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Here is a mini-series of articles focusing on stress. During these articles I am going to explore the darker side of stress that no-one talks about, and I am going to provide you with possible techniques to combat it.

Stress has become the paradigm of our modern lives; society here in the west accepts stress as unfortunate collateral damage to our bodies in the pursuit of bettering our lot in life. After all, isn’t getting your head down and pulling a few extra hours a week acceptable? If you manage to get that big project done? I bet missing a few lunches is acceptable if you meet that important deadline, or staying up till the early hours working on that presentation will be worth it if you land that client?

Stress is often ignored as an inconsequential temporary inconvenience, something you suffer through for a short time till you’re able to finish your latest project. The aches in the neck and back, pain in shoulders and wrists and tiredness stinging in the eyes all expected to dissolve away once the pressure is off and the deadline is achieved.

For some people reading this the thought of having no stress is terrifying, no targets to meet and no pressure to be put under, the worst thing imaginable. These are the one who would state they perform the best under pressure and that the stress is what motivates them and is therefore a good motivator. At the risk of feeding the internet trolls and destroying this page’s comment box, I’m about to explain why they are wrong and why constant long term stress is most defiantly a bad thing for one’s health.

Stress can destroy your body from the inside out

The survival of humanity has been dependant on its ability to avoid threats and get its self out of dangerous situations. Short bursts of adrenaline released in sudden threat situations activate your sympathetic nervous system increasing your muscle tone, improve your visual acuity and allow your lungs to take in more air. Stress is a constant trigger for releasing adrenaline, a repeated activation of the fight or flight response from what your body which assumes there is a death match going on between you and the broken printer. Even those who seem to thrive off stress will experience the effects needed to keep your body primed for action.

The increase attributes of muscle function and sight can help a person to feel focused and awake, but muscles require masses amounts of energy to function continually above normal, within a few minutes the body responds by breaking down fatty tissue and elevating the amount of glucose in your blood, two things you may recognise as major risk factors for heart disease and diabetes.

In order for the new formed energy to make its way into the muscles, the body diverts blood away from the gut. This leads to decreased gut movement and a cycle of diarrhoea and constipation. The increased visual acuity mentioned earlier comes with increased inner eye pressure (glaucoma), which, if left for too long can contribute to visual problems and in some severs cases blindness.

After days of stress another hormone starts to take a toll on your body; Cortisol.  Cortisol is released as a partner to adrenaline; it prevents your body from taking the excess sugars in your blood and storing them back in your tissues. A process which is fine for a short time but if left for days it suppresses the function the immune system, your barrier from disease meaning it can lead to making you more exposed to catching a cold or flu or fungal infection.

How can we help you?

If muscular tone/tension is reduced it in turn lowers the energy demand from the muscle, this triggers a neural reflex loop reducing demand on the heart and lowering the amount of adrenaline that is secreted, it also releases chemicals in the brain, serotonin and dopamine that trigger the body’s pleasure response, improving your mood. Osteopaths can use a combination of Neuromuscular, Muscle energy techniques ad myofascial stretches to help regulate muscle tone and relax patients. As Osteopaths we can provide treatment and advice on how best to prevent and reduce it, from rebalancing the fight or flight vs rest and relax responses, to telling you what foods to eat to stop the constipation/diarrhoea cycle or how to do stretches targeting areas of increased muscle tension and much more.

Please feel free to contact us to help improve your quality of life

By Andre Kulesza