The following article was originally published in Health Keepers, a magazine created by Trinity's founder, Dr. Wendell Whitman. This article appeared in Volume 7 • Issue 1 • pg 27-29. This article originally titled, "Balancing Act in the Fast Lane" was written by Stuart Hite, CNHP, ND.
Naturopaths largely believe that stress is the main culprit for waning physical health. Today’s society has an increased stress level that is higher than ever before. We have computers and all types of equipment that allow us to be more productive and quicker in getting work done; however, we then have even more work piled on to an ever-increasing load. Decades ago, it was once thought that Western civilization would develop a three or four-day work week. All of our high-tech mechanisms would simplify our jobs and allow us more free time. Instead, most of the population seems to be working longer hours, leading more complicated lives, and feeling the impact of higher stress levels. What can be done to help alleviate the results of stress?
Very few people have no stress. In fact, some people find pleasure in making sure they have more stress than everyone else. On the other hand, others really start to worry when all stress seems to have disappeared.
Stress is generally considered to affect the nervous system, which is the communication system of the body. Proper communication is not just important for military actions, corporate functions, and relationships. It is absolutely vital for the body to run smoothly. All systems of the body are linked together either directly or indirectly. For example, if the intestines are not eliminating properly, the skin, lungs, and urinary system must work harder to compensate. Stress that weakens the nervous system, which is directly linked to every system, will also weaken all other systems. The body can only be as strong as its weakest link.
Stress also has a serious impact on the adrenals, which are the source of energy in “fight or flight” scenarios. All other systems of the body hibernate to direct all available resources to deal with the stressful situation at hand. Although this is very helpful at times, living in this mode all day, every day, can lead to very serious problems.
One of the most common issues regarding stress is breathing. The adrenals control the opening and closing of the alveoli in the lungs. When the adrenals become weak or abused, breathing can become difficult. In this situation, many people will incorrectly assume that the respiratory system is in need of assistance. Though taking nutritional support for the respiratory system can be helpful, it is not addressing the source of the problem. Asthma attacks are most common when stressful situations arise, putting large amounts of strain on the adrenals. Inhalers generally contain steroids to stimulate the stressed adrenals to continue to function and allow breathing. While this may keep someone alive, the adrenals are still in need of nutritional support and the lifestyle needs to be modified at least long enough to build up the reserves again for future needs.
However, stress is not necessarily the enemy. Some people seem to work better under stress. All muscles in the body need to be exercised, or put under stress, in order to promote growth, eliminate waste, and build healthy tissue. Without physical stress, muscles cannot become stronger.
The answer then is not eliminating all stress but ensuring proper nutrition for daily operations and strengthening emotional stability. This provides a good foundation so that our response to challenges is one of growth instead of viewing them as insurmountable obstacles. While stress has become an epidemic, there are simple, inexpensive solutions that anyone can use to give your body the best resources it needs.
Physically, the body requires many nutrients daily to perform at optimum levels. The nervous system needs a generous supply of all of the B vitamins. These can usually be found in good whole grains and green leafy vegetables. Those same grains also contain essential fatty acids that are important to build and repair the cells. Excess intake of salt or other unusable minerals will dehydrate the body. Without enough good water to allow the body to wash away these toxins, the myelin sheath around the nerves can deteriorate and cause a “short-circuiting” of the necessary communication. Deep breathing exercises have historically been helpful in decreasing stress and allowing the body to relax by filling the tissues with much-needed oxygen. Any activity that involves movement and sweating also gets rid of excess salts and other toxins that can cause the nervous system to be weakened.
Physically, the “American way” leaves the nervous system starving for help. Most Americans eat few green leafy vegetables, drink little to no water, move (exercise) as little as possible, and avoid the important good grains (in the name of a “healthy” low carbohydrate diet) that contain the B vitamins and essential fatty acids. Is it any wonder then that Americans are so stressed?
Abundant nutritional resources are required since every day is filled with emotional stress, from financial concerns to problems in relationships, or just driving on the road. Emotional stress can become extremely draining and lead to depression or anxiety. Dr. Edward Bach discovered flower remedies that work similarly to homeopathics to correct emotional imbalance. [Check out Trinity School of Natural Health’s Certified Flower Essence Specialist program for more information about Bach flowers.]
If stress has been causing you to miss out on all that life has to offer, try modifying your lifestyle to include the following:
• Instead of sitting in front of a TV and turning off the brain to escape the problems that will still be there when you “wake up,” spend time with others doing an activity that requires movement and laughter.
• While in bed, practice deep breathing from the diaphragm and through the nose to help the body relax.
• Drink enough good water daily (about half of your body weight in ounces, 200 pounds = 100 ounces).
• Start increasing the amount of green leafy vegetables and whole grains each meal.
• A few drops under the tongue several times a day from your individualized homeopathic flower remedy.
So much time is spent at work, driving, worrying about finances, and just getting by that family and friends are put on hold. There is no time left to take care of ourselves physically or emotionally. We have become out of balance. Getting back into balance requires doing things differently. Try making an effort this year to modify your lifestyle so that you are better prepared to balance your daily routine and manage your stress.
NOTE: This article was edited to adhere to current legal and practical standards.