The Myth of Stress Management

We DON’T manage stress, we manage ourselves. 

No matter what time of the year, what events are going on around us, who you work with, or what traffic is like on our way home, we DON’T manage stress. Stress management is the big catch phrase to help gain people’s attention and it works for that, but handling the stress is a whole different situation.

Stop and go Traffic is stressful… or is it? 

Let’s take that example of sitting in your car on your way home from work. You know the Bay Area traffic and you know you have to keep a 360 degree awareness of all the cars around you, the need to stay so alert is a stressor. And when it’s unexpected stop-and-go traffic, it can be very frustrating because getting home is taking that much longer. But why can one person be sitting in their car gripping the steering wheel extremely hard, breathing shallow, and have an elevated heart rate, while the person in the car next to them has a big smile on their face and is just rocking out to their favorite music? 

This is all about managing how you respond to what’s going on around you. Both people are in the same traffic situation but they’re reacting completely differently. There is a time and place when you need your body to get into stress “fight or flight” mode like when you need to run away from a mountain lion. But staying in that mode for long periods of time is not good for your health long term, you need to switch back into the “rest and digest” (parasympathetic) mode. 

What happened and what’s going to happen? 

With this simple example, you can clearly see that you can’t “manage” the stress of the traffic because you can’t move the cars around you. You can however, manage your mind and how you react. For many people the events that happened during the day and the thought of what they’re going to do later in the evening start racing through their mind and it can lead them more down the stress response that they don’t particularly like. This is the common “stress management” conversation that so many blogs, books, and videos talk about. But what so many of them miss in their content is the fact that your ability to think through the stress is also highly affected by the health of your physical body.

What’s most important when it comes to the health of your body? 

Your central nervous system. 

Why? 

Your central nervous system coordinates all the other parts and systems of your body together and works on keeping you in that state of homeostasis or balance. And when you’re out of that balance (stressed out) for too long, you’re likely to get sick or experience things like anxiety, lack of sleep, or even chronic fatigue.

So when it comes to our ability to handle stress, supporting the nervous system is key. We all know the basics like eating less processed foods and getting regular exercise but one of the most significant inputs to the nervous system to keep it healthy, actually comes from our ability to balance and not fall over. If we can’t keep our balance and navigate around to get food or escape danger, it’s not good for our survival. This lack of balance literally causes a stress signal to our nervous system.

Just think about it, if you couldn’t balance well and you fell over, what could happen? Bad stuff like broken bones or hitting your head. Luckily we have a built in system to help keep our balance and its starting point is the head and neck. Even more particular, the upper neck literally has a reflex built into it that will cause your body to shift into certain positions to keep you upright. And if that reflex isn’t working properly, it can literally cause stress into the nervous system and cause your body to get into that “fight or flight” state, even if you’re trying your best to stay calm.

Luckily, this is where The Specific Chiropractic work we do in our office focuses on fixing and we help people overcome these issues. We know your body is built to be resilient and our goal is to help restore the most vital aspect so you can better handle the stress that comes your way. We’re actually able to measure the state of the nervous system using digital infrared thermography. With that along with a very special set of x-rays of the upper neck, we’re actually able to provide a treatment plan to help restore balance to your nervous system.

So when it comes to stress, its not about managing the stress, its about making sure your body has the ability to better handle the stress. We help your body do that by making sure your nervous system is working optimally. 

If you’ve been dealing with chronic stress and what you’ve tried hasn’t worked for you, send us a message. We’re always here to help.

Take care… of your health,

Dr. Drew