We generally define stress as something that causes emotional pain, anger, frustration, etc. But actually, your body is stressed any time that it has to undergo change, even a normal change. That means stress includes, but is not limited to:
Chemical: Polluted air, polluted water, environmental toxins, hygiene products, foods, preservatives, pesticides, digestive process, metabolic process, infections, hormones, medications
Emotional: Love, joy, anger, frustration
Physical: Going from sitting to standing up, temperature change, eating and digesting foods, exercises, postural changes, abnormal joint motion, pain
Electromagnetic: MRI, cellphone, live electrical, radio waves
We also generally think of stress as something negative, but it is not. The principles of exercise are based on stress. Push your body (apply physical stress) and the body will respond to that stress by increasing its capacity or ability to handle that same stress next time you exercise. Certainly love, joy, and anger are not bad. Digestion, postural changes, and food are all necessary for life, so they can’t be a bad thing. Nonetheless, they all cause or require changes in body function.
Stress only becomes a negative when your body can no longer compensate for the sum total of the stress that it is dealing with at any given moment. It doesn’t matter what type of stress it is: chemical, emotional physical, electromagnetic. When your body’s ability to compensate for stress starts to fail, you are going to experience a lowered state of function (i.e. health): reflux, fatigue, insomnia, allergies, pain, bloating, depression, anxiety, infection, etc.
For example let’s say Suzzie Stressor can handle 20 stress units (StU*) at any given time without any problems.
Every day Ms. Stressor’s day goes like this:
Wakes up and eats a doughnut (1StU*) and 1 cup of coffee (1StU*) – 2 StU*
Gets her three children ready for school and shuttles them to the bus stop – 3 StU*
Works out at the gym for an hour – 2 StU*
Has a salad for lunch – 1 StU*
Works on her computer for an hour – 1 StU*
Kids come home from school – 3 StU*
Has pizza and pop for supper – 2 StU*
Talks to her friend on the cell phone for an hour – 2 StU*
Ms. Stressor also has a bunion on her left foot – 2 StU*
Total = 18 StU*
Ms. Stressor normally enjoys good health. As long as her stress total is less than 20 StU’s* she has no real symptoms. This month however, her husband started to snore and she is consistently losing two hours of sleep each night. The sleep deprivation decreases her ability to handle stress. Now, instead of being able to handle 20 StU’s* she can only handle 18 StU’s*. In addition to not sleeping well she increased her coffee intake to three cups every morning. The two extra cups increase her total Stress Units to 20 StU*.
Ms. Stressor is now in trouble. Her body can’t maintain a balance any longer and she starts to experience symptoms. First a headache every morning adding 1 more StU*. She starts to take an aspirin every day adding another StU* for a total of 22 StU’s*. This brings on another symptom of poor digestion and bloating (2 StU) which she takes an acid blocker for (1 StU*) and on and on and on. You get the picture. Mrs. Stressor is falling into a pit that she will have a hard time getting out of unless things change.
Our job as holistic health practitioners is to increase your body’s ability to handle stress (improve sleep quality, reverse nutritional deficiencies – i.e increase the amount of StU’s* that you can handle). We also identify areas of unneeded or abnormal stress (pain, toxins, destructive thought patterns – i.e. the amount of StU’s* that you have to deal with) and eliminate them.
*StU – Stress Units. StU’s are not a real unit measure of stress but totally made up to help illustrate the point 🙂