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Borrowed Stress

Recently I have been working with a client who has suffered from a return of severe lower back pain after surgery. She had reported great results for a number of weeks, but then the pain returned.

Importantly she had suffered a family bereavement several years ago but has periods of distress relating to the memories of her loss and feels its effect on a daily basis.

It soon became clear that her increase in pain had a link to the revisiting of her grief. Situations have arisen which have forced her to relive the experience which she finds greatly distressing.

Emotional and psychological stress are powerful forces when they upset the resting harmony that we should experience in our bodies. This calm physiological neutral, or homeostasis (the body’s drive to find a resting normal state), is what the body strives for and should be our ‘default’ setting.

When our bodies have an increased load (stress beyond what we can adapt to), the body will work less well and often places itself in emergency measures to cope. We call this the ‘fight or flight’ mode.

In the case of my client, her resting muscle tone changed, the chemical balance in her body was interrupted so that inflammation became more likely and she started to move in a way that lead to injury.

Many people find it unbelievable that our mind can create damage in our body by altering the entire way that our bodies function. In many ways we think with our whole bodies. Thoughts generate changes to all aspects of our physiology including muscle tone, blood flow, hormonal changes and importantly how and when nerves react. If these changes continue for a while the body loses its ability to cope and breakdown occurs. In the case of my client it resulted in severe lower back pain.

Regular exercise can help to reduce stress

Regular exercise can help to reduce stress

There is good news though. We have three areas of stress – physical, chemical and psychological. In these areas we have things that are stressful but we also have things that are beneficial. For example sleep provides us with psychological benefit and it can help compensate us for worry and stress.

Things that benefit us in one area make up for things that disadvantage us. These benefits also cancel out things in the other categories. Therefore if we know that we will be challenged psychologically we need to sleep well, eat good fresh food and be tight with our exercise.

This will mean that our bodies can use chemical or physical nutrients to fortify us against psychological events. As a result the nervous system will not be under as much of a load and we will feel and cope better.

If my client had eaten, slept and exercised well the effects of grief on her structure would have been less noticeable.

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