Stress affects us all. The detrimental effects of excess stress have been well documented in a wide range of medical publications.
Thousands of research articles, studies and books prove beyond a shadow of doubt, that stress can be a factor in any disease. Stress alters biochemistry and neurological functioning, and can weaken the immune system and the digestive tract. This neuro-psychological-immuno link is well established in many peer reviewed medical journals on Psychoneuroimmunology.
The Fight or Flight Response
Stress can trigger the body’s response to a perceived threat or danger, called the Fight-or-Flight response. During this reaction, certain hormones like adrenalin and cortisol are released, speeding the heart rate, slowing digestion, decreasing blood flow to major muscle groups, and changing various other autonomic nervous functions thus, giving the body a burst of energy and strength. This response originally named for its ability to enable us to physically fight or run away when faced with danger, is now activated in situations where neither response is appropriate, like in traffic or during a stressful day at work.
When the perceived threat is gone, systems are designed to return to normal function via the relaxation response. However, in times of chronic stress, this often doesn’t happen, causing damage to the body if stress is not reduced and managed.
Common physiological changes resulting from stress reactions include:
1. Increased Heart Rate – which can lead and/or contribute to heart conditions.
2. Hormonal Fluctuations – which can lead and/or contribute to endocrine, reproductive, digestive disorders, obesity, diabetes and mental disorders.
3. Constriction of muscles and blood vessels – which can lead and/or contribute to pain, tension, circulatory issues, cardio-pulmonary issues and asthma.
4. The suppression of non-essential life processes – which affects reproduction, higher executive brain function, digestion and immunity.
Many people think of stress only in terms of things like deadlines at work, family or relationship stress, financial pressures, traffic jams, or the death of a loved one perhaps. However, stress reactions also occur on the unconscious, cellular, subtle or energetic levels each time we are exposed to a toxin, pathogen or allergen; and every time our body experiences a nutritional deficiency or excess.
This is where the application of biofeedback can make a difference, but how?