Today I drove into work in the middle of a snow storm. Visibility was poor and my car was sliding all over the road. By the time I arrived at my clinic, I was stressed out to say the least. As a resul...
Today I drove into work in the middle of a snow storm. Visibility was poor and my car was sliding all over the road. By the time I arrived at my clinic, I was stressed out to say the least. As a result of my treacherous drive in, I have decided to write about stress and its effects on the body this month.
Although we all talk about stress on a daily basis, very few people understand what it really is. Stress is basically your body’s response to change. Some stress in our life is normal and in some cases even useful. For example, stress can help you perform better in sports or help you finish a work task on time. However, if you experience stress too often or for an extended period of time, it can have harmful effects on your body.
There are two basic types of stress which differ in duration. Acute stress is intense and only lasts for a short period of time. This is what you feel when you are driving down the road and another car or truck pulls out in front of you, causing you to slam on your brakes.
Conversely, chronic stress extends over a longer period and is often more subtle. An example of this type of stress is dealing with a sick spouse.
Now that you know what stress is, let’s look a little closer at its effects on the body. Tension is often the first signal of stress. Tense muscles feel tight and hard to the touch. Tension also causes you to feel jumpy, irritable and have difficulty concentrating.
Other symptoms include rapid heart rate, headache, stiff neck or shoulders, backache, rapid breathing, increased sweating and upset stomach. As stress continues for longer periods of time there are other problems that may occur. Chronic stress can lead to problems involving many different organ systems of the body. For example, it can lead to a decrease in your immune system which will make you more vulnerable to illnesses such as colds and minor infections. It can also lead to other problems such as high blood pressure and heart-related conditions, stomach and intestinal problems as well as lung conditions such as asthma.
The first step to treating stress is to recognize and identify its sources. Next, you must look for a way to reduce the amount of stress in your life and finally, you must learn healthy ways to relieve stress.
In some cases, it is easy to pinpoint where your stress is coming from.
You can count on stress while driving through downtown Toronto traffic or coping with the death of a loved one. However, other times it is not so clear cut. It may help to keep a stress journal in which you document when and what things cause you to feel stressed, as well as how you reacted and what you did to deal with the stress.
Keeping a stress journal will help you identify the major stressors in your life and also reveal patterns in your coping behaviours. Once you are aware of the sources of your stress you can decide whether it is possible to get rid of them or whether it is something you must learn to deal with. It is important to remember that every one of us is different and react differently to stress, thus you will have to experiment to find out what works for you.
A great way to deal with stress is to exercise regularly as it will help to decrease muscle tension and build up energy. Going for a walk around a truck stop or rest station is a great form of exercise while on the road. Another good way to reduce stress is to talk about it with someone that you trust.
Finally, take good care your body. Get plenty of sleep. Eat well. Do not smoke and limit how much coffee and alcohol you drink as these substances will act as stimulants and therefore compound your stress. •
-Dr. Chris Singh, B. Kin., D. C., runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont.
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