Stress gets a bad rap, and in many cases, it deserves its negative reputation. But occasional stress serves a positive purpose, too: It keeps you alert, gives you another “gear,” and helps you escape danger.
The problem lies in chronic stress that continues over long periods of time with no relief. Some people under high stress write it off as a personality quirk and may even embrace it as an indicator of high achievement, productivity, or leadership. Sadly, the opposite is true. Studies show that too much stress actually decreases productivity, focus, and creativity.
Stress also does a number on your body. Dr. Dana Robinson at Peninsula Chiropractic RSI Wellness Center in Redwood City, California, sees firsthand how stress impacts the back, neck, and shoulders, and how it contributes to tension headaches and migraines.
To help you prevent these stress-related issues and reduce your symptoms if you already have them, we’ve compiled a list of ways you can calm your mind and protect your body.
What stress does to your body
Before we dive into stress reduction strategies, let’s take a look at what happens in your body when you’re constantly anxious.
Whenever you’re faced with a stressful situation — taking an important exam, competing for a championship, running from a bear in the woods — your body floods itself with adrenaline and cortisol, the hormones that enable you to fight or flee. Your heart rate increases, your breathing becomes more rapid, even your vision changes and gets sharper.
These hormones get you through a tough situation, but once it’s resolved, your body relaxes and returns to normal. But when you’re under persistent stress, these heightened functions begin to wear your body down. Here are a few of the physical symptoms of too much stress:
- Muscle pain
- Chest pain
- Sleep problems
- Digestive issues
- Jaw clenching and teeth grinding
- Shortness of breath
Prolonged stress can also lead to mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety.
Ways to lower your stress
The best way to lower your stress is to first figure out what’s triggering yours and deal with the root cause. It may be that your schedule is too packed, you’re in an unhealthy relationship, your job is too demanding, or your finances are weighing on you. While it’s not always possible to eliminate the problem, it helps to identify it and learn to manage how you respond to it. Try these practical strategies:
When you’re active, your stress hormones naturally decline, you sleep better, and you feel better.
Constant stress takes its toll on your body, so while you’re learning how to address the source of your stress, make sure your body is well-fed so it stays strong under pressure.
A hit of espresso may help you pull an all-nighter when you need to stay alert, but it also contributes to anxiety and elevates your heart rate.
Studies show that chewing gum may reduce your stress and increase your ability to do your job and manage relationships. The rhythmic activity is calming and also increases blood flow to your brain.
When you’re feeling stressed, you can temper your response by catching a stand-up comedian act, hanging out with friends, or watching silly animal bloopers — whatever makes you laugh, as it relaxes tension and improves your mood. Turns out, laughter really is the best medicine.
Mindfulness means different things to different people, but the goal is the same: to relax your mind and body. For some, yoga does the trick. Others pray and meditate on the positive. Try focusing on the things you're grateful for, listening to soothing music, or practicing deep breathing exercises.
Consider chiropractic care
When your mind and body get stressed, your muscles tighten, especially in your neck, shoulders, and back. Over time, this can pull your spine out of alignment. When your muscles ache, it exacerbates your stress level, and the cycle spirals until you correct it. That’s where chiropractic care comes in.
Dr. Robinson adjusts your spine and releases the trigger points (tense knots) in your muscles, which not only relieves pain but also enhances the communication between your nerves and your brain, enabling all your body’s systems to perform more efficiently.
Chiropractic care also includes therapeutic massage, which helps reduce stress and inflammation throughout your body.
If you’re experiencing long-term high stress, it’s important to address it immediately. Schedule a consultation with Dr. Robinson to discuss your treatment options so you can head off the physical consequences before they take hold. Request an appointment online or call us today.