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All About Stress - Signs and Solutions

The stress response can't be stopped. It is a normal biological process brought on by every day stressors. When initiated, this "alarm" stage gives us the physical capability to fight or flee. This mechanism can overact because getting a rush of stress hormones to be able to fight for your life isn’t relevant most of the time. The feeling is there – increased heart rate, blood pressure goes up and blood is redirected - but the reaction isn’t always equivalent to the situation. Once the stressor is removed, the body should return back to normal and symptoms subside. When stress is unmanaged, the body's homeostatic mechanism can become dysfunctional and physical manifestations of stress become harder to deter.

Below are example of what might trigger the stress response distinguishing 'effort' from 'distress'. As you can see, not all instances of stress are from a negative occurrence, rather quite typical activities. The input can determine the specific stress hormone response.

Stress response is partially subjective because it depends on Behavioural, Cognitive and Emotional factors. It is somewhat uncontrolled in some circumstances, such as when the body is inflamed, or in anxiety disorders. There are however always ways to approach even a seemingly unrestrained stress response.

At the Naturopath

It is important to know that you may show physical or biochemical signs of stress to a practitioner despite not feeling it. One reason for this is that each person’s stress threshold is different. A second reason is that symptoms can appear from past experiences (including childhood) or long-term stressors. Mood disorders such as anxiety and depression have an unbalanced stress response as a major cause so will always become a treatment priority.

Common signs of Stress

These don’t have to be new, but are likely to intensify when stress increases, sometimes only temporarily.

  • Teeth grinding (day or night) - your dentist might inform you if this is present

  • Sore muscles unrelated to exercise – often jaw, neck and / or shoulders, but can be anywhere

  • Changeable bowel movements

  • Heartburn / Indigestion

  • Gut pain, bloating and gas

  • Holding your breath

  • Headaches and migraines

  • Low mood

  • General negativity

  • Feeling irritable, impatient or having ill will toward others

  • Insatiable appetite for high sugar, high fat foods and / or alcohol.

Stress Management

Tips to help when you are hit with Acute Stress:

  1. Remove yourself from the situation if you can.

  2. Be aware that your body might be overreacting. Is your body’s response relevant to the situation?

  3. Rationalize stressful experiences. Can you handle this? Do you have the resources to overcome the stressor? Can you solve the problem rationally? If so, tell yourself you can. If not, seek some help.

  4. Take some deep breaths - this can reduce an elevated heart rate and calm things back down.

If you suspect you are experiencing Chronic stress

Most adults will be managing chronic stress. The accumulation of childhood, adolescence, the teen years PLUS adulthood equals a lot of encountered stressors. Consider everything you have dealt with in your life time!

Often we don’t recognize there is a problem with being consistently stressed because it is part of life. External situations such as work and home life might take precedence over health and adverse symptoms get ignored (as listed above). Often even severe mental and emotional conditions do not initiate stress management practices. Why? Stress is addictive and easy to rationalize on a day to day basis. Unfortunately if it is not managed, it can become destructive and lead to chronic health complaints.

This chart illustrates various ways that the stress response can be modulated.

Important actions for a stressed person:

  • Teach yourself to relax, even just for a short time each day

  • Remove yourself from stressors where possible

  • Ask for help when you need it

  • Address past trauma - professional help is recommended here

  • Find a way to manage negative experiences in the present

  • Improve your sleep hygiene and make this a priority

  • Increase magnesium foods

  • Consume enough protein for your activity level to keep amino acid intake adequate

  • Include omega 3 foods several times weekly

  • Regular exercise - every day is ideal

  • Remember to breathe

  • Meditation and mindfulness exercises are helpful.

Want more stress relief techniques? Go to the "Reducing the Stress Response" poster at the following link:

Below are examples of what might trigger the stress response distinguishing 'effort' from 'distress'. As you can see, not all instances of stress are from a negative occurrence, rather quite typical activities. The input can determine the specific stress hormone response.


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