On May 26th of this month (Wed @ 645pm) I will be teaching a power workshop in Room 221E of the Cummings Center on the all important topic of Mastering Our Stress. I will be covering 3 major topics, one of them is controlling our re-actions, which allows us to control our physiology & our hormones, making our lives easier. Who wouldn’t go for some of that? Since none of my far away buddies can make it, I will be reposting the 3 main topics here on my blog for you all. This blog has been repurposed for this reason. Enjoy
Don’t let it them get you.
You know the one thing these two rage-filled drivers have in common?
They probably don’t know each other and most likely will never see each other again.
Think about it – so often in our lives, we let total strangers dictate our physiology (our function, the state of our being). People who have NO business having any control over us whatsoever are given the power to change our physiologies. And I want to be clear here, we give them that power. Only you have the power to choose how you react to a situation. Most people like to feel like they have control over what is going on in their lives, but in reality the only control we ever have lies within our ability to control the way we react to life. This is why when two different people get in the same auto accident, one person will be angry, upset, and have his day ruined, while another person in the same accident will be thankful that he is alive and grateful for another chance.
How we react has a much larger impact on our life than we think. It actually affects our biochemistry and can lead us down a path to disease. You see, our body reacts to stress in the same way, whether the stress is physical (tissue damage), chemical (toxic food or any drugs), or emotional (negative thoughts, fear, anger).
We release certain stress hormones (fight or flight) in our body to deal with these stressors and these hormones are basically the same no matter the type of stressor. So the hormones released when you see a wild hungry tiger in your bathroom are the same hormones released in your body when some bonehead (stressed out father who had an argument with his wife, feels bad about missing his kid’s baseball game, and is late for work) gives you the finger. Sure, there will be a different amount of hormones released based on the imposed threat or aggravation, but the chemical reaction is the same. Let’s keep in mind we were designed for those types of rare but intensely stressful events (ie tigers) where we would expend a ton of energy (usually in order to keep living) to deal with those hormones. Now we rarely have those intensely stressful events, but chronically have the small anxiety-inducing events such as:
Work, money, kids, siblings, spouses, junk food, supplements, prescription drugs, recreational drugs, accidents, exercise, subluxations, girlfriends, boyfriends, the guy who flipped you off on way to work, traffic, the copier, bills, computers, technology in general, death, illness, friends, enemies, travel, dinner, the gym, smog, school, mom, dad, fashion, thinking about that guy who flipped you off earlier that day, politics, religion, taxes, email, pollution, etc.
Unlike the tiger example, most of us today deal with these stressors with no huge output of energy – instead, we are left with the consequences of stress hormones wreaking havoc on our bodies. Lucky us.
But wait, I thought the fight or flight response is a good thing…what’s the deal?
If there is a tiger to run from or a wooly mammoth to hunt, it’s a GREAT THING, but if it is your housemate forgetting to do the dishes or the drive to work bringing you to a boil, it is a BAD THING.
The Deal: Stress hormones (cortisol and catecholamines) are released to deal with stress, and what they do is basically break down our bodies in order to put huge amounts of energy molecules, wound repair substrates, and a host of other immediately life-saving chemicals into our blood stream.
The Catch: long term use of this short term system KILLS YOU.
CONSEQUENCES OF STRESS (fight or flight):
Increased LDL and Decreased HDL (that’s “the bad” and “the good” cholesterol)
Increased Insulin Resistance (that’s diabetes)
Increased Inflammation (that’s pain, arthritis, blocked arteries, heart attacks, skin and allergy issues, etc.)
Decreased Immune System Function (let’s talk about this for a minute…your immune system is incredibly costly in terms of energy required to run, so during a stressful event, your brilliant body does what it needs to in order to survive and turns down/off that system. That is perfect, hoping you get away from the tiger into a rest and recovery situation where it can then be reinstated. That is not perfect in today’s world, where we rarely get away from our stress, and our immune system stays off or down. This is why STRESSED PEOPLE GET SICK MORE OFTEN…it’s not that they encounter more germs!
Increased Excretion of Calcium and Magnesium (that’s muscle and organ cramps, fatigue and increased blood pressure)
Increased Heart Rate and Blood Vessel Constriction (that’s high blood pressure, heart failure, heart attacks, macular degeneration, circulation problems, etc.)
ADD IT ALL UP…it SOUNDS LIKE LIFESTYLE DISEASES TO ME! And lifestyle diseases are what’s killing 75% of all Americans.
THE BEST METHOD OF CORRECTION IS TO ADDRESS THE CAUSE (I.E. DEAL WITH THE INCONGRUENT (STRESSFUL) LIFESTYLES), NOT TO MASK THE SYPMTOMS WITH DRUGS. Forcing our hearts to beat less forcefully (high blood pressure) with drugs will never make a system thirsting for energy any healthier – it will only add the stress of the toxic drug and make it work harder to get that energy (more stress). This is why mortality rates do not decrease with blood pressure drugs (they actually increase!!).
I want to now focus on the red underlined part of one of the previous paragraphs because besides what mom says, this is what really makes humans so special. That’s right – we are so dang smart that we can actually think back on past stressful events and relive them. Yep, the same hormones will be released in response to thinking about stressful events as they were during the actual events themselves.
Negative self talk (and emotional stress) stimulates the amygdala (stress and anxiety center in the brain) and causes the eventual (like seconds) release of stress hormones from your adrenals. The net result over time is lifestyle disease. However… we can stop it. Positive self talk, adjustments, and exercise halt this stress express in its tracks. Movement in the joints causes positive stimulation to your brain and hinders the negative. The net result over time is a healthier, stronger, sleeker, and better you!
ACTION STEPS: The best part of this system is that we have control over it. It isn’t easy, but it is simple.
1. Positive self talk is key, and realizing the ridiculousness of the situation you are in and what good that can come out of it also helps (I now get more agitated at myself for getting agitated at other drivers than I do at the other drivers!….this is a slow process). I often think about how I don’t know the other person, and ask myself why I would let them have this kind of control over my life/thoughts, etc.
2. Don’t focus on it, get your thoughts on something you are thankful for, and the agitation will slip away. Also try not to talk about it (much) later that day because that just feeds into the negative energy.
3. Ask yourself whether you will even remember this next week , in a month from now, a year? If the answer is no, it’s probably not that big of a deal and you should let it go. Thinking about it in that way makes this process easier (this one helps me personally in a HUGE way).
4. Take a deep breath and count to ten. My dad has been telling me to do this since I was able to understand words, and now I know why that helps. Diaphragmatic (deep) breathing is how we breathe during rest and repair, so it helps shift our physiology back to one of healing.
5. Smile. It really does make you happier. Look in a mirror and smile your face off, and you will feel better. I thought this was bogus, then last week I went into the bathroom to try it out and came out laughing it was such a good time. Seriously though, I was smiling so big I think some of our patients must have thought I was crazy.
6. GET ADJUSTED. Subluxations (improper joint motion compromising nerve function) cause stress (amongst a whole host of other things), and correcting subluxations removes stress. It’s so simple – just go do it!
7. EXERCISE. Exercising moves joints, which leads to decreased stress… and there are about a zillion other reasons to do it, including one of my favorites: you become dead sexy. Enough already – just go get it done! I’m serious – get up right now and go run, squat, swim, play tennis, throw a Frisbee, move around like a kid, play in the grass. Just go do it…get out of here! Go GO GO! WOOOOOHOOOOO!
Love you guys!
Control Your Physiology 4 Health
Dr. Nicholas Araza DC CCWP