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What's Your Stress Type?

Posted by Well Being Holistic Pharmacy on

In the past I’ve written about the importance of recognizing stress as a major causative or contributing factor to every one of our health challenges. Scientific exploration has born out my contention that every single chronic disease that we can suffer from can be caused by, or negatively impacted upon, our daily stresses. Estimates are that some 80% of all visits to primary care physicians are in some way related to the adverse impact of stress. But this is the way it is supposed to be. Nature has provided us with complex biological mechanisms that literally allow us to survive in the face of danger. We call this the fight or flight response – meaning that when presented with an immediate danger, a cascade of physiologic events occurs that allows us to better run away or fight to survive. And also, mechanisms exist to allow for the likely need that the body will have to build and repair after said fight or flight. But nature never provided for us to have the constant barrage of stress that we are exposed to today. For the vast majority of our evolutionary development, we would find ourselves exposed to stressors separated by periods of non-stress. This is not the case in today’s world; and we have not developed any healthy physiologic mechanisms to deal with chronic stress. So, our bodies end up showing the negatives effects of what, in the short term, would be positive changes – but for extended periods are bad things; like elevated blood pressure and heart rate, increased blood sugar, decreased blood flow to the gastrointestinal tract, elevated cortisol and adrenalin levels, hyper-sensitive and then burned out immune system, etc. In the past we have approached treating the physical ramifications of stress by supporting the adrenal glands with the use of glandulars (actual adrenal gland) and herbs that help support adrenal function known as “adaptogens”. But there seems to be a more directed approach to treating “stress” by delving a little more into the specific symptoms that each of us may be displaying as a result of stress – identifying our “Stress Type”. This is very important because when challenged with chronic stress, we all may respond differently depending upon our genetics, our beliefs, our nutritional status, our hormonal status, and many other factors. There are many glands and hormones that are involved with our stress responses… the hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal make up one “network” of responders – this is called the HPA Axis. There are those of us that are HPA Over-Responsive and those that are HPA Under-Responsive. People that respond one way need to be treated in a completely different manner than those responding the other way. There are 5 major “stress types” that, once identified, allow us to better hone in on what will help us the most. Here is a list of the stress types and some characteristics that go along with each… HPA Over-Responders show up with the stress types of “Stressed and Wired” and “Stressed and Worried”. Stressed and Wired people are those folks that live hectic, demanding lives and often forget to care for themselves. They are the ones that complain of feeling “burned out”. They may feel anxious or apprehensive and may have difficulty sleeping. The person with this stress type is more likely to have cardiovascular complaints. In essence, they will have a lot of nervous energy and feel like they can’t calm down. Stressed and Worried people are described as often being sleep deprived secondary to stressful events. They are the ones that excessively worry about things big and small. They are mentally restless, are easy to anger and become unyielding or inflexible under prolonged stress. They will have a tendency towards having muscle spasms and headaches. HPA Under-Responders show up with the stress types of “Stressed and Mentally Exhausted” and Stressed and Tired”. Stressed and Mentally Exhausted people find that their cognitive function declines under prolonged stress. They may become forgetful and exhibit poor concentration and focus. They often find that they have a very difficult time organizing their thoughts and/or making decisions. They are the ones that feel like their memories are impaired. Stressed and Tired people demonstrate signs of low energy that may affect the function of multiple organs or glands. These are the people who feel tired and weak for no apparent reason. They may look pale and feel puffy and they often times wake up feeling un-refreshed. Apathy and depression are common complaints along with unwanted weight gain. Adrenal responders show up with the stress type of “Stressed and Hot”. Stressed and Hot people exhibit all of the signs of stress-related adrenal gland fatigue. They may suffer from muscle and joint pains and may crave salt and salty things. They may feel dizzy or woozy when rising or standing from a sitting position. The use of steroids can contribute to this stress type and these people are likely to exhibit low levels of cortisol and/or DHEA. There are many different tools, including a variety of herbs and nutrients that we use to help you recover from the effects of stress. And they are specific for each stress type. For instance, certain kinds of Ginseng and Ashwagandha are stimulating adaptogens, so they may be perfect for HPA under-responders and too stimulating for HPA over-responders. Likewise, Rehmannia and Schizandra are more calming, so they would be great for HPA over-responders and might make HPA under-responders feel more depleted or exhausted. The way to best determine your stress type is by filling out a comprehensive questionnaire. We score your results and use that information to determine your particular stress type(s) and the best supplements to take to make you feel better. Your diet, exercise and lifestyle habits are also a very important piece of the stress puzzle, so make sure that you take the time to answer all of the questions on the questionnaire as completely and honestly as possible. So – download the questionnaire, fill it out, save it and then e-mail it back to us through the contact page and we’ll contact you to make an appointment to go over the results with one of our practitioners and get you on the path to feeling better, sleeping better, and ultimately living a longer, happier life!

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