Stress: a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.
Adaptation: a change by which an organism or species becomes better suited to its environment.
“Psychological stress is associated with greater risk for depression, heart disease and infectious diseases. Until now, it has not been clear exactly how stress influences disease and health. Chronic psychological stress is associated with the body losing its ability to regulate the inflammatory response. Inflammation is partly regulated by the hormone cortisol and when cortisol is not allowed to serve this function, inflammation can get out of control. Prolonged stress alters the effectiveness of cortisol to regulate the inflammatory response because it decreases tissue sensitivity to the hormone. Specifically, immune cells become insensitive to cortisol’s regulatory effect. In turn, runaway inflammation is thought to promote the development and progression of many diseases.”
–– Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, April 2012
Stress is biological. Stress is basically any sudden change on a system. If that system can’t adapt to the stress, the system could fail. When an antelope is sitting quietly in the Serengeti eating grass, it is usually calm. But when it notices an approaching lion, that all goes away. This is when stress kicks in. When the lion gives chase, the stress gets even higher. The antelope runs in fear while the lion runs ready for a fight. Both animals have a bunch of things happening internally:
All of these things are controlled by the sympathetic nervous system. This makes sense for any animal in flight or fight mode. After the chase, the antelope, if the lion doesn’t get it, will go back to eating as if it never happened. Stress is a survival mode, a response to adverse stimuli. This stress can be external, like the lion, or internal, like a virus or injury.
We humans have the same systems in dealing with stress. The problem with us is that our stress isn’t always from lions chasing us. Our stresses come from other things like our jobs, traffic, money issues, poor diet and environmental toxins. So when we get home from a stressful day at work, the stress is only gone for a few hours. We know what’s going to happen in the morning: more of the same stress. Add to this all the other factors that lead to stresses – mental, physical and chemical. And we find that unlike our antelope, we never get the chance to return to life as normal. We get stuck in the flight-or-fight mode, and let our sympathetic nervous system continues to dominate. The basis of health is adaptation! Whether it is to temperature changes outside or strep throat, your body is designed to change to the circumstances it faces every second of your life. When our bodies become stuck in this mode, we are no longer adapting. Adaptation is changing in-line with the changes around and inside of us.
So what can you do about this? The easiest thing to do is use simple stress management techniques. The other is to go see your chiropractor to have your nervous system checked for stresses. At our practice we use a infrared thermographic instruments to measure skin surface temperatures – A direct function of the parasympathetic system. This idea has been around since the days Hippocrates who used a slurry of clay on patients’ backs to see how their nervous systems were functioning. If your nervous system isn’t working well to adapt, we will work with you to help you and your body adapt better to stress!