Friday, January 28, 2011

Stress, Stress Responses and Health

  Stress is a term coined by Hans Selye to describe the stimulus that an individual receives from either inner or outer sources.That is to say, any input, whether physiological, psychological or environmental, we receive is a stress on us. The problem we have is that we confuse the input or stimulus with the response.

  Selye also said that there were different types of stress. One type that resulted in unhealthy responses he termed Distress. The other that resulted in positive effects he named Eu-stress.

    Dis-tress may be a case of a physical input. A noisy neighbor causes us to lose sleep and feel tired and unfocused at our work the next day. Eu-stress can be having a neighbor that has us over for a lively get-together that lasts until the wee hours, which we savor with fond memories the next day.

   As you can see by the way Selye categorized the different stresses that it is not a matter of what the input is, but rather a matter of its outcome, our response to it, that dictates whether stress is positive or negative. Popular culture has dictated that stress is bad when it actually has neutral value. The most important issue is what Selye termed the Stress Response. How do we respond to the inner and outer messages that we receive moment-to-moment, day-to-day throughout our lives?Will we over-react with dramatic life-or-death responses, or will we calmly take in the stimulus and react appropriately?

   A central component of how we react and respond to stress is the organization of our nervous system and organ systems. We have what is called an Autonomic nervous system that controls 80% of the functions in our bodies. It has two major aspects. The Sympathetic and the Parasympathetic.

   The Sympathetic controls the immediate survival, “fight or flight”, functions like breathing and heart rate, glucose and adrenaline production, muscle tension and pain response.

   The Parasympathetic controls long-term survival functions like digestion, elimination, tissue regeneration and healing. Each works interdependently with the other, balancing their functions like two people on a see-saw. When one side is “up” or active, the other is “down” or quiet. So if one side is over-active or “stays on” too long, the other side can suffer. If there is too much Sympathetic reaction the long-term health of the body suffers. If there is too much Parasympathetic reaction, we could get run over by a truck.

   In our hectic society too much attention is paid to “fight or flight” so we are conditioned to react to stress as if it is an imminent survival issue. This results in over-stimulation, exhaustion, and malnutrition, along with the delay of our tissue repair functions for our circulatory systems and other organ functions.

   We need to practice our relaxation, where our calm response helps the Parasympathetic function can swing into action. Learning that a relaxed state is normal and natural state and maintaining that state is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle. Finding a balance between the Sympathetic portion and Parasympathetic portion helps our bodies operate in harmony.

   Bowenwork has a unique capacity to initiate activity in the
Parasympathetic, which is an integral part of its success in accelerating healing. Each session of Bowenwork begins by deeply relaxing the body, bringing the Parasympathetic into action to jump-start healing. Bowenwork reminds us of our natural healing state and of our powerful capacity to heal with the proper stress response.

Please feel free to comment on these posts. I look forward to the interplay.

Kevin Minney

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