What is Stress?

You have a looming deadline. You hate your job. You’re fighting with your spouse. These are all obviously stressful events that will leave you feeling less than stellar.

Did you know even happy occurrences can also cause stress? A new job, a new relationship, an extended overseas holiday — these involve the exact same mechanisms as a negative event, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself stressed out during these times.

What exactly is stress? It’s not inherently a bad thing. When there is a stressor — positive or negative — the body responds by producing hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol that force the body to react. At the same time, it shuts down certain functions that aren’t necessary (digestion, for example). As the perceived danger passes, those hormones decrease and your body returns back to its ‘normal’ state. I say perceived because often what stresses us isn’t actually a danger. Nowadays, we are more stressed by threats to our emotional health and our ego.

This is a very natural response and something we are hardwired for. However, the level of response differs from person to person; what may seem an incredibly stressful event to one person can be a little blip in the day to another. For example, criticism from your boss could be a complete disaster worthy of a resignation for one person but might be viewed as constructive by someone else.

It’s quite sad but we seem to have accepted that being stressed is the norm. It’s becoming more common to wear it as a badge of honour — as if to be a fully functioning member of society, we need to be frazzled and overworked. To read more about this, you can find part one of our stress series here: When did stress become the new cool?

We don’t always recognise stress when it’s happening. Common symptoms include:

  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Fatigue
  • Comfort eating or appetite loss
  • Indecisiveness
  • Mood swings
  • Feeling tearful
  • A constricted throat or a dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Muscle pain
  • Hot and cold flushes
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Forgetting things
  • Problems sleeping
  • Stomach upsets
  • Pounding heart
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Lack of confidence
  • High blood pressure

Long-term health impacts

Having your body at such a heightened state of alert is not ideal. Unfortunately, sometimes we don’t even realise we are in this state because we’ve become so used to feeling this way. Long-term stress contributes to a weakened immune system, which can lead to getting sick more often, premature ageing, diabetes, cognitive impairment such as memory problems, and even heart disease. We could be heading towards an early grave by stressing over things that, in the grand scheme of it, aren’t that terrible.

Beware of adrenal fatigue

Adrenal fatigue is when you are so overwhelmed by the body’s natural response, it has reached a point where your system can no longer cope with the ongoing stress. The term was coined in the late 1990s to address a specific kind of chronic tiredness, affecting anyone who undergoes persistent or severe mental, emotional or physical stress. It is a modern-day condition that has become more common due to the high levels of prolonged stress many people endure in our increasingly busy world.

Do you:

  • Feel tired for no obvious reason?
  • Have trouble getting up in the morning?
  • Feel run down?
  • Experience food cravings?
  • Feel grumpy and irritable?
  • Feel weak more often than normal?
  • Feel down or have mood swings?
  • Feel restless?
  • Have continual headaches or muscle aches?

Why Kinesiology

It all comes down to balance. It’s not about eliminating stress altogether, because this is simply not possible. As we’ve discussed, some stress is completely normal and helpful. When it does feel too much, you need to learn effective coping mechanisms and see a specialist to help calm the systems that have gone haywire. Kinesiologists are trained to restore adrenal function and correct imbalances using gentle muscle monitoring and other non-invasive techniques.

What makes Kinesiology unique is that it can resolve several issues at play: physiological, emotional and mental. By restoring the adrenals’ ability to respond effectively to stress, the body’s overall hormone levels will become more stable and balanced – as they should be.

– Tania O’Neill McGowan, O’Neill Kinesiology College Managing Director