If you are experiencing some kind of stress – you’re not alone. In a 2015 report by the Australian Psychological Society, 35% of Australians reported having a significant level of distress in their lives, with anxiety symptoms the highest they have been during the reporting period of 5 years. The top three causes of stress were personal finances, family issues and personal health. (1)
If you’re a parent – the stresses can be numerous. Being a parent isn’t easy. New parents experience stress due to fatigue and learning how be parents to the newest addition to the family. Returning to work after parental leave can cause stress with time management, long days and finances around daycare. Stresses of every day life can lead to stress and tension between the parents. And then there’s the stress of whether you’re a good parent or not – we all feel judged, even though our harshest critics are usually ourselves. Sometimes it can feel like its never ending, and that’s the big issue – for some people, the stresses never end.
So what is the big issue with stress?
Stress is a part of life, yeah? Is it really such an issue? Well, it really depends on how long you’ve been under stress for, and what you do to manage it.
The body is well equipped to manage stressful situations. However, it is primarily designed to respond to an acute stressor, and once it has been dealt with return back to a more relaxed state. The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is in charge of this response. There are two parts to this – the sympathetic, and the parasympathetic, and only one part can be activated at a time. The sympathetic side is what we know as “fight or flight”. The parasympathetic is known as “rest, (reproduce) and digest”. And just by saying that these can only work one at a time, you can probably already start to see how being in a constant state of high stress may effect your body. (2)
The sympathetic nervous system is in charge of increasing cortisol and other hormones, increasing heart rate, blood pressure and sweat, dilating pupils, contracting muscles and getting the body into a heightened state of arousal, allowing us to deal with the stressor. (3)
The parasympathetic nervous system is in charge of regulating digestion, relaxing muscles, constricting the pupils, reducing heart rate and blood pressure, regulating the reproductive system and plays a role in sexual arousal – all functions of a calm and relaxed state in the body.
If you remember the point that only one of these can be activated at a time, what it means is that if you are in a constant state of high stress and your sympathetic nervous system is continually activated, then the functions of the parasympathetic nervous system cannot occur.
What might this look like?
* Digestive issues such as IBS, bloating, constipation or diarrhoea
* Light sensitivity
* Neck and shoulder tightness or tension
* High blood pressure
* Interrupted sleep
* Low energy and libido
* Recurring infections/colds
* Excess sweating
* Irregular or rapid heartbeat
* Irritability and becoming easily agitated
* Quick to anger
* Feeling overwhelmed
* Difficulty losing weight, sugar or salt cravings. (4)
Some of the long term effects prolonged stress include mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety, hormonal imbalances, fertility issues, gallbladder problems, thyroid imbalances and hair loss. (2)
So, how can I help you?
In a perfect world, the best way to deal with stress is to remove the stress. But we all know this is not a perfect world, and it’s not as simple as waving a magic wand (but how cool would THAT be!).
As a Naturopath, what I can do for you is support you and help manage your stress and reduce the impact it has on you while you are working through whatever it is that is causing you stress.
There are many wonderful ways that we can do this. After taking a full health history, I will formulate a treatment plan with you. This is not about me fixing you – this is about working with you to create a new world, with small changes, where you are better able to cope with what’s going on in your life – and beyond that start feeling happier and more at ease. We’ll work with stress reduction techniques that are tailored to suit you and your lifestyle.
You may also have prescriptions such as herbal and nutritional medicine, massage, homeopathy, dietary adjustments or lifestyle recommendations to help reduce the effects of stress on your body, and bring you back into a more relaxed and balanced state. If needed, we can work in conjunction with other healthcare practitioners to ensure you get all you need for your individual circumstances. This can take time – and I am here to support you through your journey.
APS. APS Stress and Wellbeing in Australia Survey 20152017 15 March 2017. Available from: http://www.psychology.org.au/psychologyweek/survey/results-stress-and-wellbeing/.
Todd W. Sd Protocol: Achieve Greater Health and Wellbeing: Sympathetic Dominance: BookBaby; 2016.
ScienceDaily. Sympathetic nervous system2016 28/04/17. Available from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/sympathetic_nervous_system.htm.
WebMD. The effects of stress on your body 2017 [Available from: http://www.webmd.boots.com/stress-management/physical-stress-symptoms.
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