It seems like as soon as pumpkin spice lattes appear in coffee shops across the country our thoughts turn from the lazy days of summer to the holidays. Whether you have elf-like enthusiasm or a Grinch-like attitude about the whole season, one thing is nearly universal – the holidays often equal stress. What you may not know is that the holiday stress you feel now can impact how you feel physically all season long.
The Biology of Fight or Flight
Your body is equipped with a fight or flight response that is designed to keep you from being hurt, killed or eaten by predators. When our hunter-gatherer ancestors came across a wild animal, their brains would flood their bodies with stress hormones that would cause their heart rate to go up, their digestive system to slow down and their muscles to use available blood glucose in their blood to either fight the animal or run from it. Our bodies and brains are still equipped with this defense mechanism, even though the wildest animals we encounter are our problematic coworkers or the other parents at the school drop-off line. Unfortunately, our biological responses are the same regardless of the type of stress we experience. If you are stressed about cooking Thanksgiving for 30 people or surprised by a rattlesnake, your body will not differentiate between the two.
Stress and Your Body
While the fight or flight response has a real biological purpose, activating this response over and over can cause very real physical symptoms. In fact, chronic low levels of stress keep the proverbial “gas pedal” down on your sympathetic nervous system that controls fight or flight. Much like idling a car for too long, persistent levels of stress hormones can damage blood vessels, contribute to weight gain, raise blood pressure, cause muscle aches and pains, contribute to digestive problems, and increase the likelihood of suffering from a heart attack or stroke. The fact that there is a sharp increase in the number of deadly heart attacks during the holiday season has been linked to these physical effects of stress.
Fighting Fight or Flight
Learning how to manage your stress this season is the key to having a pain-free holiday. Meditation with deep breathing has been linked to lower blood pressure levels. Physical exercise has been shown to lower heart rate, increase feel-good hormones in your body, and shut down the brain’s fight or flight response. Chiropractic care releases stored tension in the body and prepares the muscles to send and receive communications from the brain and spinal cord more effectively. Massage has been clinically shown to reduce tension and enhance relaxation not only during the massage but for hours afterward.
Fortunately, you can access these therapies and more stress-busting treatments at Pure Wellness. Not only will your body thank you, taking a few minutes out of your holiday schedule to take care of yourself will help settle your mind and prepare you for what’s next. Call today to schedule your appointment or book online and begin enjoying a lower stress holiday season.