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  • Writer's pictureNarelle

What about stress as an obstacle?

Last month we looked at the idea of an “Obstacle to Cure”, something that gets in the way of us being able to return to a state of good health. Essentially an obstacle to cure will limit the capacity of any treatment to help. The obvious ones are the things such as diet, exercise, smoking. Others are more subtle and insidious.

Stress is like poking the fire.

It is is a modern problem. Our busy lives are relentless with continuous high demands imposed on us by work, family, and our lifestyle. Plus demands we impose upon ourselves through our desire to accomplish and achieve. Chronic pressure takes a toll on our health and wellbeing.

So what does stress do?

Well that depends on what stage you are at and there are three of them.

Let’s call Stage 1 the “Oh Sh#t! There is a big bear chasing me”

This is the acute or alarm phase and is the firing up or initial activation of the stress response. We see the bear, our heart drops, we may do a little wee in our pants and then we promptly direct all our energy into either fighting it (not always a good option if a bear is involved), freezing (in the hope it won’t see us - again probably not the best choice), or fleeing (I recommend this one especially if you can start off stealth so it doesn't see you).

We will call Stage 2 the “Seriously! When will that bear just find another human to eat”.

This is the resistance phase and happens when stress persists. It is like a stamina phase where that bear has been chasing us for awhile and we need to adapt our response so we can keep running. Our clever body realises it could be running for awhile and releases some survival preserving hormones.

So we keep running from the bear which is probably the best choice from the selection above but it does have some other changes in our bodies including inflammation, blood pressure issues, blood sugar issues, lowered immune response and our reproductive hormones can be so disrupted we could oscillate between hot flushing like we are powering a small nation and bleeding for days (again neither great choices).

And then we reach Stage 3 or the “I am done! The Stupid bear can just eat me”*

We have reached exhaustion, burn out and we are knackered.

Somewhere between Stage 2 and Stage 3 we can become uninterested in life - no motivation, energy or spirit, eating salty or sugary foods, irritable and mood swings, overwhelmed, cannot think straight, headaches, no libido, PMS to kill, overweight and we keep getting sick all the time.

Did I mention fatigue is your constant companion but particularly when you wake tired after a good nights sleep?

And once people get really depleted they can cross into more medical conditions such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Chronic and recurrent infections where you just keep getting sick all the time.

Now clearly we are unlikely to come across a bear chasing us in downtown Melbourne.

So what else can cause stress?

Well really stress can be anything. It can be an emotional crisis such as the death of a loved one, a divorce or planning a wedding. It can be physical such as surgery or an accident. It can be internally driven for example your perceptions on life or your attitude toward self. Job or career challenges, job loss even promotion result in added stress. Financial pressure, raising children and life changes such as adolescence, ageing, pregnancy and menopause can result in excess stress.

And then there are the main things we are doing daily - our day to day habits like lack of sleep, poor food choices, perfectionism, feeling overwhelmed and stuck in a situation,

And the more tired and rundown we are, the more “busy” we are, the less time we have for ourselves, the more we give without replenishing, the more we eat poorly and use alcohol to take the edge off, the more stress will impact us. It is when we cannot handle the stress we start to experience the symptoms and disease of stress.

A vicious circle. A cycle we can struggle to break impacting us physically, mentally and emotionally. And just like lack of sleep (see last months blog ) it can really make it difficult to feel well and winning at life. Plus its insidious nature means we can fail to recognise it and feel like we have little control over it.

There is no quick fix cure for stress. You cannot just quit your job, run away from home or stop those you love from dying, Stress is part of our modern life and is likely to always be there in some form. What we can do is manage it without creating more stress in the process, and Naturopathy offers great support.

Don’t let stress (or sleep) be the thing preventing a happier and healthier you.

*Which in the wild it just may eat you so best to keep running.

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