In photo: Dr Sifu Cann
Clinical and non-clinical treatments available to keep this serious condition in check
Stress kills. It’s not just hyperbole. It’s a statement that enjoys great distinction in the pantheon of two-word sentences; perhaps only second to the eminent, ‘I am’.
The gravity of the statement increases worldwide daily, as our post-modern lifestyles pile more and more pressure on our frail carbon-based bodies; there’s a serious problem in the world, and stress is at the centre of it.
Dr Sifu Reginald Cann of COHA Health, breaks stress down: “Stress is often a silent killer, as it can affect every system in the body. Physically, it can drain one’s energy, vitality, and can raise one’s blood pressure. Mentally, stress can cause insomnia, which leads to sleep deprivation, because the body is not able to restore and heal itself. Sleep deprivation can also cause one’s immunity to decrease and effects one’s ability to stay focused during the day. This can cause one to become prone to making mistakes at work and, depending on the nature of one’s work, can also create risk of injury to self, or others. Lastly, sleep deprivation can bring about depression and a lack of zest for life in general.”
Dr Craig Rowat of Spine & Sport Bermuda speaks to how modern pressures have affected stress, and our bodies’ responses to it: “Stress happens when a person’s natural responses to difficult situations is left unchecked, and stress can have a massively detrimental effect on the body and the mind. Unfortunately, in our current era of jobs – and life demanding immediate responses and critical decisions – stress overload runs rampant through many of us. Chronic stress responses lead to many things such as high blood pressure, chronic tension headaches, increased response to pain, imbalanced hormones, weight gain, sleep disorders, decreased immune system function and depression. Stress can be very serious and should not be taken lightly.”
The ailments that stress can inflict upon our bodies are countless. Dr Cann sees numerous stress-related conditions at his practice every day. Amongst the most common are fatigue, musculoskeletal tightness, tight or stiff muscles, neck and back pain, anxiety, insomnia, lack of focus/concentration, brain fog, depression, irregular menstrual cycles, decreased libido in men and women, headaches and more.
Dr Rowat, a chiropractor, deals with more musculoskeletal concerns: “We see many people who suffer from chronic headaches, neck pain, jaw pain and upper back pain. These are the main issues we see due to the natural physical responses to stress.”
Both experts agree that, left unchecked, stress can wreak havoc on our physical and mental well-being, and both offer several effective treatments to their patients suffering from the adverse physical symptoms of stress.
Dr Rowat and his team offer several clinical treatments including, he said, “soft tissue therapy, spinal mobilisations, workstation ergonomic assessments, sleep posture advice and rehabilitative exercise.
“An equally important part of our treatments involves helping patients identify where the source of the issue is coming from, then helping them to develop mechanisms to help with this, especially when stress is involved. In many cases, we will also refer patients to other health professionals to make sure the patient is receiving help for any issues beyond our scope of practice.”
Sometimes, a more organic approach is necessary to alleviate and eventually eliminate the physical effects of stress. Dr Cann and his team provide a more grounded approach to stress relief, employing techniques like Acupuncture, Chinese Medical Massage, cupping/ vacuum therapy, Far Infrared Sauna, breathing techniques, nutritional supplements and many different herbal tonics and teas.
Whatever treatment approach you prefer, it’s good to know that a wide variety of treatments are readily available in Bermuda. Of course, there are ways of lessening the deleterious effects of stress on our bodies without seeking professional help.
Dr Cann offers a few recommendations for managing stress in our everyday lives. “We recommend walking barefoot on the beach or in your garden – known as grounding; taking walks or hikes in nature, listening to calming music, taking time for a self-care routine each day – this is very important even if just for five to 10 minutes. Reducing blue light exposure from cell phones, tablets, laptops, TV – especially before bed, as it makes the brain think it is still daytime which, in turn, effects one’s ability to fall asleep peacefully. Reducing processed foods and sugar intake as much as possible, because these foods are over stimulating your adrenals, thus keeping you awake at night.
“Simply staying hydrated throughout the day is very helpful. Finding 10 to 20 minutes each day just to sit or lay quietly while focusing on taking slow, deep breaths. Light stretching for five to 20 minutes at least three times a week will greatly improve one’s sleep quality and vitality. Creating a wind down routine, by relaxing at night in a warm to hot bath with Epsom salt, or magnesium salt, with or without essential oils, like lavender or chamomile.
“If one doesn’t have a bath tub, you can make a foot soak with the same ingredients. Drink a cup of chamomile tea or magnesium tea. Lay on the floor with your hips touching the wall and legs elevated. All of these practices will help to down-regulate your racing thoughts from your day, providing one with a much more restorative rest.”
If left unchecked, stress will make you sick! Dr Kyle Steineman of Spine & Sport warns of the dangers of chronic stress: “Chronic stress can increase the amount of whole-body inflammation that circulates in the blood stream. This can lead to feeling increased sensitivity to pain. The inflammation related to chronic stress has been associated with increased frequency of tendinitis, headaches and overall joint pain.”
Not addressing stress and the effects of stress on your body is a bad idea. Dr Cann reminds us that leaving stress unchecked can, over time, deplete vitality, weaken your immune system, increase your heartrate and blood pressure, and create anxiety, depression and digestive problems. Don’t let stress take your joie de vivre prematurely; keep it honest and live well.