Often when speaking to clients, they are informed by their doctor that the source of their pain or physical discomfort is stress related, which means that they think that it is all in their head.
However, the way our mind mediates pain and physical ailments is not as simple as this.
It’s very true that it’s not all in your head at all, but the way we focus on pain can make a big difference to how we experience it.
So how and why does stress impact the body? (The Fight/ Flight Response)
From an evolutionary point of view, stress is your body’s reaction to a belief you are physically going to die.
If you could imagine in prehistoric time when cave people had to go out to kill their food, often their food was bigger, faster and more deadly than what they were. So if they weren’t fast enough to kill the beast or run from it, they were the one who would be killed!
In order to ensure their survival, the brain had to prepare their body. To do this, the body kicks in the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) referred to as the fight or flight response.
The body needs tension in the large muscles to be able to move quickly. For this to happen, blood needs to be pumped into those regions and the blood needs to have the oxygen to make the muscles efficient. Therefore, blood needs to leave the non-essential areas and go to the large muscle, the heart needs to pump faster, blood pressure needs to increase and the body needs to breathe faster to get the oxygen into the blood.
Additionally, emptying the bowels assists in becoming lighter. Once the danger is over, either the beast is dead or the cave person has reached safety, the Para-sympathetic Nervous System (PNS) takes over and everything returns to normal. What is different about today’s world is that we seldom have to stress or worry about whether we are physically in danger; instead we worry about our finances, our future, the mortgage, relationships.
Even so, our physical response is still the same – when we are worried that may lose the house, our heart, breathing and blood pressure increases. With this, the stressors may last weeks, months or even years which prevents the PSN from kicking-in and relaxing the body.
As a result, our body remains in a heightened state of ‘danger’ for prolonged periods, thereby, putting strain and tension on the body, which manifests itself as aches, pains and serious health problems.
So even though your ailments may be stress related, it very much has a physiological impact and it doesn’t mean that they not real or are imaginary.
If you are feeling stressed and/or experiencing physical issues related to stress please don’t hesitate to contact us at Revive Health and Happiness to book an appointment with one of our experienced Psychologists.