Embracing Stress: A Change in Perception

Phew, we made it through May, known by some as “May-cember”. The end of the school year can bring just as much if not more stress than the holidays.

When talking about stress, know that our bodies are built to handle it. In fact, we need a certain amount of stress to grow and function properly. Our bones need physical stress to remain healthy and strong, our muscles need stress to grow as well, and there are certain stressors in life that help our brains build synaptic bridges and function better.

It’s our ability to adapt to our stressors that is key.

Our ability to adapt allows us to evolve and learn. Part of that adaptability is in our perception of stress. A variety of books we’ve read recently deal with the importance of our perception (see the book list below).

Our perception shapes our reality. We all view the world with a different lens because we’ve all had different experiences in our lives to make us who we are. Sometimes our perception can take us down a more negative path where we perceive every situation, trial, and tribulation as stressful. Other times, our perception takes us on a glass is half full path where there is a silver lining to all the events we are experiencing.

Approaching trials and tribulations from a standpoint of embracing stress rather than getting rid of it completely involves a change in our perception. Instead of trying to manage stress, look at it from a different viewpoint, embracing the challenges and learning new techniques to adapt to the stressors.

What are some ways you can increase your adaptability to stress?

Spending time outdoors and connecting with nature.

This can help calm the nervous system and induce a sense of relaxation. A study in Environmental Science and Technology found that just 5 minutes outdoors can do wonders for mental well-being, and that exercising outdoors helps produce a better mood than exercising indoors. Getting outside and walking, running, or doing yoga can do wonders for your adaptation to stressful situations.

Aromatherapy through the use of essential oils.

This can also help increase your adaptation to stress. Our sense of smell is so powerful and is directly translated to a primitive part of our brain called the limbic system. This part of the brain can influence emotions and memories. It would make sense then, that using aromatherapy and essential oils can affect our emotions and help induce a more relaxed state of being. A studyout of Iran found that women who were experiencing anxiety during labor had a reduced level of anxiety, diastolic blood pressure, and pulse rate when exposed to an essential oil of orange peel!

Starting a gratitude journal.

Gratitude can be an impactful way to change your perception and help you embrace stress. It also doesn’t take much to start one. This articlementions several options for creating one. One simple way to start one is to jot down 5 things in the morning and 5 things in the evening for which you are grateful for. It can be as simple as you’re grateful for hot coffee in the morning, or more emotive such as being thankful for specific people in your life. I challenge you to start a gratitude journal and watch how your stressors take a different form. It’s all in how you perceive it.

Regular chiropractic adjustments.

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. The nerves exiting the spinal cord make up your peripheral nervous system which is then divided into 3 parts: the somatic (think motor control), enteric (think gut brain connection), and autonomic/automatic (think fight or flight vs. rest and digest).

The autonomic/automatic nervous system is crucial in regulating the stress response of our body. 

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. 

Did you know that the sympathetic and parasympathetic parts of the nervous system can not function at the same time...and that 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.

Now the above list is by no means complete. We’d love to know what you do to unwind and reconnect and how you embrace stressful situations with a change in perception.


*Bruce Lipton The Biology of Belief

*Dr. Wayne Dyer The Shift

*Dr. Candace Pert Molecules of Emotion

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Tips for Optimizing Balance and Coordination

Have you ever wondered how you are able to walk through your house in the middle of the night, and still with a reasonable amount of confidence, not run into walls?

It is pretty obvious that being in your own house you have seen it numerous times during the day that you are able to recall from memory, to a relatively accurate degree, where dangers would be when navigating the hallways and stairs at night.

This might seem like a simple concept, but it is a very important part of having optimal balance and coordination. Try this for a moment:

Stand up from your chair, have your hands at your sides, and now try and touch the tip of your nose with the tip of your left index finger.

How did you go?  Chances are you were successful, but why? How does this work?

Your brain is always in constant communication with your body and your body is in constant communication with your brain, this information going from your body to your brain is called PROPRIOCEPTION.  Proprioception is what allows your brain to have an internal map of where your body is in space, as well as where your body is relative to other objects, even with your eyes closed.

How does this relate to balance?

If for some reason your brain does not have a clear internal map of where your body is relative to its environment, then your balance and coordination would be compromised. Think about it like this; if you are walking through a dark house, but instead of your own house it is one you have never seen before. How do you think you would do? I would imagine a few yells in the dark as you stub your toe or bump your head. In a similar way, if there is a breakdown in the communication between your brain and your body, your brain won’t have an accurate internal map of your body relative to its environment and your balance and coordination will suffer.

Structural Shifts in the spine obstruct the communication between your brain and body, affecting the brains internal map of your body relative to its environment. When your brain does not have an accurate internal map of the body relative to its environment your balance and coordination will suffer.

Now you might be saying: “My Balance is Fine” 

Your balance may be fine compared to a clumsy sibling, but is it good as it can be? If you have a Structural Shift in your spine obstructing the communication between your brain and your body, then your balance may not be as good as it can be.balance west des moines

Altered Proprioception is not just an issue that affects your balance; it might mean you get injured more often (not just injuring your back or neck, but your shoulder, ankle etc.). It affects your workouts or ability to play sports; think about how important coordination is to golf, tennis, cross-fit etc.).

Whether you have poor balance, want to perform at your best in sports or just get injured less often, it is important to have a clear communication between your brain and your body (Proprioception).  Structural Chiropractic focuses on correcting structural shifts in the spine, clearing up the communication between your brain and body, leading to better function, less accidents & falls, and a healthier you.  Allowing your brain to have a clear internal map of your body and how it relates to its environment, just like when you were walking through your house in the dark.

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NeuroStructural Correction vs Conventional Manipulation

The most recent video from Keystone Chiropractic discusses the difference between NeuroStructural Chiropractic and conventional manipulation in West Des Moines.

Combating Chronic Inflammation

As people age, they are not only looking to live longer, but better as well, and that includes avoiding the effects of chronic inflammation.  Inflammation treatment is a big industry because of that.  There is a long list of medications, supplements, and salves aimed at managing chronic inflammation, and the number of advertisements for anti-inflammatory products is even greater.

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to things such as injury, infection, exposure to toxins, and biomechanical dysfunction.  It involves a cascade of events, coordinated by the nervous system, which includes increased blood flow to the site of injury, local temperature increase, redness and swelling.  The additional fluids can also increase the pressure on nerve endings in the area, resulting in pain.

b2ap3_thumbnail_inflammatoryShort term or acute inflammation is a necessary part of the healing process and, in most cases, should not be reduced.  It is NORMAL.

Long term or chronic inflammation, on the other hand, can lead to serious health problems.  As the picture to the left illustrates, it can contribute to Type II diabetes, joint degeneration, heart disease, and even cancer, among other things.  Often times, it is the result of life style choices, and other environmental influences.

There are some easy steps you can take to reduce and prevent chronic inflammation.

  • Getting the right balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fats.  Most Americans consume too much omega-6.  Reduce the amount of cooking oils you consume, especially those that contain corn.  Eat grass-fed met over grain fed and choose cold-water fish such as Wild caught Alaskan Salmon.  Adults should aim for a omega-6:omega-3 ratio of about 2:1.
  • Avoid trans-fats.  It’s as simple as that.  But, be careful to read the ingredients.  The nutritional label may read 0 grams of trans fat, but make sure to look for “partially hydrogenated” oils.
  • Limit refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice, high fructose corn syrup and refined sugars
  • Maintain a healthy weight.  The more fat you carry, the more inflammatory chemicals you produce.
  • Increase you intake of antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, D, and E.
  • Have your spine checked for structural shifts.  Chronic inflammation may be a secondary condition of a structural shift of your spine.  The structural shift blocks your nerves from functioning correctly and from properly controlling the inflammation process.  Neuro-Structural Chiropractic restores your spine to its normal position reducing the obstruction to your nervous system, which allows inflammation be more appropriately coordinated.



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If It’s Happening in Pro Sports, It’s Happening in Your Child’s School, Too.

Fall is here and the fall sports season is well underway around the Des Moines metro.  Unfortunately, along the spectrum from young to professional atheletes, comes the risk of concussion.  Each year, nearly 2 million traumatic brain injuries occur, 75% of which are concussions.  Approximately 300,000 of those are sports related, in large part, due to football.

But, let’s not blame football for all of them.  A spike to the head in volleyball, or perhaps a fall from the monkey bars, injuring the neck and/or head can certainly be responsible for a concussion

Now, concussions in professional sports are always in the news.  So, it’s safe to say that if it’s happening in professional sports, it’s happening in  your child’s school, too.  The good thing about being a pro-athlete, such as an NFL player, is the access to some of the greatest concussion care available.  The NFL and other leagues are highly invested in the safety of their players because:

  1. They want to avoid lawsuits down the road, and
  2. They want to make sure the athletes have the best care for a safe and quick return to play.

Even in the NFL, though, there is no helmet standard.  Regardless, NO helmet is capable of preventing the brain from shifting around within the skull during a collision.  It is the movement that can cause damage to the brain and central nervous system, leading to concussion.

Your child may not have immediate access to such great care.  If you have a child is sports, or who is injured on the playground, you should be aware of these symptoms associated with concussion:

  • Brief loss ofkids-56952_1280 consciousness
  • Memory problems and confusion
  • Lethargy
  • Dizziness
  • Double or blurred vision
  • Headaches (with or without vomiting)
  • Light and noise sensitivity
  • Problems with balance
  • Slow reaction time
  • Fatigue

If you know your child took some hard hits during the game, or begins to show any of the above signs as the season wears on, it would be prudent to have him or her evaluated by a qualified professional as soon as possible.

What may surprise you is that head injuries and structural abnormalities of the neck are closely linked.  The potential damage to the brain is often the sole focus, and the potential injury to the cervical spine (neck) is often overlooked.  Stay tuned for a future blog post that illustrates how concussions can lead to injury and structural issues in the cervical spine.



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