Managing stress is essential if you want a happy, productive, connected life. Since stress comes into our lives as the 3 T’s – Trauma, Toxins and Thoughts; you should think about how to manage it in the same way. To develop your stress management plan, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I engage in activities that help my body release the physical tensions of my day? These include exercise, stretching, or body work like chiropractic care and massage therapy.
- Do I eat toxic foods on a regular basis (caffeine, sugar, artificial sweeteners, junk food, fast food, processed food, animal fats)? How often? How much? Or do I engage in good eating practices to help nourish my body and provide it with the right building blocks in order to stay healthy?
- Do I have good mental practices? Do I speak kindly to myself? Do I have positive connection with family and /or friends? Do I take time for myself mentally and emotionally?
- Do I have a goal(s) in life? Am I doing things that are focussed on helping me achieve this goal? By establishing your priorities, you can more easily say “no” to things that are not serving you to the highest advantage, and spend more time engaged in the things that do bring you joy and a feeling of accomplishment.
- Do I spend time doing things that I truly enjoy? If not, what are theses activites and how can you incorporate them into your life.
You can never be free of stress, but you can manage it, tame it and turn it into something positive. Stress is a beauty and it is a beast. It keeps us alive and tears us down. It’s worth spending some time evaluating your life for the ways in which stress is harming you and your family and then take steps to rectify it. Develop a plan to help you deal with your stress. Reach out to those who have the skills and talents to help. Invest time and energy in yourself and your health. You will live a longer, healthier, happier life as a result!