April is Stress Awareness Month

April is Stress Awareness Month. We want to help bring awareness to this “modern era” health challenge, but also let people know there are many solutions to help mitigate the damages caused by ongoing stress.

Stress in inevitable, especially in today’s world. You’ve got bills to pay, schedules to shuffle, family demands, intense careers, health challenges, relationship issues, financial burdens. Kids have bullies at school, jam packed schedules, increased screen time, chemicals and additives in food. Some days it seems like it will never end. While some stressful events are self-created (and often can be eliminated by making different choices), we may find ourselves in situations beyond our control. And sometimes we create stressful scenarios in our head that never actually happen (good times, right?), but our body still releases stress hormones that send us into fight or flight.

Stress hormones and chronic stress can lead to a number of health problems, including heart disease, weight gain, migraines, mental health issues like anxiety and depression, hormonal and fertility challenges, decreased immune systems, cancer, mood swings and anger, fatigue, sleep issues and insomnia, chronic pain, GI problems, diabetes and more. In children (YES! children can definitely be impacted by stress!), we may also see colic, low self esteem, bonding challenges, ADHD and sensory issues, weakened immune systems, constipation and stomach pains, learning disorders, emotional outbursts, nightmares, nighttime bedwetting, and growth and developmental delays.

At the end of the day, it may not be the actual stressful event that is wreaking havoc on your health, but instead the body’s and nervous system’s response to the perceived threat. Did you know that your brain/body can’t tell the difference between an actual event, an imagined event or a memory of an event? This means that the same stress chemicals will be released, and the same fight or flight response will be created. So that means we have to 1) remove negative stressors wherever we can (cut those toxic relationships, look for a different job, change our diet), and 2) help our body/nervous system adapt to the stress we do encounter.

This article is not so much for #1, although I do feel it’s important to take a serious look at one’s life/situation/purpose/goals, and re-evaluate as needed, because at the end of the day, if you’re still not being valued, you will always be in negative stress. So for #2, what can you do today to make yourself (or your children) more adaptable to unavoidable stressors and challenges?

  1. Have an adaptable and balanced nervous system. The brain and nervous system control and regulate every system in our body. When we are in constant fight or flight, we don’t have the bandwidth for things like growth, digestion, sleep, etc. We think we are about to encounter a wild animal, and our body is ready for short term survival, not long term “thrival”. This is why we often get sick, have constipation, muscle tension, pain, etc. Chiropractic adjustments can help the brain and body communicate more effectively; improve the tone and function of the vagus nerve to boost the parasympathetic side; decrease the stress chemicals released and the lasting impact on the body; interrupt the patterns and pathways we have created as a means to survive; release tightness and tension that acts as a negative feedback loop to keep us locked in a sympathetic state; allow digestion and detoxification to work more effectively so our body has an easier time healing from the inside out; and get rid of the static or background noise of an overwhelmed nervous system so we can focus our energy on growth and healing. In our office, we use HRV, thermal and sEMG scans to measure nervous system stress in the body.
  2. Release toxins and muscle tension in the infrared sauna. The infrared sauna works by heating our body from the cellular level, and through means of sweating, can help us detoxify. Increased circulation also also relaxes muscle tension. The hour of darkness, quiet and warmth can also help calm a busy mind and promote a meditative state. I like to pair my sauna session with chromotherapy, like green or red or blue light to help relax the mind and open chakras. I also listen to meditative music or solfeggio frequencies for sound therapy to balance a chakra, promote stress relief or help with anxiety. These powerful frequencies are an incredible addition to the already healing benefits of the infrared sauna. I also add things like dry body brushing, gua sha, and jade rolling to do even deeper work on muscle tissues and promoting lymph drainage and detox pathways.
  3. Red light therapy is widely known for melatonin production, which is essential for sleep. Sleep issues are a common problem with those dealing with chronic stress, and red light therapy is a powerful tool. Red light therapy has other positive impacts on brain health, as it stimulates mitochondrial activity which enhances oxygenation, which triggers antioxidant and anti-inflammatory responses. It is known to enhance mental wellbeing and can boost serotonin and dopamine levels. And some studies show that it can also lower cortisol levels. It also increases capillary production and blood flow. It can enhance mood, promote healing, and decrease the destructiveness of the stress response, and is something that is useful for handling stress.
  4. Vibration therapy is another tool that can help with effects of stress and anxiety overall. Whole body vibration can release important neurotransmitters and hormones, increase secretion of serotonin and dopamine, lower the stress hormone cortisol, reduce muscle tension, increase proprioception (brain-body awareness), burns excess adrenaline, calm the nervous system, and can impact neuroplasticity in the brain (break negative patterns and make healthier pathways). Overall it can positively impact depression, anxiety and stress. I often add hula hooping and other activities, and sometimes use it in conjunction with red light therapy for more impact.
  5. Essential oils have been known to have mood enhancing and stress reliving properties for centuries. There are a number of physiological ways for essential oils to work in the body: inhalation, ingestion, and absorption. The fastest pathway into the brain is through the olfactory system, or by inhalation. Studies have reported that scent-related olfactory stimulation produces immediate changes in blood pressure, muscle tone, pupil dilation, skin temp, pulse rate and brain activity. Brain function has been shown to improve by changes in alpha waves, decreasing salivary cortisol levels, reduced EEG readings associated with negative emotions and memory impairment, reduction in mental stress, activating brain arousal, and changes in brain electrical activity with sleep disorders. This is positive news, as essentials oils or products containing them can easily be carried by an individual, and can be used in the middle of a stressful situation to interrupt the stressful pattern and flood the brain with calming molecules.

As you can see, there are many simple tools and therapies you can add to your daily life to help calm the nervous system, minimize the damage of ongoing stress, and interrupt neurological pathways that keep us locked in a sympathetic dominant state. While understanding that it is still best to live a lifestyle that minimizes opportunities for ongoing negative stress (yes, that means sometimes we have to do REAL healing work), it is also naive to believe we will never encounter stressful events. Especially for our children. It is better to have tools available to use, and resources ready to go ahead of time, so that the things we need are there should something happen. And doing things like neuro-focused chiropractic care on a regular basis may help empty the bucket so that one stressful event doesn’t overflow it and cause a major catastrophe.

Check out our April Stress Awareness Specials:

Stress Away Package

$10 off Chiropractic and Half-off Nervous System Scans