In the wake of the Covid-19 Crisis and the panic that has followed, it’s important to manage and reduce stress so that it doesn’t make you sick!
I know! I get it! It’s so tempting to stay glued to the news looking for hope or new information, but it seems the news is just feeding this frenzy and heightening the stress levels of everyone watching. While small doses of stress is actually good for you, high stress without relief can make you sick!
Stress Increases Cortisol Production
When you are stressed, your sympathetic nervous system jumps into action and your body begins producing more of the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol works to prepare your body to “run away” from or “fight” the threat. Despite the date on the calendar (2020), our brains still operate at a primitive level, more like in the days of cavemen and dinosaurs. Our “Fight or Flight” response in caveman days was meant to save our lives. By increasing cortisol/adrenaline release, increasing our heart rate, increasing blood supply to our largest muscle groups, and improving our alertness, we gain a better ability to either fight off a saber-toothed tiger or to turn and run from it.
High Cortisol From Mental Stress Suppresses The Immune System And Other Important Bodily Functions
We’ve established that our bodies believe we will be either fighting or running at any minute. In order to do this, our bodies must re-direct energy from some systems to supply the blood and oxygen to the muscles needed to do the running or the fighting. One system that gets tapped out when high stress is present, is the immune system. When we’re stressed, the immune system’s ability to fight off antigens is reduced. That is why we are more susceptible to infections. Cortisol can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system (e.g. lowers the number of lymphocytes).
But, that’s not all, Cortisol/Adrenaline decreases digestion…because, it would be pretty inconvenient to have to use the bathroom while fighting off or running from a man-eating saber-toothed tiger, right? Have you noticed that you may have a bit of constipation or some digestive issues pop up or worsen when under stress?
All of these changes are normal and healthy, life-saving physiologic responses to stress. The only problem is, in this day and age, we aren’t cavepeople fighting for our lives on a daily basis. We are just a community of people worried for our older loved ones, scared about the changes in the stock market, upset about our own loss of income, or contemplating what will happen when our last roll of toilet paper is gone.
Our brains can’t distinguish between life-threatening emergency situations and work stress or traffic jam stress or “there aren’t enough hours in the day” stress or “how will this Corona Virus affect me” stress. Once the adrenaline is triggered and released, it’s “game on” for the rest of your body. Sitting in your car or sitting at your desk or on your couch, you have no use for an increased heart rate, or slower digestion and increased blood supply to your muscles. Without a physical release for this response, we become a bundle of nervous energy.
I’m stressed. You’re stressed. What do we do?
Get Your Spine Adjusted by your Chiropractor
Chiropractic adjustments have been known to affect the autonomic nervous system by helping to down-regulate the sympathetic nervous system and promote parasympathetic activity. Yes! Your Chiropractic Adjustments help to reduce your stress response! This is the same way that adjustments help people with anxiety, digestive issues, sleep disturbances and of course pain
Relax with Acupuncture Treatments
Acupuncture treatments also serve to tonify (boost) the inner organ systems and can correct minor annoyances before they become serious problems. The ultra-thin needles don’t hurt and are inserted just under the skin. The practitioner may twist or “stimulate” them once or twice, and they are removed within 10 to 20 minutes.
One particularly important point to attend to is Du 14. Located below the spinous process of the seventh cervical vertebrae, approximately at the level where the collar of a T-shirt sits on the neck. Du 14 activates the circulation of blood and Qi to strengthen the outer defense layers of the skin and muscle (wei qi) so that germs and viruses cannot enter through them.
This point is often used to ward off, as well as shorten, the duration colds and flu.
This would be a great point to place an acupuncture needle, magnet or pellet before going on a flight. Ask Dr. Hoch for more information.
Get Some Exercise
Exercise is a good way to deal with stress because it is a healthy way to relieve your pent-up energy and tension. It also helps you get in better shape, which makes you feel better overall. By getting physically active, you can decrease your levels of anxiety and stress and elevate your moods. Numerous studies have shown that people who begin exercise programs, either at home or at work, demonstrate a marked improvement in their ability to concentrate, are able to sleep better, suffer from fewer illnesses, suffer from less pain and report a much higher quality of life than those who do not exercise. This is even true of people who had not begun an exercise program until they were in their 40s, 50s, 60s or even 70s. So if you want to feel better and improve your quality of life, get active!
Skip The Sugar
If you have been following me, read my posts and blogs, or heard one of my lectures, then you have definitely learned something about the health-damaging effects of sugar. Sugar consumption will reduce or shut down white blood cell (immune cells) production, destroy beneficial gut flora, increase risk of heart disease, raise blood pressure (by causing inflammation and depleting magnesium), deplete other nutrients like B vitamins, feed cancer cells, raise cholesterol, and so much more. In times of high stress, it’s important to ditch the sugar and eat healthy.
Listen to Soothing sounds
The soothing power of music is well-established. It has a unique link to our emotions, so can be an extremely effective stress management tool. Listening to music can have a tremendously relaxing effect on our minds and bodies. Music can have a beneficial effect on our physiological functions, slowing the pulse and heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing the levels of stress hormones.
We are all in this together. Stay calm and try some of the tips listed here to keep your nervous system and your stress in check.