I remember a few years ago thinking “oh it’s ok, this pain is only stress-related, no-one is going to take it seriously.”
I knew that stress was a factor in health and wellbeing, but I don’t think I really understood its impact on all aspects of the body and mind.
What is stress? How does it impact the body and mind? Why do we need to be aware of this?
Stress or pressure was defined by Hans Selye who first incorporated this term into medicine to describe the “nonspecific response of the body to any demand”. Recently, while researching for a presentation for ACNEM (Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine), I came across an article looking at stress which defined it as a “state of homeostasis being challenged”.
Stress is ‘something’ that disrupts the way things are at this moment or a situation that isn’t what you thought it would be. The article went on to look at stress as being a stimulus as well as a response by the body.
“So, what?” I hear you say.
Why does knowing about this help us? Awareness is the first step in any journey. If we don’t know why, then we can’t do something about it. Figuring out the root cause is the foundation of a functional medicine approach.
Firstly, realising that we have a response to a situation helps us to step back and see the situation. We can then consider how we are adding to it with our thinking and beliefs from the past or about the future. Can we let some of it go? I recently heard a podcast about the “hammers in the backpack that we carry,” the thinking and beliefs that we carry with us that we use to mould each situation.
Secondly, the body has an innate intelligence to protect us and keep us safe. With any situation that we perceive to be a pressure, or not the way we want it to be, or thought it should be, a stress response will be created in the body. This stress response changes our body’s biochemistry, and this is what can appear as symptoms like indigestion, constipation, headaches, and muscles aches. We see them as a problem, but the body is trying to protect us from its perceived sabre tooth tiger.
So, if we know this, we can ask ourselves: “why is my body asking me to stop and move away from ‘danger’?” What comes to your mind when you hear this question?
For me, sometimes it’s a “yes, I need to stop and rest;” sometimes it’s a “yeah but… I need to work… need to earn money….need to see someone etc“.
Let’s become more aware of our thinking and be kind to our body as it helps us navigate this world.