Coping with Stress: Part 1
As of late I have had many requests on how one can treat stress as well as the fatigue and depression that comes with it naturally and possibly without chemicals.
In order to answer the question one needs to define what stress is, how it affects the body and which meridians and reflexes may be involved. It is only once we understand the nature and effects of stress that we can treat it successfully on a holistic basis.
As this is a complex topic with a plethora of information I have decided to do break it down into two parts.
What is Stress?
One physician concluded in a 1951 issue of the British Medical Journal that, “Stress in addition to being itself, was also the cause of itself and the result of itself.” This statement had me perplexed for days on end and after loads of research I came across this analogy which might clarify this statement to some extent.
Stress can be compared to the weight of a glass of water. Should you hold the glass for a short period of time it will feel light, when you need to hold it for longer your arm might start to cramp, when you hold it even longer you might experience paralysis in the arm and be tempted to drop the glass. The same happens with stress; the longer we are exposed to the stressor the more serious the affects will be.
According to the medical profession stress is defined as a physical, mental or emotional factor that causes mental or bodily tension. Stressors can be external such as the environment, psychological, or social situations; and they can also be internal such as disease or a medical procedure.
According to meridian therapy, stress can be defined as a blockage in the energy pathways in the body leading to the disruption of energy flow to various vital organs by toxic molecules. The build-up of these congestions may be the cause of many diseases or conditions.
Common Causes of Stress
As per the medical profession the below are common causes of stress:
Health: Problems with one’s own health or that of a loved one.
Relationships: Problems between yourself and or between other members of your family.
Personal beliefs: Major life events that cause you to question your own beliefs.
Emotional problems: The inability to relate or express your emotions.
Life changes: Big life changes such as the death of a loved one, changing careers, moving etc.
Traumatic Events: Leading to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
I would like to point out at this stage that stress is a normal and natural thing that occurs and will keep occurring throughout our lifetime. The problem with stress comes in when we don’t address our stressors and deal with them head on. Thus it is important to get real with oneself and sit down and pinpoint exactly what is causing you to feel stressed. It is only then that we can put a plan together and take action.
When we consider the meridians, stress is caused by the body’s inability to deal with external stressors which lead to an internal buildup of toxic molecules on the meridian pathways through:
Poor nutrition (diet lacking in vitamins, minerals and amino acids)
Internalising emotional conflicts
Poor pH balance
Imbalanced sodium/potassium levels
Problems with blood glucose balance
These areas are what Therapeutic Reflexologist address and why reflexology plays such a vital part in reducing stress. Not only do you feel more relaxed during and after a reflexology treatment, but the treatment itself helps to restore balance within the body by breaking-up these toxic molecules.
Effects of Stress on the Body
According to Dr Michelle Bosman,a GP in Cape Town the first physical symptoms one might experience when under too much stress:
Increased heartbeat, breathlessness
Cold hands & feet
Change in appetite
Change in sleep patterns
Nervous behaviour like nail biting, teeth grinding, fiddling
Figure 1: Areas of the body affected by stress
Below is a list compiled by the Mayo Clinic of the effects one might experience due to stress: Common effects of stress on your body
Headaches & Migraines
Chest pain & palpitations
Change in libido
Stomach & digestive upsets
Muscular tension in the neck & shoulders
Common effects of stress on your mood
Lack of motivation or focus
Irritability or anger
Sadness or depression
Common effects of stress on your behaviour
Overeating or undereating
Drug or alcohol abuse
Exercising less often
Although many of us experience stress and sometimes our stress is caused by the same type of stressor, we all experience stress differently and the effects of stress manifests differently in each individual. Some individuals have some of these symptoms and a whole host of others symptoms depending on which meridian is taking strain.
Exposure to stress on long term basis leads to chronic stress which brings about more serious conditions and disease states within the body. The damage done by these diseases are usually irreversible; it thus of vital importance that we learn how to manage and more importantly reduce our stress.
Effects of Chronic Stress
Stress & Heart Disease
Hypertension and increased heart rate are two symptoms recognised by GP’s as signs of excess stress. Hypertension is one of the leading risk factors for heart disease. According to a study published in The Lancet when we are stressed the amygdala of the brain is stimulated and this area is associated with greater risk of stroke and heart disease. Within the same study it was found that the heightened activity of the amygdala signals the bone marrow to produce more white blood cells. While this is not usually a problem if experienced for short periods of time, it does become a problem when this stress reaction becomes long term, as overproduction of these cells acts on the blood vessels, causing inflammation and development of plaques on arterial walls. This in turn is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke.
Stress & Metabolic Disorders
Signs of chronic stress may be evident on your waistline. High levels of stress are associated with obesity, metabolic disorders, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. When stressed when are not only likely to comfort eat, but stress triggers a hormone called cortisol which plays a role in where fat is stored in the body. Cortisol triggers the release of increased energy which is needed during perceived threats (stress). Insulin and blood glucose levels rise, so we can initiate fight or flight reactions. The problem comes in with long term exposure to stress as the body thinks it needs a constant supply of energy to deal with this threat, thus it store excess fat around the midsection. Increased abdominal fat and insulin levels are risk factors for type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Stress & Immune System
Stress hormones influence the function of white blood cells and suppress the secretion of chemicals that are essential to the optimised function of the immune system. During long periods of stress we tend to get ill more easily as our bodies cannot adequately fight of bacteria and viruses, alternatively an excessive response may occur leading to chronic inflammation within our bodies.
Stress & The Brain
According to a paper published in a journal “Current Opinion in Psychiatry” it was suggested that chronic stress and anxiety can be damaging to the brain, leading to the development of diseases such as depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s
In the second part we will have a look at the effects of stress and how they relate to the meridians of the body as well as various techniques you can implement to reduce your stress and get back to living a healthy and less stressful life.
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