Stress in itself isn’t harmful – it can be the pressure that spurs us on to achieve our goals. But too much stress for too long has a damaging effect on both our physical and mental health.
Each person will respond to stress in different ways but there are a number of common symptoms: increased irritability; heightened sensitivity to criticism; signs of tension, such as nailbiting; difficulty getting to sleep and early morning waking; increased use of alcohol or cigarettes; upset stomach; loss of concentration; recurring headaches, back pain or muscle stiffness; allergic reactions, nervous twitches or sensitivities to chemicals. Whatever your response, the function of the nervous system is involved which is why as someone that has an implicit knowledge of how the body’s nervous system works I can, and already have, helped many people suffering from stress.
It’s important to understand that stress and pain are interactive. For example, emotionally traumatic events such as divorce can worsen your back pain.
And chronic pain and muscle tension can cause you to experience nervousness and irritability. A specific spinal adjustment as performed by a suitably qualified practitioner like myself, can help reduce the tension in the nervous system, improving your ability to tolerate and adapt to the stresses of modern life.
It is probably not possible to remove the stress from your life but you sure can reduce it and learn how to respond better to the challenges you face. It’s important that we all learn to change the things that we can change and learn to accept the rest. Learning to recognise the difference between what you can and can’t control will have a big impact on your stress levels.
Try to avoid frustrating situations that you know will make you feel wound up. Does listening to the 10 o’clock news set you up for a night of restless worrying? If not, just, turn it off, listen to the morning news instead. You might find it useful to keep a notebook with you and jot down details about the situation that is making you feel stressed. After a couple of weeks, look at these notes. You may begin to see patterns that help you identify how, when and why you react to certain events. This will help your recognise and control your stress.
Your body treats real life stressful events and imaginary stressful events in the same way. That means that if you perceive an event as stressful the body will react is if you are really under threat. Change your perception of a potentially stressful situation. For example, view a job interview as an opportunity to demonstrate your skills and experience, your chance to improve your career rather than as an ordeal.
If you start to feel things are getting on top of you, give yourself some breathing space. Practice deep breathing exercises, meditation or other relaxation techniques. Never be afraid to ask for help!
Try these calming breathing exercises:
Place your hand on your stomach and feel it move up as you breathe in and down as you breathe out. Regulate your breathing rate: Slow your breathing to a calm and comfortable rate it may help to slowly count each breathe in and out. Count the number of times you breathe in and out (1 cycle) over 30 seconds. If you are breathing more than 12 cycles per minute, you are still stressed. Abdominal breathing involves:
- Breathing in through your nose, your abdomen rising.
- Pausing and imagining the oxygen flowing to all parts of the body.
- Breathing out through your mouth, sighing on the exhale; your abdomen will fall.
- Remember that yawning or sighing releases tension so try sighing deeply.
- Focus on getting your diaphragmatic breathing right.
- Feeling the tension leaving your body as you exhale
- Repeat the above 8–10 times whenever you feel tense.
- Remember to sit or stand up straight as this will open the lungs up!
- Routinely spend 1 minute three times each day doing this exercise.