“Reality is the leading cause of stress.”
Ain’t that the truth!
If you have no stress in your life, you probably aren’t living your life to the fullest. Remember, not all stress is bad. Stress can be motivating and inspiring. Stress can create adrenaline, which works to sharpen your mind and body. Stress can put your reality into perspective. Even bad stress can have good outcomes when you make an effort to reflect upon its meaning, and its source. However, it’s important to also understand the toll stress takes on your body, and thus it’s contribution to negative stress levels.
Each month, Lightning 100’s Team Green Adventures offers a Wellness Workshop. When the topic is really good we’ll write a recap (see also Indoor Air Quality & Sugar Cravings recaps). Our workshop in June was one of those really good ones! We brought in Dr. Cassie Major of Major Family Chiropractic to discuss the different types of stress and their effects on our body.
But, stress is emotional, right? So what would a chiropractor know about it? For those who think of chiropractors as “back doctors” (like I did) it should be noted that they are actually “spine doctors.” What does the spine fully encase? The spinal cord: the gateway to our entire nervous system. And what does our nervous system affect? Communication between our brain and organs. There is a direct correlation between our physical wellness and emotional wellness. Plus, Dr. Major is a Maximized Living Chiropractor, which means she also specializes in the 5 Essentials: mind, nerve, nutrition, muscle, and toxins.
With that in mind, Cassie introduced us to the three primary types of negative stress: emotional, chemical, and physical.
Emotional stress is the first type of stress that comes to mind. Its the reality of our personal lives: family drama, work drama, meeting deadlines, juggling schedules, juggling finances, accepting loss, contemplating the fate of the future. It all becomes too much, and emotionally we shut down. Emotional stress changes how we interact with other people; it makes us irritable, anxious, and demotivated; it affects our diet and our sleep patterns, which causes headaches. Emotional stress also affects our cortisol levels, which can destroy our endocrine system (“The collection of glands that produce hormones to regulate metabolism, growth and development… reproduction, sleep, and mood among other things,” according to livescience.com) So, how do we deal with it? Cassie suggests the following tips to temporarily reset, and get through some of the stress:
- Meditation: Meditation is a way to focus your mind on something abstract in order to give yourself a break from reality (the leading cause of stress!). The beauty of meditation is that you can do it right now, where you are! Close your eyes and imagine the obscure details of your body from toe to head; take as long as you need. First, think about the skin at the tip of your toes. Try to notice sensation there. Next, become aware of your toe nails. Imagine the hair follicles along the length of your leg. Consider your knee cap, and appreciate the support it provides throughout the day. Should any other thoughts come to mind, brush them away. Continue in this manner until you’ve reached the top of your head, then slowly open your eyes and assess how you feel.
- Positive Journaling: Writing about the difficulties your life will essentially start or end your day with negative thoughts. Dr. Major recommends to instead journal about 3 positive things, no matter how minuet they may seem (things that happened, things you look forward to, people or memories you appreciate), and come back to these thoughts throughout the day and evening.
- Walk at Pre-Sunset: About 45 minutes before sunset, when the sun is still above the treeline but is no longer blazing yellow, the sky often has an orange hue. Not only is the temperature more comfortable during this part of day, but the color orange is scientifically-proven to affect the cortisol levels in the body. According to Color Psychology (yes, it’s a real thing), the color orange is associated with feelings of positive outlook, spontaneity, optimism, rejuvenation, and emotional strength.
Chemical stress is caused from substances in our surrounding environment which our body cannot fully process. Examples include caffeine, lotions, medication, processed foods, cosmetics, deodorant, soaps, pollens and pollutants. Chemical stress most commonly impacts the body through weight gain. When your body does not know how to process a foreign substance, it stores those substances in the fat cells: the body’s “dumping grounds.” Chemical stressors can also impact your body in the form of acne, cancer, diabetes, brain fog, and irritability.
Dr. Major’s take-home solutions:
- Detox: Detoxification does not need to be a rigorous routine. Simply cutting out your body’s exposure to chemical stressors and introducing naturally detoxifying foods, like mushrooms, blueberries, and greens can do the trick.
- Avoid Preservatives: Foods that come in a box or can often contain preservatives, so avoid them.
- Clean Cosmetics: Replace makeup, lotions, and hair products with more natural alternatives. For example, body lotion can be replaced with coconut oil.
- Improve Indoor Air Quality: See our Indoor Air Quality Wellness Workshop blog (referenced above)!
Physical stress is the more damaging form of stress. It can be caused through lack of exercise, over-exertion (too much exercise), lack of sleep, dehydration, poor posture (sitting at your computer/texting), surgery, or previous injuries. Of these causes, poor posture and previous injuries are most common. Dr. Cassie Major recommends incorporating more “movement breaks” throughout your workday. Yoga, walking, standing at your desk/during meetings, and working out with friends (social interaction increases your likelihood of continuing with it) are all great solutions.
Above all, become aware of your posture and protect the natural curves of your body. No, I’m not talking about your hourglass figure – I’m talking about the natural curves of your spine. There should be 3 natural curves, separating your body into the lumbar (lower spine), thoracic (mid spine), and cervical (neck) regions. When poor posture, or injury, force the spine into an unnatural position, the discs between each vertebra become compressed. Over time the should-be-spongy discs harden (in the same way that layers of earth harden into rock). As a result, the spine loses its natural curve, and the spinal cord encased within also becomes compressed. Just like a garden hose that loses water pressure when bent, the spinal cord, when pinched, slows communication between the organs and brain.
Did you know that only 6-8% of the nerves in our body are pain receptors? That means most nerve damage will have no known symptoms until our associated organs begin to shut down. For example, if the section of spinal cord feeding nerves to our heart is constricted by 50%, our heart can only function at 50% efficiency.
Oh, the nerve of it!
When your reality includes a lot of unexplained physical ailments and emotional stress, no amount of meditation and yoga can fix it. Dr. Major recommends consulting a chiropractor for a nerve scan to make sure your spinal cord is functioning properly, and to consider visiting a Maximized Living Center chiropractor, so they can assess the full scope of your wellness (emotional, chemical, physical) before recommending a wellness plan.
In summary, don’t stress too much about your stress! Instead, consider it a message from your body that things in your life are not in alignment (emotionally, spiritually, physically) and that there are resources available to help you decode it!
We hope you’ll join us for our next Wellness Workshop: Seasonal Allergies on Wednesday, July 22nd. We’ll learn from a board certified allergist from the Allergy Asthma & Sinus Center how and why our body reacts to various “chemical stressors” such as pollens, pollutants, plants, and bugs. In the meantime, take a look at one of our past blogs “Poison Ivy + Chigger Myths—Debunked!”
-Keeley (Team Green’s Director)