by Dr Jim Hendricks, Freeport Integrated Health Center, Freeport, Maine

Stress has become an almost accepted occurrence of daily life and we all have it whether we like it or not. Stress definitely weighs heavy upon our minds, but it is not just "all in your head." Stress can not only cause psychological issues, but true physical ones as well. The cause of stress can be from most any thing but the most common are: job pressures, family squabbles, financial pressures or just feeling like you don't have enough time. Any of these "stressors" leads to what is known as the stress response. The typical signs of stress include but are not limited to insomnia, depression, fatigue, headache, stomach upset, irritability and muscular aches and pains.

When the body is being challenged by a "stressor" (the thing that is causing the stress) it combats the stressor by initiating a "stress response." The stress response can be divided into 3 phases: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion.

The Alarm Response is better known as the "fight or flight response." In this response there is a rush of adrenaline, an increase in blood flow, breathing and heart rate. In this phase you are either going to get your nerve up and fight or run like hell. The Resistance Phase comes next and corticosteriod hormones are released to provide energy to prolong the initial response. This allows you to prolong your fight or your run long enough to conquer your stressor or get away from it. The only problem is that sometimes you do not recognize the stressor right away and this leads to the next phase. And the stressor does not always have to be plain to see or "cut and dried." Thus this is why the resistance phase also stays active in chronic disease states and immune system reactions. The last phase, called the Exhaustion Phase comes as the energy and hormones are depleted. The body can only keep up a heightened stress level so long and this can lead to weakening of the heart, blood vessels and immune system.

Ok so now after reading this and establishing that you may be "stressed" should you worry? Well, with the weakening of the major organ systems, most importantly the immune system, the body is susceptible to disease and injury. Sometimes this can be as simple as a common cold but the following conditions have been linked to prolonged stress: Angina, asthma, autoimmune disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, common cold, depression, diabetes (adult onset, type II), headaches, hypertension, immune suppression, irritable bowel syndrome, menstrual irregularities, premenstrual tension syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis or ulcers.

Managing Stress
In order to deal with stress, you first need to identify what your stress is and what your coping pattern is for stress. The following are a list of negative coping patterns: dependence on chemicals, drugs; legal and illicit, alcohol, smoking, overeating, watching too much television, emotional outbursts, feelings of helplessness, overspending, and excessive behavior.

I have found success using the following general techniques for stress management from The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, by Dr. Michael Murray.

  1. Techniques to calm the mind and promote a positive mental attitude
  2. Lifestyle factors (time management, relationship issues)
  3. Exercise
  4. A healthful diet designed to nourish the body and support physiological processes

Relaxation exercises: Breathing with the diaphragm, meditation or prayer.

Progressive Relaxation: Technique of relaxing and contracting muscles. Start with the muscles of the face and neck and eventually work your way through the whole body.

Lifestyle Changes

  1. Time management: Set priorities, organize your day, delegate authority, do tough jobs first, avoid putting things off, and don't be a perfectionist.
  2. Relationships: 3 major categories are marital, family, and job. The key is good communication and that begins with good listening.
  3. Exercise
  4. Healthy diet
  5. Get an adequate amount of sleep

Dietary Guidelines

  1. Eliminate or restrict the intake of caffeine and alcohol
  2. Eliminate refined carbohydrates from the diet
  3. Eat regular planned meals in a relaxed environment
  4. Control food allergies

Along with the above techniques, many conservative therapies have also been shown to be beneficial to alleviate the physical affects associated with stress: massage therapy, chiropractic, yoga, exercise, at home stretching, heat therapy (hot pack, hot tub) or just using heat or ice.

In the end, no matter what your actual stressor is and how you cope with it; the most important thing that I hope you leave with after reading his article is to deal with your stress and alleviate it, not ignore. It is important to have balance between all the major aspects of your life, i.e. family, work, finances and body. Focusing your energy on just one area can lead to dysfunction in another and change your quality of life. It is ok to focus more time or effort to one area at a time, but make sure that you "make up" that time to the other areas. In order to have success in life you need to have balance.

Dr. Jim Hendricks is a doctor of chiropractic at Freeport Integrated Health Center in Freeport. His undergraduate education is in Sports Medicine and he is Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach. For more information go to https://www.freeport-chiro.com/


Herb's Tips and More

  • herbs Did you know that you can make soap, candles and lotion with your herbs?

    Continue Reading »

  • Herbs Safety Never take any herb identity for granted. The best way to be sure that you are using the right kind of herb is by buying it.

    Continue Reading »

  • Herbs Safety Excellent health articles whether you are looking for information or inspiration regarding preventive health or are dealing with a medical challenge.

    Continue Reading »


herbs in a pot