In the first part of this two-part series, we discussed the distinct types of stresses and the effect that each has on the body. If you have not read that part, click here to review it before continuing (3 minute read).
If you’re like most people, you’ve identified various stressors from each category in your own life. Before you give up hope of a stress-free life, pause and reframe the way that we think about stress going forward. It’s abundantly clear that we cannot truly ELIMINATE stress from our life, and some experts have suggested that simply eliminating stress decreases the potential of the human experience by limiting our growth. Think of your last good workout – you imposed a very intense stress to your body with the understanding that as your body ADAPTS to that demand, you will grow (become stronger, leaner, more fit, etc.) Herein lies the secret to mitigating the negative effects of stress: adaptability.
When GOOD Stress Goes BAD
In his groundbreaking book “Stress Without Distress” Hans Selye proposes the terms “EUstress” (meaning good stress), and “DIStress” (meaning bad stress). How stress is classified has less to do with WHAT the stress is, but rather HOW the body responds the it (remember the example of too much water?)
He writes, “All agents to which we are exposed also produce a nonspecific increase in the * need to perform adaptive functions * and thereby * reestablish normalcy.” * “…It is immaterial whether the agent or situation we face is pleasant or unpleasant; all that counts is the intensity of demand for readjustment or adaptation.”
If you’re starting to see the common theme, true stress resilience lies in the adaptability of the body. Therefore, to mitigate the negative effects of stress, effort should be made to facilitate the body’s mechanisms of adaptation. Meet the demand and grow rather than becoming overwhelmed by the demand!
In a nutshell, the focus of adaptability is in maximizing stress resilience while identifying and addressing stress vulnerabilities. Stress resilience in the body is mainly controlled by the autonomic nervous system. This system can be compared to the operating system of your laptop or device – it runs constantly in the background to maximize performance. While your phone’s operating system searches for wifi signals, preserves battery life, and constantly receives texts/calls/emails, your body’s operating system performs its functions – breathing, temperature regulation, heart rate, digestions etc. All these processes occur automatically, in normal conditions. As you encounter stressors of all varieties, this system works to make the appropriate adaptation. When this system is not functioning optimally, the accumulated un-adapted stressors begin to overwhelm the body, even if no symptoms are apparent.
Stress vulnerability includes all of your genetic predispositions, environmental factors, and accumulated wear and tear. To again quote Selye, “In the body, as in a chain, the weakest link breaks down under stress though all parts are equally exposed to it.”
Finding The “Weak Link” in The Chain
If you’ve read this far then you understand the diverse types of stresses, how the effect the body, and how the concepts of stress resilience and stress vulnerability determine how you experience the effects of stress. All that is left for you is to identify your primary vulnerability.
In terms of adaptability, the balance of the autonomic nervous system is the primary vulnerability for most people. Since this system of the body controls and coordinates the adaptive mechanisms of the body, it MUST be functioning optimally. “Adverse mechanical cord tension” is term used to describe the effects of abnormal structural stability and alignment of the spine. The most superior portion of the spine (also known as the upper cervical spine) is the most mobile and susceptible to injury – the weakest link. Slips, falls, car accidents, sports injuries, and more can introduce forces to this area of the spine that cause it to become unstable and lose its proper alignment and biomechanical function. The attachments between this region of the spine and the brainstem/spinal cord (the main “fiber optic” cable) creates a mechanism by which “adverse mechanical cord tension” can result with abnormal alignment.
This particular “structural stress” on the body can decrease blood flow to and from the brain, distort nerve signals, and strain the discs, ligaments, and muscles that support the spine. These effects decrease the adaptability of the body by creating a demand that must be met by postural compensation.
Start With a Firm Foundation
By addressing structural stress within the spine (the body’s foundation), additional reserves of energy are made available to meet the chemical and emotional demands of life. As this area improves, then you can systematically address those other areas of vulnerability including the mental/emotional and chemical categories. To find out if you are living with abnormal structural stress, consult with a Doctor of Chiropractic who focuses in correcting abnormal alignment in the superior region of the spine (upper cervical spine). Colorado Springs Doctor John Stenberg focusing in the Blair method of NeuroStructural Correction which identifies Atlas Displacement and creates an individualized program of correction.