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Stress on the body

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We all get stressed from time to time. The body has a normal physiological, biochemical process designed to respond to stress and is well equipped to deal with in the short term. The problem we have is with continued long term stress that we can start to get all sorts of problems accumulating. Stress is “the nonspecific response of the body to any demand”, i.e. this is not a psychological term, but a TOTAL REACTION of a person to all the demands of their environment.

Familiar Response to Stress: We can all recognise the initial body response to stress, the fight or flight: heart rate/blood pressure rises to pump more blood, respiration increases for more oxygen, sweating increases to flush waste and cool the body as core temperature rises,  muscle strength increases, pupils dilate for more sensitive vision and senses are more acute to identify threats.

Less obvious Response to Stress: You may be less aware of processes that occur to create the above responses: increase in adrenalin, cortisol, DHEA and other hormones; sugars and fats release into the blood for energy; digestion slows, salivation and gut enzyme activity decrease and blood is diverted to muscles; blood clotting increases to prevent bleeding; white blood count reduces, spleen contracts, lymphocyte production decreases; protein storage is depleted.

Short Term Stress: The fight or flight response is a normal and natural process in the body to help us deal with an emergency situation. When we use up the hormones created to either flee or fight, the body chemistry quickly returns to normal when the event is over. In modern society, this is not acceptable behaviour and acting out fight/flight may cause further stress!

Long Term (Unresolved) Stress: Biochemistry created for a fight or flight response that is not used up can create a toxic overload and unwanted processes in the body, eventually burning out key nutrients. The body is an amazing creation that is always doing its best to maintain homeostasis – the status quo.

This first stage of response is the adaptive phase. Continued ongoing stress leads to the resistance phase where the body increases hormone output and nervous activity and the size of the adrenals (glands on top of the kidneys that produce adrenalin) may increase. Exhaustion phase, or burnout is where the body is no longer able to respond adequately; from the continued ongoing stress response, which is attempt to create homeostasis there is over activity of adrenals and cardiac blood vessels; hormone and electrolyte imbalance, decreased potassium, and increased sodium and we can hardly get up out of bed! The body is still attempting to do its best and we are not helping it!

What do we Feel from Stress? The short term initial rush of adrenalin, added strength and focus is not a problem. If this hormone production continues we may start to feel tension in our muscles, particularly neck, shoulders, calves and low back. If the stress and hormone production is prolonged we may start to feel breathless, tired, irritable, impatient, we may experience sleep issues and be more prone to injuries as our ligaments are weakened. Eventually we may experience a bruised feeling in the back at the bottom of the ribs, as well as adaptive diseases such as raised blood pressure (hypertension), ulcers, asthma, digestive and blood sugar issues, hormone imbalance and impaired immune function leading to all manner of conditions, including allergies and intolerances, chest pain, etc.

What can we do to Relieve the Effects of Stress? A common response to stress is to ignore it, deny it, drink more alcohol, smoke more, eat fast foods, exercise less or more, ignore our health and relationships and hope it will go away. Alternatively an increased awareness can lead to us being stressed about being stressed! None of these are really helpful or healthy. It seems to be part of the human condition that it is easy to lose good habits and gain bad ones; to gain good habits or lose bad ones seems to take some kind of effort!

The basics of life are simple: Eat, sleep, rest, breath well; drink enough water, spend time in nature, be creative, do what you love that inspires you, cultivate good relationships, be kind to yourself, be mindful of your needs. Sing, dance, mediate, do yoga.

Breathing: A good exercise is to notice times throughout the day when you hold your breath; chances are that this is because you are experiencing stress in some form or another. When you notice you are holding your breath, your body will automatically start to breath better. Give a little thought to being mindful of your breathing.

Slow down to go faster: Most of us have a tendency to rush around when we are stressed; this can lead to clumsiness, forgetfulness and irritability, especially if someone else slows us down. Clumsiness can lead to accidents, falls, injuries and breakages, which can also hamper our success and progress; having to recheck if we have done things or getting irritated with things out of our control only slows us down, which is counterproductive. It is good to take a deep breath, be mindful of our actions and get a better perspective on the situation.

As well as Osteopathy, which can gently address the stress areas of the body, I have other gentle yet powerful skills to help deal with the effects of stress. Flower remedies help to release emotions, sound therapy or Vibrational healing has many applications as well as helping to balance the energies and flows in the body. Communication techniques from NLP and Hypnotherapy can help a person to feel relaxed. Functional Biochemistry using Applied Kinesiology can help to address the imbalances from stress. The patient is always in control of their own process and how we deal with it.

We are happy to advise you on your health matters.


Registered Osteopath & Kinesiologist & Yoga Teacher

Aether Bios Clinic


01273 309557 07710 227038

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