Stress is often a key factor many of our clients have in common at Thuja Wellness. It can wreak havoc on your fertility, worsen chronic pain, affect your mental health, and disrupt your day-to-day life.
Thankfully, we can recommend some excellent therapies, healthier habits, and nutritional changes to help you better manage your stress levels to live a happier, pain-free life.
Here’s what you need to know about how stress affects your health and body and our best tips for minimizing and managing your stress levels.
How stress affects fertility
Stress can make getting pregnant more difficult for some couples. In women, one study found that higher stress levels, as measured by salivary alpha-amylase (which are biomarkers for stress), seemed to indicate a relationship between increased stress levels and difficulty conceiving.
Stress can also lead to:
- irregular periods and cycles, making timing conception difficult
- unhealthy eating habits
- disinterest in exercising
- increase in drinking and smoking
- loss of interest in having sex
By better managing your stress, you can increase your chances of getting pregnant if no other underlying issues are present.
How stress affects chronic pain
When you feel stressed, your body generates higher levels of cortisol (known as the “stress hormone”). High levels of cortisol can cause inflammation and increased pain. It can make your chronic pain worse if not treated early.
We also know stress often leads to sleepless nights. After one or more nights of poor sleep, we get irritable (some may say you have a “short fuse”), and our body doesn’t get the proper rest to heal itself.
As chronic pain sufferers, you may not be as physically active as you’d like. When you’re stressed, your motivation to exercise may drop more, and you get less exercise. Exercise helps reduce stiffness in your body, so it’s important to find a way to move safely, even if you don’t feel like it.
How stress affects mental health
You’ve likely experienced how you’re quick to snap at people or have decreased patience when feeling overwhelmed or stressed. We can’t perform our best when we’re distracted or stressed. This can manifest as a loss of your ability to:
- remember or memorize facts
- make decisions
Stress also affects your mental health, causing:
- irritability (or quick to snap at people)
- feelings of loneliness or hopelessness
- depression or anxiety
- feelings of unhappiness
- an inability to physically or emotionally relax
Long-term stress can increase your risk of more serious mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and other physical manifestations. Stress is present in everyone’s life, but when we know how to manage it (or avoid it altogether), we can minimize the potential for severe mental and physical side effects.
How to manage stress
While you may not be able to eliminate 100% of the stress in your life, you can make a significant difference to your quality of life when you learn how to manage it before it affects your fertility, chronic pain, or mental health. Here are a few ways to manage your stress:
Osteopathy works to bring your sympathetic system (your “fight or flight” response) into balance with your parasympathetic system (your ability to find calm). It can work as a preventative treatment or help you find relief from more long-term stress issues in your body.
Seeing an osteopath for stress management can help because they can:
- Work with your body to ensure proper posture so your brain can clearly receive all signals from your body
- Loosen your ribs and muscles around your neck and torso so you can breathe easier
- Give you breathing and relaxation exercises and routines to do at home
TCM and Acupuncture
While some choose to treat stress and its symptoms with pharmaceutical drugs, you increase your risk of adverse side effects that can cause additional unpleasantness. Instead, treatments like Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and acupuncture are drugs and side-effects-free ways to get immediate stress relief.
Through TCM, we treat the body as a whole symptom rather than treating the location of the injury or pain. With Acupuncture specifically, we can help you find relief from:
- stress headaches
- body and muscle tension
- neck and shoulder pain
- hormone imbalances
- other physical and mental effects of stress in your body.
Many of our clients love how massage puts their minds and body at ease. It’s an excellent way to find physical and emotional relief. Massage works by manipulating your skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. They are great for treating side effects of increased stress, including:
- soothing pain and muscle soreness from lack of movement
- improving circulation to boost energy and alertness
- lowering heart rate and blood pressure
- boosting your immune function
One of the side effects of stress is a decreased motivation to move or exercise. However, it can be one of the best ways to push through stressful situations. Yoga is an exercise that you can do anywhere, and it’s great for all skill levels and body types because it’s flexible to your ability.
Yoga focuses on reuniting the mind, body, and spirit through small, purposeful movements and stretches. It helps you improve your posture, focus on breathing and letting optimal oxygen into your body, flex your body to avoid stiffness, and help calm your mind while focusing on the movements.
There’s a specialized yoga style called laughing yoga, which combines forceful laughing with simple yoga movements. Many who try this type of yoga notice that their forced laughter quickly becomes genuine laughter…And laughter is a great “medicine” to combat stress and anxiety.
How to deal with stress in your life
Before you can learn to deal with stress in your life, you need to recognize that it’s becoming more than just the occasional inconvenience. By reading this article, you’ve taken that first step to acknowledge that your stress is affecting your mind, body, self, and others.
Next, we suggest getting support from a natural health practitioner to create a plan to minimize stress in your life and manage the physical and emotional side effects of any stress that remains. The goal is to find new ways to process formerly stressful situations, so it doesn’t affect your daily life.
Book a 15-min complimentary call with a member of our integrated health team today to learn how you can start your journey to physical and mental wellness today.