Stress is something everybody has experienced at one point or another but how much does it really impact our health?
The answer is substantially.
To clarify, stress is the disorder that comes about from stressors. A stressor is anything that causes a change in our routine leading to an elevation of heart rate and creating a tension within us. These stressors can be negative or positive for example being pushed to reach a deadline or getting a pay raise – regardless of the emotion associated with the stressor it still creates an effect upon the body.
You would be able to gain information about how stress affects you biomedically from plenty of blogs so I want to use this particular article to explain how it progresses and affects you according to Chinese Medicine. Though for those who want a succinct summary form a biomedical perspective – here it is: acute stress causes a tightening of muscles with an increase in blood pressure and heart rate; chronic stress can lead to issues with heart health, digestion, mental fatigue, renal difficulties and reduce libido. For more information speak to your general practitioner.
In Chinese Medicine it is possible to divide the diagnosis of stress into three stages.
Stage 1: This would be considered the acute stage. Tension in the neck and shoulders with an overall tightness in the muscles throughout the body. For TCM students reading this, it affects the gallbladder channel as a starting point especially around GB21.
Stage 2: Sub acute moving into chronic. If you are placed under the influence of stressors for longer than a few weeks then you fall into this stage; it is the one most people experience. This stage continues with the muscle tightness but also adds issues such as digestion fluctuations (diarrhoea and constipation), irritability, anger, possible depression and a tendency to overeat. Once more for TCM students out there, here we see the Liver involvement which has been triggered by the pairing organ (gallbladder) and there is a strong liver disharmony with spleen possibly leading to a spleen and stomach deficiency.
Stage 3: Chronic stress. Those that are exposed to stressors for a period longer than three months would be considered as suffering from chronic stress. This stage combines all of the issues from the last two stages and also adds things such as insomnia, inability to control weight, lower back pain, knee pain, night sweats, reflux, loss of libido, palpitations, sharp muscle pain and fatigue. Remaining in this stage long term without treatment may lead to physical manifestations such as ulcers. For the TCM students still reading, this stage once more presents an aggravation of earlier organ pathology now with the involvement of heart and kidney.
This is in no way an extensive list of symptoms and stress affects everyone differently. You will notice that the symptoms outlined in the three stages of stress within Chinese Medicine have a close reflection to how stress is viewed in the biomedical summary provided earlier on. Stressors will always exist in our environment and sometimes they can be a good thing to remove us from our comfort zone to achieve more. However left unchecked and untreated it can be seen that stressors will eventually break the body down significantly.
Despite stressors being unavoidable you can definitely manage and maintain your health so that both body and mind are prepared to deal with the onslaught stress will bring on. Contact us for assistance with the symptoms of stress before things get out of hand.