With the holidays here, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. People travel, family comes in town, and although we can all enjoy time with family, this season can be stressful and even chaotic sometimes. Sometimes it feels like you can’t even take a breath until after Christmas.
Holiday stress is real. The sheer amount of things that come with celebrating the holiday season can also bring stress, anxiety, and depression; unwanted visitors to the holiday spirit.
Stress is defined as the feeling of physical, emotional, or psychological stress or tension and it is your body’s response to anything that requires attention or action. There are good and bad types of stress, but let’s talk about the bad type of stress and how it affects the body.
What Does Stress Do to the Body?
Stress shows itself in a variety of ways throughout the body. Although people most often recognize the mental feeling of being overwhelmed, stress symptoms can affect the body, your thoughts, your feelings, and your behavior. And those affects are not always immediately recognizable as coming from stress.
Stress commonly comes from feeling like we cannot manage or control our situation. And it can result in a variety of symptoms.
Physically, high stress can lead to high muscle tension throughout the body. Which can lead to pain and soreness and can lead to neck pain, low back pain, and tight shoulders. Sometimes the stress can feel so overwhelming that people can have chest pain or feel like it is difficult to breathe. That muscle tension over time can lead to chronic pain. Long term periods of high stress can also lead to tension headaches and migraines.
Stress also affects the functioning of the nervous system. When we are faced with a situation that is difficult, challenging, and overwhelming, our central nervous system will activate the sympathetic nervous system.
Within our bodies, the nervous system has two aspects. Parasympathetic and Sympathetic. The parasympathetic side is in control of rest and digestion. It is the brake pedal of our bodies. It is the side of our nervous system that is in charge of allowing our body to sleep easily, digest and process food for energy, and it prioritizes recovery.
The sympathetic side of our nervous system is the gas pedal. It activates our fight or flight response. It takes control when we have to get things done, and during high periods of stress, our bodies can get kicked into overdrive and can get stuck in that sympathetic side.
High stress which causes your body to enter a fight or flight stage has many physical results. It increases your heart rate and breath rate to better supply your body with oxygen. This fight of flight response, as it activates, however, also decreases the parasympathetic rest and digest responses which can lead to restlessness and difficulty sleeping as well as upset stomachs as the body prioritizes problem solving not digestion. As the body gets less sleep and has less time to physically recover and focus on staying healthy, this can in turn increase the stress and over time result in poorer overall health.
Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Symptoms
Higher stress can lead to feeling anxious or depressed mentally, which can change the way you process emotions. This can lead to people lashing out in anger, or withdrawing in irritability. To attempt and manage their stress, people can resort to overeating or undereating, and can also misuse drugs and alcohol, and these substances can often increase the stress more.
Stress can also lead to a lack of motivation, or trouble focusing on the task at hand; they might exercise less or withdraw from their social group, including their spouses and families.
Stress often feels like a vicious cycle. An event is stressful, the body exhibits stress responses, which tire the body mentally and physically leading it to having more stress.
How Can I Better Manage Stress?
There are many ways that are recommended to help reduce stress. Many cite regular physical activity as helping greatly with the physical symptoms. Others report relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga can help greatly calm their mind and make their problems feel more manageable.
Many people say that some of the best methods of stress management are being optimistic, finding humor and joy in your life, and spending time with your family and friends and making time for the things you enjoy, like hobbies.
Prioritizing your sleep, eating a healthy diet, and avoiding excessive use of tobacco, caffeine, drugs, or alcohol can also help your body manage stress better.
However, one of the best ways that you can help any method of stress management be even more effective, is to seek chiropractic care.
How Does Chiropractic Care Help With Stress?
There are many ways in which chiropractic care can help. Chiropractic care helps relieve stress by helping better the functioning of the whole body. Physically, a chiropractic adjustment helps restore good alignment throughout the body which can help relax tight muscles, improve sleep quality, and over time, lead to better wellness in the body.
Chiropractic care can also help the body cope better with stress by helping reactivate the parasympathetic nervous system. when the body gets caught in fight or flight sympathetic responses, we want to find ways of shifting back into the parasympathetic side of the nervous system and allowing the body to recover. Chiropractic adjustments of the spine help relieve tension, stress, and pressure, on the nervous system itself which allows it to respond and communicate better with the whole body and shift back into the parasympathetic responses.
We have seen studies that show that during high periods of emotional stress is when 80% of the misalignments in our bodies occur. So during the holidays when it feels like we have a mountain on our plates, the drummers drumming are fighting with the pipers piping, and you have swans, geese, hens, and a partridge to feed, that is the time that your body needs a chiropractor the most.
Don’t dread the holidays; give yourself the gift of good health and schedule your Chiropractic assessment today!