This is taken from my submission to our local newspaper.
As ski season comes to an end many of you might be able to let out a sigh of relief, only to come back in a few weeks for a busy summer season. “Stress Awareness?”, you might exclaim, “I could be the poster child for stress awareness”! Most of us however, are usually only aware of the stress that happens from the neck up.
I often use the “iceberg” example when talking about stress. What we “know” about – usually our mental stress or the stress we feel in our neck and shoulder area, is like the iceberg that is above the water.
Over the past few years the economy put many of us in “survival mode”. If it wasn’t broken we just kept going. As time has passed some of us are noticing things we may have neglected and the toll the past few years has taken on us. We may have been aware of the headaches, neck tension and tight shoulders when we casually remarked “I hold my stress in my shoulders”, however, we didn’t always know what was happening to our bodies from the neck down when it comes to stress.
From experience however, we know that the majority of the iceberg is really hiding below the surface. In our example – below our neck and shoulders. These types of “stress” tend not to be as easily recognized as emotional stress, yet they are often the type of stress that lead to long-term illness and chronic disease.
These stresses can be classified as physical, structural and chemical stress, and they are the forces that affect our body, usually on a subconscious level, until they begin to cause pain, or give us signs of dysfunction. Unfortunately, by the time we experience signs or symptoms, so much degeneration has occurred that we likely have developed a disease.
For example, if our blood sugar is constantly out of balance, and goes untreated, over a period of years we might develop Type II Diabetes. It is likely we were not monitoring our blood glucose numbers, because usually the only people who are doing so are people who already know that they have diabetes or some type of blood sugar disorder. What we want to do is take notice of, and learn to identify the early warning signs of these types of stressors. We want to look for subtle indicators, and use preventative measures to delay or even avoid the development of long-term diseases, which ultimately decrease our quality of life.
Going back to our blood sugar instability example; if you experience fatigue after eating; shakiness or irritability between meals, or if meals are missed; if your waist circumference is larger than your hips; if your cholesterol numbers are creeping up; if you crave sweets after meals, or if sweets don’t satisfy your cravings; these may be early indicators that you have blood sugar instability. Making diet and lifestyle changes during these early stages may reduce the risk of developing further symptoms or other disorders associated with diabetes such as cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure, as well as reduce the risk of requiring long-term medication to manage your condition.
Other common imbalances that place a significant amount of stress on the body include anemia (often from iron or Vitamin B deficiency), thyroid dysfunction, adrenal dysregulation, hormone imbalance, and digestive distress. Heartburn, gas, bloating and constipation may be common in today’s society, however these symptoms are not normal. If you experience any of these discomforts, it is likely that they are an early warning sign that your body is under a fair amount of stress and it is trying to send you a message. April is Stress Awareness Month – please learn how to listen to your body. For information on structural and physical stress mentioned previously, please contact Dr. Slavin.
Dr. Slavin is a functional medicine practitioner and the owner of Functional Wellness in Avon. Working to reduce the various sources of stress on the body can allow you some breathing room and keep you below threshold so you don’t get sick as often, or injure your body when you are constantly operating in the red-zone. To learn more about how to address the complex web of stress in your body please call 970-376-7779.