Wellness Articles

Adapting to Stress: Body and Mind

Health is a state of well being in three distinct areas: 1. Physical, 2. Mental and 3. Social.

A negatively stressful life will rarely lead to a healthy body.  A struggling, desperate individual will likely experience illness despite following most of the other important rules of wellness.  Even if you could be healthy while experiencing stress, you’d just be a healthy miserable person.  And, who wants that?

On the other hand, someone who has peace of mind, knows who he or she is, works hard to emerge victorious over struggles and experiences loving relationships will very likely enjoy ongoing good health.  If you’re not having a good time living in your body, it’s hard for that body to be well or for you to call it healthy.  The fact is, you can’t separate your wellness from your emotions.  Every feeling you have affects some part of your body.

“Celebrations and tragedies alike cause a stress response in the body.  Some stress is unavoidable.”

All feelings create physiologic change.  Skin, heart rate, digestion, joints, muscle energy levels, the hair on your head and endless cells and systems you don’t even know about change with every emotion.  These changes can be called the stress response.

The only stress-free people on the planet can be visited at any local cemetery.  On the other hand, stress becomes negative only when:

  • Your response to it is negative.
  • Your feelings and emotions are inappropriate for the circumstances.
  • Your response lasts an excessively long time.
  • You are feeling continuously overwhelmed, overpowered and overwrought from circumstance.

Our personality and emotions are not pre-determined and pre-programmed as we once thought.  You are not who you perceive yourself to be!  Many of us feel stuck inside a brain that doesn’t work the way we want it to.  What science has discovered is that we control our genes, they don’t control us!

Although your DNA is your basic blueprint, it is triggered by our attitude and environment.  By beginning to embrace and cooperate with life and recognizing how powerful you are, you can start to have a spirit of overcoming, experiencing positive, healthy stress, rather than living as a victim in a state of overwhelm and negative stress.

Stress has become a serious health hazard.  If you don’t get a handle on it quick, stress can take a huge toll on your physical, mental and social well-being.  Let me share with you the simplest way to turn stress into your ally and not your enemy…

Regular chiropractic adjustments are the quickest and most effective way to reduce stress to your nerve system.  Spinal nerve stress caused by a vertebral subluxation is a dangerous mechanism that damages nerves, weakens health and depletes energy stores.  Many people may walk around with a painless subluxation for years without knowing it.  Doctors of chiropractic are professionals who specialize in correcting vertebral subluxations, the cause of spinal nerve stress, which leads to increased energy, improved health and a rejuvenated body.

Cause and Effect

Many changes have been swirling around us in the world lately.  I have finally turned off my television because there is too much bad news out there and not nearly enough stories of hope and the promise of stronger rebound.  A couple of days ago I was talking to one of the members of our staff and explaining that adversity is not always the pit of doom that it seems at first glance.  I have fallen more than once from what I thought was the ultimate position in life for me and each time I have bounced back higher than I was before.  Sometimes people have to hit the ground hard before they can be prepared for the higher levels of blessings available to them when rebound occurs.  Although there has been complete devastation in New Orleans and the surrounding areas, rest assured the people there will be given even more than they had before.  The city will be restored more beautifully and the levee system will be forged so that this type of disaster can be avoided in the future.  On a recent trip to New York this was proven.  Go there and visit the site of the World Trade Center, formerly known as Ground Zero.  The people of New York are changing the name in preparation for new, more magnificent buildings to represent hope and steadfast belief in the strength of the human spirit.  The people of New York are warm and welcoming of visitors and are happy to see us Southerners enjoying their beautiful city.  The tragic events of September 11, 2001 served as a huge wake-up call for New York, and there is a palpable difference in people there.  Of course nothing will be the same as before for people recovering from any type of disaster, but renewal brings with it the promise of something better. 

I spent a large part of my life resisting change.  I finally learned, however, that change is inevitable and the true test of emotional maturity is how one reacts to change.  In writing recently about managing stress I realized that one of the best ways to reduce life’s stresses is to be the cause of change rather than always being the buffer for the effects of it.  In learning in my own life to be the cause of change I have come to embrace it and to grow at a faster rate as the result of it.  If being in a comfort zone all the time is what we expect from life, certain stagnation will follow.  No growth can occur when everything remains the same.  Stagnation breeds complacency and complacency opens the doors for us to be blindsided.

I receive the newsletter from my church in Savannah each month, and a recent issue contains a parable that I am borrowing for my column this week.  The story is told of a young woman whose complaints to her mother were that she could not go on because her life was so full of problems.  She said she was tired of struggling.  Her mother took her to the kitchen, filled three pots with water, and put them on a high fire to boil.  In one she placed a carrot, in one and egg, and in one some ground coffee beans.  After the pots boiled for a short time the mother fished out the carrot and placed it on the drain board, then the egg, and finally she ladled out the coffee into a cup.  The mother then explained that each of these things had experienced the same stress (boiling water), yet each reacted differently.

The carrot was initially strong and firm.  However, after being subjected to the boiling water it became soft and weak.  The egg had been fragile.  Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior.  After sitting in the boiling water, its inside became hardened.  The ground coffee beans were unique.  After they were in the boiling water they actually changed the water rather than succumbing to the effects of the water and allowing it to change them.  Straining the ground coffee beans left water flavored with delicious coffee and the ground beans were still intact. 

”You can choose which you want to be like,” she told her daughter.  “Adversity knocks on your door.  How do you respond?  Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?”

In dealing with the various outside influences that disrupt the smooth flow of our lives, it truly is our choice how we respond to them.   Internal stress is often the result of feeling out of control of our circumstances.  If we focus on being in control and at cause rather than at effect, we can all flourish and prosper in the face of adversity.

Will you be the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity becomes weak and wilts?  Will you be the egg that starts with a fluid spirit and soft heart but with exposure to the heat becomes stiff and hardened?  Or will you be like the ground coffee beans?  The crushed beans actually change the hot water (the very circumstances that brought trauma).  It is only with the hot water that the beans release the true gifts of their aroma and flavor.

Like everyone else, I have made some difficult choices in my life.  It might have been easier for me to take a quiet job where I would blend in with everyone else, but something drives me to be a voice for change and to help others to make a significant difference in their daily experiences.  I could have been a general practitioner in the medical field and been accepted by everyone just because of my title, but I chose the “red headed stepchild” (my apologies to the lovely redheads out there) of the health care providers.  It is sometimes difficult being a chiropractor and having always to defend my position but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.  There is nothing better than changing the water for me.  Treat your spirit well.

Benefits of Massage

Do you ever have trouble finding just the right gift for the person who has everything?   One suggestion is something that will not only be unique for the person who has everything but will benefit him or her as well.  That gift is the gift of therapeutic massage.  I have written in the past about the need for humans to deal with and reduce stress rather than carry it around and hope it will go away.  In addition to my regular chiropractic adjustments, one of my favorite ways to reduce stress is to have full body massages.  This idea is foreign to many but as massage becomes more readily available to us it would be helpful if more people understood what it is and how it can be beneficial as part of a regimen of natural health care.  I was surprised to learn recently that when some people hear the word “massage” they think of massage parlors that were actually just covers for brothels in days past.  Therapeutic massage is as far from a brothel as is a doctor’s office, and I thought I would share some information on the subject with you.

Massage has been used for thousands of years as Chinese medical texts document.  Many different methods of massage were used to loosen muscle tissue and to relieve pain.  The techniques that most massage therapists use today are based on the principles of Swedish Massage which was developed in the late 19th century by a Swedish gymnast named Per Henrik Ling.  The system developed by Mr. Ling is a systematic application of pressure and motion on the muscular and ligamentous tissues in the body in an effort to relieve tension in these areas.  While that seems simple enough, there is much more that happens as a result of getting a massage than meets the eye.

 A tremendous amount of research has been done on the effects of massage on the body.  Massage can relieve muscle tension related to stress as well as muscle soreness from overworking.  A trained massage therapist can locate stress points in the body and work them out so that the body’s response to stress and muscular soreness is much more palatable.  Sometimes massage therapists work on trigger points, which are areas of the muscle where blood is not flowing properly and knots form.  This sometimes doesn’t feel great at the moment but a tremendous sense of relief is the result of a good trigger point session.  If you get a deep tissue massage to work on really stubborn areas, the body might feel a little bit sore as a result.  Drinking plenty of good, clean water will help to rinse away any toxins that might cause this soreness.

Massage has been shown to stimulate the flow of the lymphatic system, and this eases the elimination of toxic substances that would otherwise tend to build up in the body.  There are entire massage techniques which are built solely on the different methods of aiding lymphatic drainage.  This helps the immune system work more efficiently.  Increasing lymphatic circulation can also reduce edema (swelling) in certain instances.  With less edema comes less pain.

When you get massaged, you go into a state of deeper relaxation than normal.  As you become more relaxed, you tend to breathe more deeply. Having deeper respirations increases the body’s rate of oxygenation and thereby promotes a clearer mind and a more restful state.  The body’s  healing processes are sped up if the body is resting.  That is why one of the cornerstones of good health is the assurance that you get plenty of rest.

Massage also promotes the release of chemicals called endorphins in the body.  Endorphins are hormone-like chemicals produced in the brain that have a close functional relationship to morphine.  This makes the brain a factory for its own pain-control substances.  The other phenomenon associated with endorphins is that they serve an antidepressant function.  Heavy exercise also produces endorphins and results in the infamous “runner’s high.”  Massage is a way to experience the pain-relieving effects of endorphins without the vigorous output on your part.

The potential benefits of massage are numerous, and can be more completely explained by a trained massage therapist.  Always ask about a therapist’s education, certification, and licensure.  Although Georgia doesn’t have strict licensing requirements for massage therapists, graduates from approved schools can take a national certification test which is standardized and assures you that basic knowledge about specific techniques is mastered.  With many natural aids to healing available to us, we can bring about a better state of being and thereby make our world a little bit better place to live.  Treat your body and your spirit well.