By Guest Blogger, Jackelyn Hurtado, DOMP, RP
In this current day and age, we often experience a different set of emotions. They can range from happiness, euphoria and fascination to sadness, anger and desperation. These words depict a certain set of emotions that carry a strong meaning of how the body reacts. One can agree that when an individual feels happy, they feel the urge to smile and laugh and overall, feel good. When one feels anger, one can feel heavy, hot and just have an urge to move.
The question that arises now is how an emotion, which can be said to be non-physical, can manifest into a physical (also known as a physiological) response. More specifically, what happens in our bodies that may cause negative symptoms which lead to pain and chronic issues.
The Nervous System
Let us delve deep in the nervous system, one of the twelve body systems in our body. This very important system is the command base of our body which is responsible for receiving information from our senses (both inside and outside the body), interprets the information which then creates a response. Its functions in the body include:
- Brain growth and development
- Conscious processes such as waking up, running and eating
- Non conscious processes such as breathing and digestion
- Complex processes such as thinking, reading, remembering, and feeling emotions
There are two main parts to the Nervous System; the Central Nervous System (CNS) which is composed of the brain and spinal cord, and the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) which is composed of the nerves which branch off to the rest of the body from the spinal cord. Concentrating on the PNS, it further divides into the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) and the Somatic Nervous System. From the ANS, it divides into the Sympathetic Nervous System and the Parasympathetic Nervous System.
Diverting back to the main question: what happens in our bodies that can cause negative symptoms leading to pain and chronic issues?
Fight or Flight
There are a variety of reasons why, however, most of the problems stem from activating the Sympathetic Nervous System otherwise known as the Fight or Flight Mode. This mode is known as a physiological response triggered by a stressful situation or stressors. Stressors can be the following:
- Traffic Jam
- Paying Bills
- Being Chased
- Being Bullied
- Presenting a project at school or work
- & Many More
Once faced with these stressors, hormones are released into the body which leads to physiological changes such as:
- Increased heart rate, blood pressure, breathing and sweating
- Dilated pupils
- Dry mouth
- Smooth muscles relax to allow more oxygen in lungs
- Blood flows to arms, legs, etc. in order to flee
- Digestion slows down
Below is a picture of what exactly goes on in our body during stress. At the beginning of Phase 1, the fight or flight mode or the sympathetic nervous system is activated.
The Why Behind the Pain
When an individual starts developing painful symptoms such as back pain, shoulder pain, indigestion or shooting pain, they could be stuck at the end of phase 2. When this occurs, the body is under continual stress as cortisol is continuously released. This can manifest into further chronic issues such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), fibromyalgia, increased risk of heart disease, anxiety and/or depression, etc.
Incorporating Self Care
To get out of the negative cycle, there are things that you could incorporate into your daily life.
- Water: having a good amount of water has many benefits such as keeping your body hydrated, moistens tissues in mouth, eyes and nose, protects organs, lubricates joints, and maintains good circulation in the body. The intake can vary depending on your current intake and lifestyle. A good rule to follow: for every pound you weigh, drink 0.5 – 1 ounce of water.
- Diet: having a good diet is important as it maintains a healthy weight, increased focus, maintains the immune system, provides energy, and decreases risk of chronic disease.
- Exercise: aside from reducing stress by releasing endorphins otherwise known as “feel good” hormones, there is an improvement of the metabolic systems, cognitive thinking, muscle strength, flexibility, cardiovascular system, and oxygen intake.
- Supplements: some of the basic supplements are multi-vitamins, magnesium, vitamin B (B12), iron (especially women), protein powder, and BCAAs.
- Essential Oils: There is a large range of different essential oils with many benefits for management in stress, pain, focus, wellbeing, skincare & many more.
- Alternative Medicine: These can include hands on manual work which is gentle and non-invasive such as Osteopathy, Craniosacral Therapy, Physiotherapy, Massage, etc, or non-hands on work such as Naturopathy, Homeopathy, Holistic Nutrition, and much more.
At least incorporating one of the above mentioned will have a positive impact on your life which will be the beginning of a great shift. Overcoming stress in this time may be difficult but it is not impossible. Once a shift begins, it starts a cascade of effects across the body.
For example, drinking an extra cup of water a day leads to your circulatory system working more efficiently hence making you less tired and moody. Thus, when 4:00PM rolls around, you may want to go for a longer walk (exercise) with your dog, therefore releasing endorphins and improving your metabolic system. When you get home and eat your food (diet), you notice that you do not feel bloated which in time, you notice that what may have stressed you out before, is not anymore
Jackelyn Hurtado, DOMP, RP
Manual Osteopath, Craniosacral Therapist, Reiki Practitioner & DoTerra Wellness Advocate