Since mid-March, we have all been living in a state of stress and tension. If ever there was any doubt emotional and mental stress could lead to physical manifestations, the past seven months have cast it aside. Many of our patients have presented with conditions or concerns far out of the ordinary for them. In educating ourselves about emotional health can influence physical health, Dr. Megan came across a fascinating podcast, Unlocking Us with Dr. Brené Brown and guests Drs. Emily and Amelia Nagoski about completing your stress cycle.
Since then, she has also read Drs. Nagoski’s book, Burnout.
You may recall, as we’ve discussed in earlier blogs, that when we experience stressors (a global pandemic, political anxiety, a fight with a co-worker) our bodies are triggered into flight or flight mode. While this response is automatic and intended to help us survive, today many of us are under such chronic pressure, our bodies become stuck in this state. As Drs. Nagoski describe, we become stuck in the middle of a tunnel and can’t reach the light on the other side.
7 Ways to Complete the Stress Cycle
To reach the light at the end of the tunnel, we must complete what is referred to as the “stress cycle.” Here are the strategies described in Burnout.
Consciously take time to breathe. Pick a strategy which works for you, whether that’s simple deep breathing, diaphragmatic breaths, “box” breathing, etc. This helps activate your parasympathetic, or rest and digest response.
This can be anything that involves movement: walking, running, yoga, dancing. Activity can act as a reset for our nervous system. Above, I talked about our bodies being triggered into fight or flight mode. This used to be activated by humans being threatened (by a bear for example). Once the threat was gone, this response would shut down. Physical activity helps provide a burst of “fight or flight,” but also provides an end to allow your nervous system to recalibrate.
Do what you enjoy. Play/sing some music, paint or color a picture, design a graphic on the computer. These, like mindful breathing, activate your rest and digest response, and lower the stress hormone, cortisol.
Not fake laughter either. Gut-splitting belly laughter. When was the last time you laughed so hard you cried? Find a comedic tv show or funny cat videos on YouTube. A favorite of ours is Schitt’s Creek.
Heavy, ugly crying; deep sobbing. While many of us tend to keep these emotions in, if it helps, tell people your doctor said you should cry. It helps reset your nervous system.
This can be with a loved one and even a pet. A 6-second kiss or 20 second hug; cuddling and petting your cat. These cause your body to release oxytocin which helps us feel calm and secure.
Positive Social Connection
While we’re in the midst of a pandemic, and we must often remain physically distanced, being socially connected is vitally important. Being socially with friends and family provides us a sense of security and helps a release stress. During this time, we may have to get creative with video calls and physically distanced visits.
One More Thing…
Build a Resilient Nervous System
Chiropractic adjustments can help balance the nervous system. Yes, the nervous system is complex, but simply put, the brain controls all the functions of the body. The brain and spinal cord make up your central nervous system. A division of your nervous system is autonomic/automatic (think fight or flight vs. rest and digest).
This system is crucial to regulating your stress response.
If you perceive a situation to be stressful, then your pupils dilate, your heart rate increases, your breathing increases, and you begin to sweat. This is all part of the sympathetic (fight or flight) response. In contrast, when you are calm and relaxed, the parasympathetic part of your nervous system is in control and your breathing and heart rate are slower.
Structural shifts of the spine putting pressure on nerves can affect the overall function of the autonomic nervous system. In a review article, it was noted that chiropractic adjustments help to reduce and/or correct structural shifts (vertebral subluxations) and can help balance the function of the parasympathetic and sympathetic parts of the nervous system.
If you haven’t had this important system checked, please reach out. If you have been curious about how we can help you or your family complete the stress cycle, but have been hesitant, the best advice we can give you is to start with a consultation.