It's seems as if life gets busier and more complicated every day and most of us aren't immune to the stress our lifestyles deliver. Emotional stressors are situations in our lives that make us feel unsafe. Imagined or real, our bodies and brains perceive stressors as threats to our physical, emotional or spiritual wellness. But how we choose to cope with these emotional stressors is critical to our overall health and well-being.
"Stress can cause a response of distress or eustress," explains Dr. Carl Heath, D.C., Chiropractic Director of Chiro One Wellness Center of Colleyville, Texas. "Distress breaks the body down, while eustress motivates and builds you up." Dr. Carl gives the example of running a 5K race. "If a person who's unfit and untrained decides he's going to run a 5K, this might put his body and mind into immediate distress. But the opposite would be true for a regular, fit runner who thrives on the challenge and experiences eustress."
Our stressors are certainly more complex than deciding to run a 5K and they're definitely different for everyone. "For some, stress comes from working too much, for others it comes from not working enough," explains Dr. Carl. "It all depends on whether or not you're fulfilling your emotional needs." Is what you're doing each day getting you closer to living the life you want to live? If not, it's likely adding to your stress.
Acute vs. Chronic
Acute and chronic stress affect our bodies in different ways. Acute stress is a reaction to a specific event or problem like a job interview, an argument or even something positive like winning a tennis match. These types of emotional stressors trigger the "fight or flight" response our bodies are usually able to handle.
Chronic stress however, such as dealing with a divorce or ongoing financial woes, can be extremely damaging to the body. "Chronic stress raises our levels of cortisol," explains Dr. Carl. "This stress hormone causes increased inflammation, which contributes to major illness like heart disease, autoimmune disorders, obesity, pain, digestive issues and more."
Handle Stress More Effectively
Of course, exercise and healthy eating better prepare you to deal with stress, but what else can you do? "From as far back as the teachings of Hippocrates and Aristotle, we know that true wellness comes from caring for not just the physical, but also the mental and spiritual parts of ourselves," says Dr. Carl. He recommends the following:
Evaluate. Evaluate your own physical, mental and spiritual self to determine if you're living in alignment with your goals for your life. If you aren't achieving your goals, make healthy changes. "If you're under stress, you need to focus on decompressing," he says. "Talk with a friend, meditate, journal, take walks … do things that make you feel more in control and refreshed."
Try Chiropractic. Ongoing chiropractic care is an effective way to cope with stress according to Dr. Carl. "A proper functioning nervous system is vital to turning distress into eustress because it increases the body's ability to adapt and respond," he says.
Educate. Finally, Dr. Carl advises we strengthen our minds to deal with stress more effectively and to see alternative viewpoints about our challenges. He recommends two books, The Breakthrough Experience by Dr. John Demartini and Excuses Begone! by Wayne Dyer. "Managing stress is key to making sure you're as healthy as you can be," Dr. Carl says.