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Stress 101

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Jobs, sports, relationships, finances, health– there are few things that come without some level of stress. But what is stress in the body? It’s a primarily physical response. When the body feels stressed, it goes into “fight or flight” mode and releases hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine. These chemicals prepare the body for physical action by pumping more blood to the muscles and shuts down things like digestion in order to divert blood flow to critical areas.

The “fight or flight” mode is a marvelous thing. Without the rush of energy from the hormones produced, people wouldn’t be able to react quickly to dangerous situations. However, the body does not differentiate between the different types of stresses. An emotional stress like having an argument with one of your parents or kids can cause muscle tension in your back. Mental stress like having to study for an exam can cause chest pain. Because of this, our bodies are constantly being bombarded with stress hormones that make our hearts beat faster and our stomachs turn.

Persistent stress responses in the body can damage blood vessels and arteries, which increases blood pressure and raises the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Long term elevation of cortisol contributes to the buildup of fat tissue and leads to weight gain. Cortisol also increases appetite so that you will eat more to obtain extra energy. Additionally, long term stress has also shown to shorten telomere length in our chromosomes which shortens our lifespan. These are just a few profound impacts of stress. It doesn’t end here.

The American Psychological Association reported that 7 out of 10 adults are experiencing levels of stress that causes an interference in their daily life. Symptoms of stress range from person to person as people handle adverse situations differently. Stress can manifest as sleeping problems, depression, anxiety, muscle tension, GI issues, fatigue, irritability, headaches, inability to focus, and even heart disease.

The good news is that just as our bodies produce a stress response, our bodies also produce hormones to counteract the stress response. Oxytocin is known as the “cuddle hormone.” It’s released when people embrace someone they have affection for like a significant other, child, or pet. Oxytocin relaxes blood vessels and regenerates the heart after stress related damage occurs. Other things that trigger an Oxytocin release include familiar smells, massages, and social interactions. And Oxytocin is not alone. Endorphins also play a major role in management of stress. The Endorphin hormone is the “feel good” hormone because it produces a natural high within the body. It improves your mood and helps you get a restful night’s sleep. With the busyness of life, those two things are vital in maintaining great health.

A less talked about but incredibly beneficial option for preventative and corrective treatment is chiropractic care. Chiropractic care helps relieve stress by aligning your spine which improves nerve input/output and reduces muscle tension. This allows the body to remain in a more relaxed state that better handles stress. Spinal manipulation also shuts down the “fight or flight” stress response which in turn lowers stress hormones in the body.

If you are one of the 7 out of 10 people that is experiencing an interference in your everyday life, consider chiropractic adjustments, hug your loved ones, and try exercises like walking, running, or group fitness such as dancing or aerobics to give your Endorphins an extra boost!

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