Building resilience to stress
Each time a new client comes in looking for help with their body and their presenting symptoms my first question is have you been experiencing higher than normal levels of stress or can you remember a significant event happening during the onset of these symptoms. Why? Because, I can almost guarantee that the onset of disease or flare up of symptoms has happened during a period of stress. I know the first thing you are going to say, "Stress is unavoidable", and yes to a degree that is true. But did you know that you can buffer the damaging affects of stress so that you can manage your disease process and prevent the onset of a disease? Lets first look at what stress is.
What is stress?
When you say "I feel stressed", what is it you are feeling? Stress is a generalised response to the threat of danger. We weren't designed for ongoing, incessant exposure to feeling threatened. We were designed to live in supportive communities, find food and fend off predators. Stress came in the form of relationships, trying to find food to feed ourselves and protect our community when we would get attacked by predators. In this case we would either fight or run and in doing so we would use up our stress chemicals and when we felt safe we would relax and have a big sleep to recover.
Fast forward a couple thousand years and our stress is constant and unrelenting in the form of bills, bosses, traffic, school, work, study, mortgages etc. The list goes on. A heightened feeling of stress is that near death experience where a car cuts you off or slams on the brakes in front of you and you get tingles in your hands and feet. You are getting a sudden surge of stress chemicals getting you ready to protect yourself from danger. But it seems that we are unable to avoid even low level consistent exposure to stress.
Stress is SUPPOSED to be healthy. Small environmental stressors trigger responses in healthy individuals in a way that triggers physical, mental and emotional growth. But when we have constant exposure, we are malnourished and there is no reprieve in sight our body adapts to the stress at the expense of our health.
It comes in all forms
In our food: did you know the additives, preservatives, sugar, refined foods, trans fats, antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides, chemical residue from your cooking materials and plastics stress your body?
In the air: did you know the emissions, tar dust off the road, smoke and smoking stress your body?
In our water: Our tap water is treated with chlorine, fluoride, travels long distances in copper pipes and then stored in plastic which leaches BPA all of which stresses our bodies
In our media: You could be reading this and feeling stressed! Watching the news, constantly scrolling the newsfeed reading about the atrocities of the world adds stress to your life.
All of this is happening in the background BEFORE you even have a stressful life event occur, which is typically the tipping point. Because you were coping, coping, coping and all of a sudden your not and jeez your body lets you know!!
But this isn't a doom and gloom post. Because with knowledge and education comes empowerment. If you are AWARE of what your body is going through, when you do have a flare up of you're condition you can look at the events leading up to it and IDENTIFY what your triggers are. When you know what elements in your lifestyle are stressing your body you can ELIMINATE them. And when you know what areas of your body are most vulnerable you can SUPPORT them.
And this is what EMPOWERS you to make the changes to support your health, rather than popping pills to cover up your symptoms, ADDING an extra stress for you body to cope with and continuing on with your life as you were with all of these environmental factors DRAINING you. Is it any wonder we are sick, lack lustre and tired? Become EMPOWERED in your decisions for your body so you can THRIVE in your environment.
Increasing our bodies resilience to stress
IDENTIFY YOUR TRIGGERS
One of the most damaging ways we can deal with disease is to say there is nothing I can do about it! There absolutely is something you can do about it and your decisions will either hasten the onset or slow and potentially reverse the onset. Knowing what your body can cope with and what it cannot is the first step in supporting and managing our bodies and our health.
For example, I know when I'm about to tap out my adrenals because my neck gets sore first. I know when my neck gets sore I need to rest, recover and restore my bodies health with food. I also read my body and start picking up on the signals for example I start eating just to get through my work, I crave sugar and I start to hold more weight around my midriff. They are my warning signs, its time for a holiday!
ELIMINATE THE STRESSORS
As we said earlier it is impossible to eliminate all stress but when we identify what is tipping us over we can take action on a strategy to eliminate any extra unnecessary stressors. For example, in my previous case I would not take on any extra work, try and get extra sleep where I can and start trying to reschedule my timetable to fit in some extra time off.
SUPPORT YOUR WEAKNESSES
Knowing which parts of your body will fold under stress first puts you in great stead to protecting yourself during periods of stress (hint: if you have a disease process already that will be a pretty strong indicator of your bodies inherent, genetic weaknesses).
- Make sure your nutrition is optimal to support these weaknesses. Normally during periods of stress this is the first thing to go!!! But it needs to be your priority! Eating pro inflammatory, nutritionally empty foods 100% set the stage for chronic disease.
- Have a self care routine. Whatever works for you. Whether it is a 10 minute meditation before you go to bed or yoga stretches when you wake up or a bath soak in the evening, whatever it is that works to destress you, make it a non negotiable!!
- Reduce high impact exercise. Light walks, yoga stretches etc are ok, but high intensity exercise like running will just tap your resilience to stress quicker.
- Add supportive supplements during periods of acute stress. High potency vitamin C, adaptogens, magnesium, B complex and probiotics are all good choices for managing the damaging affects of stress.
When stress becomes unavoidable, that's when your health needs to be treated as a priority and taken up a level.