Ahhh…the holidays…snow falling lightly, children running around in wide eyed wonder and…crazy traffic, jammed shopping malls and over extended and frazzled people. Fa la la la la! Every year we encounter the same issues – patients that are so short on time they are super stressed, busy running in every which way, skipping their own appointments or gym time to accommodate all the holiday “To Do” lists. Do you know what all that stress is doing to your body? Are you developing headaches, back spasms, neck pain, irritability, lethargy or a sore jaw (from clenching at all the SLOW people in line in front of you??)? Any and all of these symptoms can occur as a result of stress.
Stress is defined as : any factor that has an effect on the body – Good or Bad. The body’s response to stress is how it responds to change. And, good or bad – your body responds to all change the same way. An “event” happens and goes to the brain for processing. At this time your brain sends signals affecting hormone release and activating your nervous system. The hormones released increase blood sugar levels, breaking up proteins for energy it perceives your body needs and INHIBITS THE IMMUNE SYSTEM. In the nervous system, your FIGHT OR FLIGHT response is initiated and your body kicks it up a gear to deal with the stress. Sometimes this is great – such as in a sporting event these natural changes help an athlete push their body to perform at it’s best. The response is short, has a definite end point and then a recovery period so everything can go back down to normal in your body. The problem lies in CUMULATIVE stresses with little recovery time in between, meaning you are constantly pushing your body at this elevated state until it decides to protest. In protest your body will produce symptoms to get your attention hence the headaches, tight muscles and sleepless nights.
So what do we do when all this stress builds up? Reduce or eliminate caffeine. Drink pure water. Eat less saturated fats (maybe difficult during the holidays!). Get your body moving. Emotionally help yourself! Laugh often. Stuck in a big line at Canada Post? Take a deep breath and focus on some nice glittering decoration. Getting frustrated does not help. Before reacting to stressful events, STOP and THINK. Is your response appropriate to the situation or are you “flying off the handle”? BOOK YOUR TIME – is this to take a short walk in the evening and admire the Christmas lights, or getting in your gym time you need to take care of you! And lastly, celebrate silence. Take 10 minutes out in a day and do… NOTHING. Stare at a blank wall. Literally. Doing nothing can reduce blood pressure, anxiety and stress. Remember, non-doing is a CONSCIOUS act and is not DOING NOTHING!