One of the common statistics we hear often from the American Institute of Stress is, how many of our visits to a physician are stress related. Research says 75 to 90% of all the physical stuff we go to the doctor for is rooted in stress. We had already become numb to stress signals in pre-pandemic times. The constant rates of change and uncertainty have disconnected us even further from the signals our body is sending. Not listening, sets us up for doctor visits, costly testing, and dis-ease in the body.
This week on the Less Stress in Life podcast, we focused on identifying the physical signs of stress. This is important for everyone, but for those working in high stress positions, the reminder is critical. Podcast co-host Barb Fletcher shared her personal experience to drive home the point of how important it is to tune in and see stress as information.
For Barb stress got her attention with headaches and jaw pain. After chewing through three bite plates, and the threat of jaw surgery, she began to explore other options for managing that tension. Today, stress shows up differently in her body and she’s tuned-in to the messages, carefully listening to what her body tells her. Recently, she navigated end-of-life care for her mom during restrictions, and relates that stress showed up as headaches, exhaustion, and an unsettled stomach, even though she had been actively engaged in self-regulation practices.
Fletcher shared that one of the benefits of tuning into stress messages and using self-regulation tools throughout this time was the number of positive experiences and relationships she was able to cultivate with professional staff and caregivers. She was able to have clear and meaningful communications and be there in a beautiful way for her mom.
Using body feedback to regulate helped her process her grief and also protected her heart health. Scientists have found a relationship between chronic stress and increased cardiovascular events. One of the more recent studies published in 2017 in The Lancet, used images of part of the brain involved with fear and stress and found links between stress and cardiovascular disease episodes. Studying brain activity bone marrow activity and artery inflammation they concluded emotional stressors can lead to cardiovascular disease in human beings.
The take-away: Stress is just information that our body sends when the experiences of life exceed our capacity to cope. The information helps us choose the correct tools to get control. What signs of stress are present in your body? What message have you been ignoring or missing? You can listen to the full podcast episode here.