As a Chiropractor, I am primarily a doctor of the nervous system. My job is to find and treat areas of tension in my client's bodies that have come about in response to stressors. In a world where 'busyness' is often glorified, we see more and more patients whose systems are overloaded with stress, which is contributing greatly to symptoms showing up in their bodies.
We have two types of input into our nervous system – sympathetic and parasympathetic. Sympathetic responses are what is known as your "fight or flight" stress response, whereas a parasympathetic response is what we call "rest and digest, feed and breed' response. In a sympathetic response, the body is reacting and bracing itself against stress, so it goes into survival mode, ready to run, fight and do whatever it takes to survive. This is when our body is using adrenaline and cortisol hormones to run. A parasympathetic response is when our body is in a calm and relaxed state, so the body knows it is safe to spend its energy on healing, detoxing, digesting and reproduction.
Both of these responses are healthy and necessary responses for our survival. We need both. If we were always resting, we would never get anything done! We need some stress to get our bodies going. Things begin to become problematic when we have too many stress responses and our body is unable to catch its breath, so to speak.
Our body reacts the same way to any type of stress, whether that be from a physical, chemical or emotional cause. Stress from trying to get yourself to work on time while being stuck in traffic looks the same to your brain as running away from a vicious animal, or dealing with financial or relationship stress. Your body still releases the same hormones and reacts the same way.
So, while it is impossible to eliminate all stress out of our lives, it is possible to manage our stress and being aware of the processes happening in our bodies is the first step. Here are 5 tips you can use to help manage your stress response to shifting your body out of a sympathetic, stress state and into a parasympathetic, rest state.
- Check-in through the day to see how you are breathing. Are you hunched forward over a computer, phone or in your car? It is physically impossible to take a deep breath into your belly when your body is hunched forward. Try rolling your shoulders back, drawing your head up nice and tall and breathing deeply into your belly (rather than shallowly into your chest), through your nose and out through your mouth. Try it now to see how instantly this creates calm in your body.
- Try getting some blue-light blocking glasses for when you are working at a screen or on your phone. The artificial, blue light that our devices give off, is now known to increase the production of stress hormone in our body. There are so many brands online that sell blue-blocking glasses now. Avoiding screens is impossible nowadays, so these artificial-light filtering lenses are a great way to manage our exposure.
- Opening up your chest during the day to counteract the round-back posture that is so hard to avoid with all the sitting we do these days. You can use a long, foam roller or tightly roll up a towel, lay with the roller running along your spine, not across it, with arms out to the sides, palms up, to help open up your chest area. This is a great way to release stress in your body.
- Make sure you feed yourself with food that gives you stable energy throughout the day so that your nervous system isn't crashing with the highs and lows of too much caffeine, sugar or refined carbohydrates. Your meals don't have to be anything difficult, just make sure you are getting fibre from veggies, protein and healthy fats in your meals. This helps to release energy into your system slowly vs. quick hits of energy that spike and fall quickly, causing your system to feel irritated, weak, emotional or easily stressed.
DR SOMALA JACOBS
Dr Somala Jacobs had her first chiropractic adjustment as an infant and has been under chiropractic care ever since. Experiencing first hand the incredible impact chiropractic has had on her own health as well as the health of her family, Dr Somala was inspired to become a chiropractor herself.
Dr Somala views health as multi-faceted and recognises that there are physical, chemical and emotional aspects that contribute to our overall wellbeing. Prior to completing her double degree in Chiropractic and Health Science at RMIT where she graduated with distinction, she studied Clinical Nutrition for which she holds a diploma and also became a Certified Health Coach.
Dr Somala's goal and passion as a chiropractor is to facilitate her patient's health goals through various treatment techniques as well as educating and working together with her patients to achieve those goals. Different techniques allow Dr Somala to tailor-make each treatment to meet her patients where they are at, to move forward in their wellness journey.
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