Stress Management

Fight, Flight or Freeze

What is stress exactly?

Stress comes in many forms. It can be defined as anything real or perceived that causes your body to react. This reaction is your body’s attempt to cope with a challenge, frustration or threat. It begins in the nervous system and then cascades to every facet of the body. Stress affects your thoughts, your digestion, your hormones, your blood pressure and your sleep…essentially everything in your body.

These real or perceived forms of stress can be major or minor. Major stresses could include a death in the family, coping with a chronic illness, moving, a wedding, loss of a job or starting a new job, etc. Both positive and negative events can cause a great deal of stress. For some even minor occurrences like a misunderstanding with a co-worker or being late for an appointment can cause major stress. How your body deals with these events depends on what sort of coping mechanisms you are using and how resilient your body is at that time.

The body’s natural response to stress is to activate the sympathetic nervous system, which triggers the “fight, flight or freeze response” as if you were being stalked or attacked by a predator. You breathe faster, your heart beats stronger, blood moves away from your organs and into your skeletal muscles to increase strength and speed. All this is meant to give you a better chance to survive a predator attack. Most of us are not in a life or death situation on a daily basis when stress occurs. All of the these physiological responses still occur, making us feel anxious, irritated, jittery, sweaty and as if our hearts are going to beat out of our chests.  If your body is reacting to things continuously, it will eventually have a negative impact. In the stress response, your body produces hormones like adrenaline and cortisol while simultaneously decreasing the production of beneficial hormones like DHEA (anti-stress and anti-aging hormone).

The implications of a long-term, highly stressed state are vast. The heart, digestion and immune system are commonly affected. Do you have high blood pressure, heart palpitations, irritable bowel or heartburn? Do you have headaches, low energy or difficulty sleeping? Are you prone to getting sick?  In any of these situations stress can be the root cause.

What can you do to increase your resiliency to stress?

Improve your sleep habits

Regular aerobic exercise

A balanced diet of non-processed foods

Diaphragmatic breathing (Inhale-abdomen expands, Exhale-abdomen contracts. Breathing only through the nose)

Nature Medicine also offers several services to improve your ability to handle stress including:

  • HeartMath
  • Mental Reprogramming Technique
  • Botanical Medicines and Chinese Herbal Patents
  • Diet and Lifestyle Counseling
  • Nutritional Supplements
  • Homeopathic Medicine

 

References:

  1. R A, N P, DA P, JF S. Social interactions, stress, and immunity. Immunol Allergy Clin North Am. 2009;29:285-293.
  2. ND D, L X, KE R, Jr MGD. Stress and allergic diseases. Immunol Allergy Clin North Am. 2011;31:55-68.
  3. Godbout JP R G. Stress-induced immune dysregulation: implications for wound healing, infectious disease and cancer. Journal Of Neuroimmune Pharmacology: The Official Journal Of The Society On Neuroimmune Pharmacology. 2006;1
  4. JE G, LM C, JK K-G. Stress, age, and immune function: toward a lifespan approach. J Behav Med. 2006;29:389-400.
  5. SA R. Hypercortisolism as a potential concern for submariners. Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine. 2010;81:1114-1122.
  6. PJ R. Perplexing Immune Responses To Stress. Health And Stress. The Newsletter of The American Institute of Stress. 2008;9:1-12.
  7. FT, JM, IE. Psychoneuroimmunology. Dermatologic Therapy. 2008; 21:22–31.

 Finances

No complaint is more common than that of a scarcity of money.

– Adam Smith

We have all heard the lyrics from that popular song “money makes the world go round.”  We may not like it, but money and finances are a necessary part of life.

Since the recent recession experienced by Canada and the USA, a number of surveys and studies have been conducted around the topic of finances. A 2012 Canadian Payroll Association survey discovered that 47% of Canadians live from pay cheque to pay cheque. A health-related survey by Sun Life Financial showed that 72% of those asked said they were experiencing “excessive” levels of anxiety over financial concerns.  An article published in the Globe and Mail in November 2012 had this to say about Canadians and our finances: “so much of money stress is caused by overspending, which is the toughest financial challenge in Canadian society today”. There is no doubt that money is on people’s minds.

We all know that one’s financial situation can be a stressor, but can it actually make us sick? Several studies have now shown the negative effects worrying about money (or lack thereof) can have on a person’s health. Research has implicated that high levels of stress about debt is twice as likely to cause a heart attack. A US poll carried out by the Associated Press indicated an increased percentage of digestive tract problems, headaches or migraines and depression in those with high stress levels over finances. Reportedly, highly stressed individuals were 65% more likely to suffer from back pain and muscle tension than those with low stress. Financial worries have also been linked to other stress-related illnesses such as ulcers and anxiety.

Another interesting survey discovered that a majority of Americans would rather gain weight than take on more debt. Apparently 78% of those asked would rather gain ten pounds than accept $10,000 in more debt. Thankfully, we at Nature Medicine do not see the situation as an either/or choice. It is no wonder that the Bible had so much to say on the topic of money. According to histories oldest book, “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils.”

Everyone has heard stories about the spinster who squirreled away so much wealth that the family was shocked at the reading of her extensive will.  And it is not uncommon today to read in the paper about a bankrupt millionaire with a huge mansion. The team at Nature Medicine recommends neither of these approaches, but a balance in the middle.

One successful debt management strategy was created by Dave Ramsey, a US radio show host and author. Ramsey travels widely in North America teaching a variety of financial skills to all ages. His radio show often features amazing testimonies of people who developed a strategy and budget for their money and are now reaping the benefits of working toward a goal. Ramsey has helped thousands of people dig their way out of debt and build solid financial foundations for themselves and their families over the years. Suze Orman’s (as seen on Oprah) is another effective strategy. Alternatively one can perform internet search for other debt management programs.

The team at Nature Medicine desires to see our patients wisely managing their resources and living without the strain of financial burdens.  Own money; do not let it own you.

 

References:

  1. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_money.html
  2. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/personal-finance/household-finances/money-stress-catches-up-with-canadians/article5221810/
  3. http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/2419-money-worry-health.html
  4. http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/the-debt-stress-connection
  5. http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/2195-weight-gain-debt.html
  6. http://www.daveramsey.com/
  7. 1 Timothy 6:10