Forms of Stress: How Does Your Body Handle Them?

By Dr. Emily Rowan Alsheskie, chiropractor, MY Life Health Center

What if I told you that stress wasn’t real? Sounds untrue, but when thinking about mental or emotional stress, it is really how you perceive it. A farmer needs rain at certain times and sunshine at certain times. Sometimes when the farmer needs sunshine, it rains and when the farmer needs rain, the sun shines. Is rain a stressful event? Absolutely not! It’s all about how you perceive it. This idea of perception is the first essential of health that is taught in our practice, and it is one of three forms of stressors that occur to our bodies–emotional/mental stress.

Some mental stressors are out of our control, but there are ways to reduce our exposure to negativity by doing things like practicing forgiveness, using positive self-talk, and limiting our interactions with negative individuals.

The second major stressor may not be as obvious as the others, but it has a HUGE impact on the body’s ability to function properly. This is chemical stress. The most common form of chemical stress comes from our daily nutrition. This includes inflammatory products and foods like sugar, artificial sweeteners, food additives, preservatives and pesticides, as well as hydrogenated fats. The easiest way to avoid these harmful substances is to consume whole, fresh, organic foods and cut out processed and packaged foods. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store and not the aisles!

The last and typically most noticed form of stress is physical stress. Motor vehicle accidents, slips, falls, and sporting injuries are common forms of macrotrauma. Microtraumas that accumulate over time and contribute to physical stress include things like sitting at a desk for extended periods of time and bending the head forward to use gadgets like cell phones. These repetitive actions, that we were not designed to experience on a daily basis, cause structural changes to the spine and supporting musculature. These changes in our foundation impact our most important system, the nervous system. The nervous system is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves that control all cells, tissues, and organs. When stress is constantly endured by the body–in all three forms: chemical, mental/emotional, and physical–the nervous system takes the hit and cannot control the body’s processes as it was intended to. This is why stress not only harms us in the short term but can lead to chronic diseases like cancer, cardiovascular complications, and other debilitating diseases.

Chiropractic care may be most known for symptom relief related to the spine, but chiropractors are really nervous system doctors. The nervous system is addressed via the spine since the vertebral column is what surrounds and protects this very important system. When the structure of the spine is in its most stable form, stress and tension are relieved from the spinal cord and the nerves that control the system’s processes. This is why patients who practice proper spinal hygiene with chiropractic adjustments and spinal therapies experience less sick days, improved quality of sleep, reduced number of over the counter/prescription medications, and less symptoms overall.

Stress is a normal part of life. I can’t take away your stressors like picking up your kids, making dinner, or walking your dog. But the big question here is, how well can your body handle stress? As doctors of chiropractic, we first and foremost check for any nervous system stressors and disruptors that can be causing an imbalance and inability to heal. From there we make corrections (the adjustment) by using our hands, drop table, and adjusting tool to put the body in a healing and less stressed state.

Physical, mental/emotional, and chemical stressors are a part of our day to day lives, but stress itself is not the problem. It’s how much stress we experience and how our bodies handle it. Taking care of yourself with adequate nutrition, exercise, mindset practices, and proper spinal alignment give you the best opportunity to prevent common lifestyle-induced illnesses and chronic pain. Whether you have aches and pains or not, get a nervous system evaluation to take a proactive and preventative approach to your health. Then incorporate the other tips included here to aid your body in healing!

Dr. Emily Rowan Alsheskie holds a doctorate in chiropractic with a special emphasis on prenatal and neonatal care. She is a recent graduate from Life University, a chiropractic college in Marietta, Georgia. Dr. Emily joined in practice with her mentor, Dr. Kevin Schultz, at MY Life Health Center in Lake Hallie this past fall. She is a mother to her two-year-old son, Rory, and is excited to raise him in the Chippewa Valley!

Chiropractic: Stress Antidote

by Dr. Melissa Stangl, Gonstead & Stangl Chiropractic

Two of the most important things in life are family and good health, but as we gather together during the holidays we also tend to gather an increased amount of unnecessary stress. Stress wears on our body’s ability to defend itself and leads into an increased risk of stress-related symptoms that commonly include headache, backache, fatigue, sleep issues, increased susceptibility to illness, and digestive and cardiovascular disorders. These complaints manifest physically, chemically, and emotionally and cause mayhem for well-being. In fact, medical research suggests that up to 80% of all illness is stress related. Fortunately, with a little mindfulness and the help of chiropractic, you can enhance your good health by taking a few simple steps to reduce the strain of holiday stress and ward off any unwanted ramifications.

Let’s consider how emotional, chemical, and physical stress affects our body physically. Emotion is transmitted across your body through the nervous system in the form of excitement, happiness, anxiety, and agitation being expressed physically with increased heart rate, the chills, sweat, jitters and more! Chemical stress, like overindulgence in food or drink and exposure to toxins, is transmitted in a similar manner and is expressed by changing your physical chemistry. Physical stress puts added strain on your body and challenges the supporting structures of the spine and nervous system. The negative effects of all of these stressors can cause an imbalance in your ability to function optimally leading to the symptoms of stress.

Along with a combination of stress reduction techniques, chiropractic can be an antidote for stress by setting the stage for your body to be balanced and coordinated in optimal function and also by helping your body remove nerve irritation, release muscular tension, and improve blood circulation when overcome by the physical expressions of stress. Both are accomplished when the chiropractor applies adjustment(s) to the spine and surrounding structures, allowing your body to adapt and heal naturally.

Being mindful of potential stress provokers is worth more than an ounce of prevention. Give yourself the gift of a healthy holiday by following these tips to avoid unnecessary physical stress.

1. Stay Physical! Exercise, walk, stretch, play and move about. Physical fitness keeps you mentally fit, emotionally calm and at peace.

2. Nourish Yourself! Make sure what you’re consuming is real food with nutritional value. Racecars generally don’t perform well when fed garbage truck fuel.

3. Avoid weight gain! Every extra pound in the abdominal region adds ten pounds of stress to the low back forcing the pelvis and torso to shift leading to spinal misalignments (“subluxations”) and therefore dysfunction.

4. Get enough rest! Many health problems that occur are simply due to fatigue. Get adequate rest to prevent structural strain, emotional and cognitive imbalance, and general health problems.

5. Be safe! Along with fastening your seat belt, adjust your vehicle’s head rest to align with your head for support and protection. Wear proper winter recreational safety equipment and use common sense when on ladders and during snow removal.

6. Change position! Vary household activity every 15 minutes and alternate between standing and sitting with food prep tasks and when wrapping presents.

7. Posture! Sitting, standing, walking and laying with a neutral spine is vital. Avoid high-heels and carrying heavy bags, purses, and kids.

8. Lift properly! Whether a shovel full of snow, a box of decorations or a frozen turkey, bend at your knees, lift with your legs, carry the load close to your body and avoid reaching and twisting.

9. Stretch! A daily routine is not only good for the soul but improves flexibility, balance, coordination, circulation and cardiovascular function all the while helping to prevent injuries.

10. STAY ADJUSTED! It’s best if you don’t wait until you are hurting to see your chiropractor, but if you are experiencing pain, chiropractic can help alleviate it naturally so you can get full enjoyment out of the holiday season.

Holiday Stress and You: Simple Ways to Avoid Stress

by Joe Raab

When I was a child, I looked forward to the holiday season with such glee. I would dream of snow days, presents, and being with family. Fast forward a couple of decades and I pretty much have the opposite…dreading the snow and any commute; trying to figure out what presents to give everyone; and stressing out about hosting friends and families. For some reason, as we grow older we have a tendency to forget about the things that use to make us happy and “grow up” into completely different people. So, how do we eliminate the stress of the holiday season and start enjoying the yuletide like we once did? Two things to help: analyze where the stress is coming from and figure out ways to handle the triggers.

There are three major contributors: money, other people, and our bodies. Money can be a big stress throughout the entire year, but especially during the holidays. Presents for others, parties, party outfits — they all can cause the funds to dwindle. Other people also cause us stress. Families, children, significant others, the store clerk who hates the world — people influence us every day and cause stress. Note: avoid Black Friday — major stressor for both the money and the people. Also, getting up that early or not even sleeping at all can definitely cause havoc in our bodies. Also, do we really need to just throw out all the rules when it comes to holiday eating? Do you really need another candy cane?

Stress is everywhere. So, how do we avoid it? Follow the tips below:

? Be positive. Okay, you spilled your coffee down the front of you, your alarm didn’t go off, and it’s snowing. Sounds like a bad day. Now change your attitude and be positive. Be thankful you were able to get a warm cup of coffee. Be happy that you woke up. And enjoy the snow.  Everything has a positive side. Look for it!

? Recognize choice. Along with being positive comes the power of choice. Everything that happens to you, you have a choice on how to handle and re-act to it. Did someone cut you off while driving? Choose to be upset or choose to be happy they did not hit you and hope they get to their destination safely. Choice really is one of the greatest gifts we have.

? Delegate. Overwhelmed by all of the presents you have to buy? Too many parties? Too much too cook? Delegate. Look at your tasks and see what you can have others do. Kids love to help. Asking a child for help makes them feel wanted and loved. Ask a close friend if they will help you with everything you have to do. You’ll get stuff done and catch up with each other. Two birds, one stone.

? Communicate. Is something wrong? If you don’t say anything, how will it get fixed? Also, the holidays are a great time to catch up with people who you might have been too busy to see or talk to throughout the rest of the year. Communicate and show people you are thinking about them. Send them a letter. Give them a quick phone call. Get out there and relate. Also, remember to be thankful.

? Budget. Money will most likely always be a concern. However, with a plan, you can alleviate some stress. Do you really need a different outfit for every party? Do you really need the amount of food you have in your cart? Really start to ask questions about your purchases and gifts and stick to a plan.

? Be reasonable. With others. With yourself. If something is really stressing you out, ask if this will affect you in 5 years. If not, drop it and move on. And remember, other people have a lot of stuff going on in their lives as well. And it really is not always about you.

? Relax. Take a breather. Five minutes of relaxation can really make a world of a difference.

Stress is an option, but it isn’t the only option. Choose happiness, peace, and love. Choose a wonderful and memorable holiday season.

Joe Raab is a success driver. He works full-time in corporate IT, teaches college communication courses, and is a life coach. To find out more about Joe; please visit turn-the-knob.com.

Ayurveda and Yoga for Holiday Serenity

by Patricia Wickman

Before you start reading this article, take a moment to ask yourself some questions. First of all, notice how you are breathing right now. Is your breathing fast? Slow? Shallow? Deep? Agitated? Calm? Also, take a mental note of how your day has gone so far. More specifically, what has been your general state of mind? Have you been rushing around and have your thoughts been scattered and fragmented? Perhaps you have been lazy today and spent most of your time in a mental fog. Have you flip-flopped back and forth between these two polarities? Do you feel like none of these apply to you? If so, you are probably an enlightened being and don’t need to read this article. That is—unless you are just too curious at this point and have to keep reading.

With the holidays come bustling crowds at the mall, warm gatherings that include family and friends, celebrations, music and dance performances, laughter, parties, holiday films, tantalizing food and drink, excited children, and more. It is possible for this ‘ho-ho-ho’ spirit to become excessive and lead one to experience the negative aspects of the season: calendars that are over-packed with activities; heavy, sugary foods that stay with us long after the holidays; and perhaps excessive spending and debauchery that can lead to lowered immunity, drained bank accounts, stress, anxiety or depression.

Ancient Yogis and Ayurvedic sages observed and wrote about this natural flow of ups and downs and refer to them as the three gunas or energies. Rajas, tamas, and sattva are the Sanskrit terms for these energies. Rajas is hyperactivity, tamas is inertia, and sattva is a balance between the two. An example of a person in a rajasic state is someone who gets behind you on the road or in a line at a register and pushes you along in a forceful way. A tamasic person is one who is lazy, drinks alcohol regularly and is generally uninterested in life. A sattvic person makes healthy food and beverage choices and is graceful, content, calm, humble, alert, and meditative (the type of enlightened being who does not need to read this article!). Although it is natural for these energies to ebb and flow during the day, a conscious soul can cultivate sattva and spend less time in rajasic or tamasic states of mind and body. Sattva may not sound like an exciting way to live your life. Maybe you prefer to live by the “what goes up, must come down” motto. If, however, you would like some ideas on how to get off the roller coaster ride, keep reading.

Get your calendar out right after you finish this article and check to see if you have allotted ‘rest and digest’ time in between holiday festivities. Examples include going to yoga classes (especially restorative yoga), meditating, going for a massage, seeking rejuvenating recreation, spending time in nature, journaling, etc. If you do not see any such activities on your calendar during the months of November and December, plan them right away. Make sure that if your schedule is dependent on spouses and children that you tell them about your appointments with your friends named deep conscious breathing, harmony, and sanity.

Eat sattvic foods and reduce or avoid rajasic or tamasic foods. Since eating is something we do everyday multiple times a day, it powerfully determines how we feel from moment to moment. Rajasic foods are acidic, hot, sour, spicy or overly salty. They increase speed and excitement in the body or mind so this includes all stimulants such as coffee, green tea, black tea, white tea, white sugar, chocolate, and soda (especially diet). Tamasic foods are dry, fermented, deep-fried, deteriorated, without flavor, microwaved, boxed, canned, frozen (frozen raw is O.K.), rancid or leftover. Heavy meats, alcohol (especially beer), cigarettes, and sedating drugs are all tamasic. Sattvic foods are fresh, easy to digest, organic and vitally alive. This includes fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fresh dairy (local and organic are best), the highest quality meat if you are not vegetarian, herbal teas and water. Rajasic and tamasic foods leave one in an energy deficit. Eating sattvic foods is like putting money in a savings account—it inspires you and makes you feel like you have energy to spare.

Rajas, tamas and sattva are the Sanskrit terms for these energies. Rajas is hyperactivity, tamas is inertia, and sattva is a balance between the two.

This compassionate self-care not only develops sattva, but also promotes a profound and sustained sensation of being a whole person. There are a couple more Sanskrit terms to befriend during the holidays that refer to this state of being tightly packed/sane. Ojas is your vitality and immunity—the glue that holds you together. Vasant Lad says this about ojas:

It is like honey. As the honeybee collects the minute molecules of the essence of hundreds of flowers and accumulates them in the honeycomb, ojas, the pure essence of all bodily tissues, circulates via the heart and throughout the body to maintain the natural resistance of the bodily tissues. Ojas fights against aging, decay and disease. A person who has good ojas rarely becomes sick (Lad 212).

Ojas is a biological substance that is rich in soma (moon energy). Soma can be compared to serotonin—a chemical that promotes happy, calm, blissful feelings in your body and mind. What does having an abundance of ojas mean for your enjoyment of the holiday season, you ask?

Having high ojas during the holidays means that you will have your own needs for health and vitality met so that you can then turn your attention outward. As your personal ojas proliferates, it taps into cosmic or Universal ojas, which is the Love that holds the entire universe together. Having cosmic ojas will expand your awareness and this will cause your attention to veer away from selfishness and turn toward the needs and desires of those around you. You will overflow with forbearance, generosity, loving-kindness, charity and bliss—similar to the expanded awareness of Ebenezer Scrooge at the end of “A Christmas Carol.” Put sattva and ojas on your wish list this year and make it your most joyful holiday season yet.

Patricia Wickman is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner, Certified Panchakarma Technician and Registered Yoga Teacher. She loves people and enjoys inspiring individuals to perceive their beauty and potential. She lives in Eau Claire, WI with her husband and two children. She owns Radiant Living Yoga and Ayurveda, LLC. For more information visit: www.rlyaa.com.

Sources: Lad, Vasant. Textbook of Ayurveda. New Mexico: The Ayurvedic Press, 2002.