STRESS. The mention of the word brings a variety of reactions from virtually everyone: a knowing nod of the head, rolling the eyes, and numerous body language and verbal acknowledgements that each person truly knows what stress is. But do we really? And do we understand the effects and costs of the imposition of stress on our bodies and our society in 21st Century civilization?
As a nationally board certified traditional naturopath, I have seen the stress management part of my practice explode into its single largest component. That is understandable: virtually everyone who walks through my office door, from children to the elderly, exhibits the impact of the stress of contemporary life. The problem is that most of us don’t know exactly to what degree stress impacts our lives and, of equal importance, how we can change those factors which negatively affect us.
During the coming year, I will be sharing with you important influences on the body’s stress response and, equally important, some guidelines to follow if you are to deal with these influences effectively.
But what exactly is stress? And what factors contribute to the body’s stress response? I’ve extensively researched the many personal and professional definitions of stress, and the most comprehensive definition I can offer is stress is any input to the human physiology that results in expenditure of the body’s finite energy resources on activation of the fight-flight response, as well as the resulting effects of those inputs.
My research has clearly shown that the key factors which precipitate a stress response are:
- Diet – the foods and beverages we consume that directly contribute to the stress response
- Lifestyle – the everyday environmental factors at home or work which cause stress
- Cognitive filter – the factors which create the prism through which we view the world
- Nutritional gap – the difference between what we eat and what our bodies really need
- Toxic burden – the toxins which we have been exposed to and carry around
- Trigger factor – that pivotal event that can potentially topple us into ill health
All of us have to deal with each of these factors to varying degrees, based on our unique life experiences. The combination of these factors creates a “stress stack,” stretching vertically toward the “catabolic threshold” – also known as the limit beyond which our bodies cannot further withstand chronic stress, and we start to manifest ill health. The mix of each of these factors is unique to each of us. One person may have a very large part of the stress stack having to do with dietary influences, while another may experience the most stress due to the influence of the cognitive filter. So each person’s solution to alleviating stress must be individually crafted for best results.
Learn about the relationship between stress and the adrenal glands, and how the Stress Stack model can help you in Peter McCarthy’s upcoming class, “Stress and Adrenal Health” on Monday, February 27!
Peter M. McCarthy, BS, MA, CTN is a nationally board certified traditional naturopath, and a wellness consultant with Peoples Rx in Austin, TX. He is the author of Adrenaline Nation: Chronic Stress is Ruining Our Health and Bankrupting Our Economy – Discover What YOU Can Do About It NOW! Trained in both functional blood work analysis and saliva hormone analysis, he is a former member of the Advisory Committee of the American Naturopathic Certification Board. He is available for individual wellness consultations by appointment at Peoples Rx North.