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What is Stress

Stress. How can we eliminate it from our lives? We Can’t. Stress is inescapable. To be alive is to be under stress. However, stress is not necessarily bad.

The Spice of Life

As Hans Selye, the world’s foremost stress researcher, explains:

No one can live without experiencing some degree of stress all the time. You may think that only serious disease or intensive physical or mental injury can cause stress. This is false.

Crossing a busy intersection, exposure to a draft, or even sheer joy are enough to activate the body’s stress mechanism to some extent. Stress is not even necessarily bad for you; it also the spice of life, for any emotion, any activity causes stress.

But, of course, your system must be prepared to take it. The same stress which makes one person sick can be an invigorating experience for another.

Thus stress can be good or bad.

With too little we’d be bored; with too much we’d develop emotional and physical disease. Properly handled, however, stress can mean a life of challenge, excitement, and growth.

For example, the biographies of famous scientists, explorers, artists, writers, entertainers, businessmen, and others reveal that times of intense personal stress are also times of insight, creativity, accomplishment, and personal growth.

As the author of Love, Medicine and Miracles, Bernie Siegel, M.D., has stated:

“It’s often said that stress is one of the most destructive elements in people’s daily lives, but that’s only a half truth. The way we react to stress appears to be more important than the stress itself.”

And that is why we’re not going to talk about how we can get rid of all stress in our lives (that can only be done by dying). What’s more important is growing, thriving, and overcoming our limitations in the face of stress, rather than being reduced to a state of dullness or disease.


A stressor is anything that causes stress. The world is full of stressors. They can be as simple as a speck of dust or pollen or as complex as a first date; as uneventful as going out for a walk or as dramatic as exploratory surgery.

What Exactly do Stressors Do to Us?

A lot of complicated things go on inside of us when we face a stressor. Various chemicals and nerve impulses flow in a predictable way called the General Adaptation Syndrome or G.A.S., which manifests itself into three stages:

1. In the face of a stressor or stressors, the body quickly girds itself for confrontation. There is an immediate “call to arms”- the alarm reaction. Messages stream from the brain to the or hormonal) system in a “fight or flight” response. If the stress stops, we revert to normal.

2. If the stress continues, we go into the stage of resistance-our body tries to adapt to the stress; it puts up the barricades, so to speak. We fight the threat, we tense our muscles, we struggle to prevail.

3. If the stress continues we may pass into the stage of exhaustion – our body cannot continue indefinitely to be primed for action.

The G.A.S. – the stress syndrome-is something we experience quite frequently. In the course of a normal human life, everybody goes through these first two stages many, many times. Otherwise we could never become adapted to perform all the activities and face all the demands which are man’s lot.

Chronic Stress

When stress invades our space we deal with it by fight or flight: we either face it or avoid it. Early man would see a lion or a tiger or a bear and run away from it. Or we’d fight and it would become our dinner (or we as its dinner, in which case we definitely kiss all earthly stress good-bye).

But what of our boss or spouse? We can’t run away and we can’t commit murder. We have to stay and cope. Living in this world of not-quite-fight-or-flight, too many of us carry around unresolved, chronic stress much of the time.

With chronic stress the body and mind never completely relax – the muscles are tense, energy is drained, and the body is fatigued, more susceptible to ulcers, digestive troubles, high blood pressure, asthma, arthritis, colds, infection, heart disease, and premature aging.

This premature web of alarm/resistance/exhaustion can slowly rob one of health and vitality and ultimately of life itself.

The Medical Approach To Stress

Medicines and drugs, weather prescription in the form of tranquilizers and sedatives or recreational in the form of alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, or cocaine, may temporarily relieve stress but not bring long – lasting benefits.

If you think smoking is good for stress, you might be interested to know that one study showed that quitting smoking measurably reduced stress levels as early as one month after quitting.


An important form of stress is nutritional stress. The reduction of nutritional stress can be accomplished by removing foods that weaken body function, such as highly refined and processed foods, concentrated sugars, and foods grown on depleted soils, and adding cleansing foods to the diet.

Further, a healthier body is better able to deal with the stress of life than a body fed on junk food.


Companionship is one of the most effective means of coping with and reducing emotional stress. NASA research has shown that married astronauts were more emotionally stable than their single counterparts.

Furthermore, recent research has indicated that having a pet helps one to combat stress; studies have shown that dog owners have less stress because of the calming effect of their pets.

Dogs take a bite out of stress because they provide unconditional support. The elderly pet owners visited doctors less than their same-aged counterparts who had no pets.


A person under intense psychological stress is more likely to have a weakened immune system.

In a 1988 study, students were divided into three groups: one worked crossword puzzles, one was given relaxation training, and one received relaxation and visual imagery training in which they pictured their powerful and strong immune systems attacking weak flu and cold viruses.

Group one showed no increase in immune cells, group two showed a slight increase, group three a significant increase after only one hour of training.

Another study, of 2,000 people practicing transcendental meditation for stress relief, showed that they had a significant reduction in a wide spectrum of ailments, particularly tumors and infectious diseases.

The Chiropractic Approach

Spinal nerve stress is a dangerous stressor and chiropractors are the only professionals specialized in its correction. Emotional as well as physical stress may stem from this condition.

The Subluxation as a Stressor

Subluxations (a combination of a misalignment and a fixation in the spine that puts abnormal stress on one or more nerves) cause damage to our nervous and skeletal systems, fatiguing and weakening us both physically and emotionally.

Our ability to deal with life’s stress is thus compromised, and this paves the way for sickness and disease.

Many diseases are actually not so much the direct results of some external agent (an infection, an intoxication) as they are consequence’s of the body’s inability to meet these agents by adequate adaptive reaction, that is, by a perfect G.A.S.

Studies have shown chiropractic’s ability to reduce anxiety levels. Chiropractic care, by removing vertebral subluxations from our bodies, improves the function of our nervous system and promotes better adaptation to environmental stress, whether physical or psychological.