Symptoms Of Chronic Stress
Do you feel tired and run down a good bit of the time? Do you notice that noise, light, and commotion make you weary? Do you worry often? Do you crave sweets? Do you feel easily overwhelmed, irritable, weepy, or anxious?
Consequences Of Long-term Stress Response
If you are answering yes to at least two of the above questions, then you are likely responding to stressors. The chemistry of the stress response can increase neurotransmitters and hormones like cortisol during a crisis. These short-term responses are protective. However, when stressors persist for months to years, the chemical changes in the body can increase the likelihood of illness. Chronic exposure to stressors that we have trouble handling can increase our risk of autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disease, mental health imbalances, and even certain cancers.
Stress Response In Clinical Practice
In my work with patients, the number one issue that can increase or decrease illness and symptoms is the response to stress. There’s no easy fix here, but working on stressors, and lifestyle adaptation is worth the effort. Those patients who have the most satisfactory outcomes are those who have done their internal work.
How to Get Started
Starting with food and sleep are two important foundations for building resilience to stressors. I noted this in a previous blog, “Healing Autoimmune Imbalance”.
Lets now discuss three ways to balance the response to stressors and increase resilience:
- Start with becoming aware of the stressors in your life. Grab a sheet of paper or your notes App and jot down everything you can think of that contributes to your worry, fear, unease, anger, chronic pain, etc. You may find this is quite a long list. Each time your pen or stylus stops, say “more” and wait and see if more answers come. Many times there are internal beliefs, thoughts, or messages that evoke the same responses as the stressors from outside your self.
- Once the list is completed, put a star next to the stressors that might easily be eliminated, and make a plan for eliminating them. For example, if you have a weekly commitment that drains you and you dread it, AND it’s optional, consider releasing it now. It’s okay to protect your time, especially when your health is in need of a lift.
- Next, choose one stressor and write about how it would feel to let this one go. Imagine how it would feel in your body, and how it would affect your life. Then write up some steps that would need to happen in order to release this stressor. What is the first small step? When would you begin? What will be the next step?
While working on eliminating stressors, it’s important to develop strong techniques in resilience. Sometimes there are external and internal stressors that we cannot control or haven’t learned to manage. Taking a pill or supplement might help in the short term by calming the physical response, but in the long term, building a strong resilience will be the key to better wellness.
There are many APPS and programs available to help people as they develop a stress-resiliency tool box. Headspace, Calm, Insight Timer are a few. Programs such as those taught by Eckhard Tolle, are another way to go, and techniques such as Emotional Freedom (tapping), can be helpful. Start collecting tools that appeal to you now.
And finally, there are practitioners who can be of great benefit during this process – functional medicine, acupuncture, Bowen Therapy, intuitive healing, health coaching, Reiki, yoga, QiGong and many other methods can be very helpful. What appeals to you? Give yourself permission to invest in your health. As you begin to feel better, your loved ones will benefit as well.
The Bottom Line
Ignoring our response to stressors will lower our immune system’s ability to respond in a healthy way, and create disease. Taking steps to empower ourselves is a process of discovery and the way to improving our health and well-being.
More than a pill and a pat on the back!
Gentle Integrative Care is all about finding the unique causes of your immune imbalances. Start your journey to wellness today with your personalized functional and lifestyle medicine program.