Understanding Stress, Its Triggers and Natural Therapies To Manage It

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Learn ways to manage stress and recognize triggers before they affect your mind and body.

Stress is anything that can trigger the stress response in our bodies and it can be activated by more things than you might initially think. Triggers include:

  • Emotional stress
  • Psychological stress
  • Financial pressures
  • Acute and chronic infections
  • Wound healing
  • Allergies
  • Lifestyle stress
  • Over exertion
  • Too much or too little exercise
  • Lack of sleep and relaxation
  • Nutrient-poor food
  • Environmental toxins
  • Prescription and non-prescription drugs

When we are stressed the brain sends a signal to the adrenal glands to release stress hormones, first adrenaline and then if the stress continues, cortisol. No matter what the stress is, our bodies go through the same response. This response, often called “fight or flight,” was essential to our survival during primitive times. However, in modern times the constant activation of the stress pathway can create a major disruption in the signals from the brain and an imbalance is created with the stress hormones. Chronic stress damages the brain and its neuronal connections. This leads to anxiety disorder and a whole host of problems throughout the body, contributing to cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease and gastrointestinal problems.

Anxiety is a normal part of the stress response, part of our alert system when situations threaten our security. But when the system malfunctions and the anxiety occurs inappropriately in response to normal, everyday things, it can result in a debilitating condition called anxiety disorder. People with anxiety disorder have a malfunctioning stress response and are constantly primed in anticipation of a threat to their well-being.

The naturopathic approach to stress and anxiety is multi-factorial and addresses the patient on all health levels – physical, mental/emotional and spiritual. Naturopathic doctors identify and remove causes of, and obstacles to, achieving health and wellness. This could include recommendations like:

  • How to better manage your time and relationships
  • Getting outdoors to connect more with nature
  • Ordering tests to help understand what imbalances or deficiencies might be contributing to the problem
  • Suggesting lifestyle modifications in your exercise routine
  • Suggesting changes in your dietary habits
  • Support in identifying and refocusing unhealthy coping patterns
  • Prescribing meditation and relaxation techniques
  • Prescribing herbs, vitamins and minerals that fit the individual
  • Mind-body therapies like biofeedback or hydrotherapy

 

By Emma Norton, ND, Bastyr University California faculty member and supervisor at Bastyr University Clinic.