Stress & Health
We are constantly subjected to various forms of stress in our daily lives. A certain amount is necessary, to provide us with challenges, and to stimulate us to strive for survival and progress. For example, a mind that is not challenged by problems to be solved becomes bored. To maintain and strengthen muscles, they must be provided with the mechanical stress of exercise.
The body is designed to be self-healing. It has mechanisms that constantly monitor every function that is taking place, and is continuously adapting to both external influences and stresses, and to internal changes and stresses.
Health may be defined as: The body’s ability to constructively deal with all the stresses to which it is subjected. In this way it is constantly repairing itself, and maintaining its optimum level of efficient functioning.
Certain stress factors will cause a temporary reduction of the body’s efficiency, or health, eg. a strained muscle will be stiff and painful for a few days; then it will return to its normal condition.
The body is capable of healing wounds and fractures, counteracting harmful chemicals, adapting to sudden changes in temperature, etc.
Stress becomes a negative, destructive factor in life when it goes beyond the individual’s ability to adapt to it. Overload is reached and instead of the stress being released from the body, it becomes stored within the body as “body stress”. As we differ in our emotional and physical makeup, we have varying degrees of susceptibility to stress overload.
THE CAUSES OF BODY STRESS
Emotional / Mental Stress Factors
These include fear of the future, financial worries, competition in the work-place, disintegrating family relationships. At times we experience sudden violent emotions, such as anger or shock, or we undergo milder but ongoing forms of mental strain, eg. anxiety, depression, and resentment.
We may become aware of the physical effect of emotional pressures, as the diaphragm, jaw, neck and shoulders tighten in a defensive posture, to armour us against the onslaught of life’s stresses.
Mechanical Stress Factors
The body is designed to withstand a certain amount of physical force – bumps, jerks and falls, but if the mechanical stress goes beyond the body’s limit of adaptability, the effects nay become stored as body stress.
The causes may be sudden and violent, such as a car accident, a severe fall, or lifting a heavy object incorrectly. Or, there may be a gradual accumulation of milder mechanical stress, eg. habitually sitting incorrectly, or doing inappropriate exercises.
Chemical Stress Factors
The sources of chemical stress include pollutants in the air, insecticides and certain food additives and preservatives. Harmful chemicals may be consumed, inhaled, or even absorbed when contacting the skin.
THE EFFECTS OF BODY STRESS
When the point of stress overload is reached, the stress becomes “locked” into the body and manifests as lines of tension.
The body adopts a protective mode of action by means of automatic reflexes, causing adjacent and overlying muscles to splint the area.
It appears that this action has a dampening effect on the nervous system, thereby causing the brain’s filtering mechanism to ignore the areas of body stress.
In time when the body is required to take greater defensive action, stiffness may become noticeable, ultimately leading to postural distortion. It may also lead to loss of flexibility, pain or numbness.
A person with body stress may also feel tense, tired and lacking in energy and enthusiasm for life. Headaches, backache and indigestion may follow.
It is also possible for the body stress to be present without the individual feeling any pain or stiffness – he or she will simply come to accept as normal their sense of having less than 100 per cent well-being.
While the stress or tension remains stored in the body, the normal tone of the body is disturbed, causing a reduction in its general efficiency. As its defence mechanisms become weakened, the body becomes less and less able to deal with further stresses to which it is subjected daily. In this way the individual moves increasingly further away from the optimum state of health.