Don’t have a fright this Halloween! Discover the affect that emotional stress has on your body
It’s that time of year again.
When adults and children alike raid the fancy dress box for a costume to wear on all hallows eve. It may surprise you to know that Halloween is actually a traditional Irish celebration, but as with many things America has taken it to the next level and perhaps the most scary thing about it these days is the amount of marketing that is invested in it!
However the question we should consider is what the effects of fear, or more accurately, emotional stress has on the body.
STRESS WAS HISTORICALLY ESSENTIAL TO OUR SURVIVAL AS A SPECIES.
Whenever put in a potentially dangerous situation our “fight or flight” instinct is activated by the release of 2 hormones: adrenaline and cortisol. These give us power and speed we normally do not have access to and allow us to escape the danger. Specifically, our heart rate, blood sugar levels and breathing rate all increase to allow us to run faster, punch harder and lift heavy objects. To provide extra fuel energy is directed away from our digestion and bone building cells. The body also increases the part of our immune system that is concerned with healing of wounds and broken bones. We basically become a superhero version of ourselves able to fight a bear, lift the log off granny or beat Mr Bolt in a sprint race!
The problem is that from an evolutionary point of view emotional stress and the “fight or flight” response was only ever supposed to be a short term solution: we either escaped from the scary bear, or we got eaten. However the modern day human is exposed to stress in ways and in levels never experienced by our ancestors. A caveman or woman did not have to make mortgage payments, did not have a boss demanding deadlines are met and did not watch a news channel telling them about how debt is increasing, the treats from terrorists or why they should be fearful for their children’s safety. Stress, stress, stress.
NOW THE HORMONES MAKING US SUPERHEROES SUDDENLY BECOMES OUR KRYPTONITE.
I am sure you know the classic movie scene when someone has a heart attack when sacred or stressed. Other potential problems include the increases to our blood sugar is linked to diabetes, the increased breathing rate can result in panic attacks and the energy directed away from digestion can cause irritable bowel syndrome and away from the bone building cells can cause osteoporosis. The muscles are bathed in chemicals designed for activity, “fight or flight” but often we are sat behind a desk trying to get our work completed before home time, causing the muscles to become stiff and even spasm. Perhaps the most serious is that when your immune system is directed toward fixing short term injuries the immune system that deals with long term prevention of cancer is dampened down.
HOW CAN CHIROPRACTIC HELP?
Your autonomic nervous system is in charge of many unconscious processes in your body including the “fight or flight” response and is subdivided into two types: the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic is in charge of activating the “fight or flight” while the parasympathetic is in charge of switching us to “rest and digest” mode. Chiropractors can tell how balanced these are by the tone of your body and where you have subluxations are in your spine. Furthermore by correcting those subluxations it is possible to rebalance your system and allow you to deal with stress more effectively. It is also why many people report better sleep, digestion, feelings of calm and better immune function while under chiropractic care.
HOW CAN YOU HELP YOURSELF?
As mentioned stress is designed to allow you to do extreme activity. You don’t have to run for your life every time an unexpected bill lands on the doorstep, but to do no activity goes against your bodies natural response. So some form of exercise is the most important thing. Other ways of relieving stress are also important and they can take many forms and some will be more congruent to you than others. For some its meditation or yoga, others prefer a walk in the woods, playing with their kids, spending time with friends and even having a supply of funny movies or TV shows at hand can do wonders for your stress levels. You have to find what works best for you.
Have fun this Halloween. Laugh, dance or scream your stress away!
Dr. Conor Ward
Chiropractor at Halsa Surbiton