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This one is about: The Body's Response to Stress

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The Body's Response to Stress....
or -- Pre- and/or Post-Surgical Stress Syndrome

(The following was a post sent to Cleft-talk)

All this talk about pre-surgery stress syndrome - irritable bowel syndrome, etc, leads me to throw in my own little two cents. After all -- I AM a trained (though not practicing) psychologist.

We each have a type of stress reaction that generally involves one of the main body systems... our SOMATIC responses to a PSYCHOLOGICAL concern... ergo.. a PsychoSomatic disorder. This does NOT mean it is an imagined disorder --- it is a REAL physical response that your body has to something going on in your life. (An imagined disorder is not psychosomatic --- an imagined disorder is Hysterical. There is a difference. By the way, hysterical also does not mean out of control ... but we won't get into the ridiculous background of the term 'hysterical').

Some of us respond to psychological stress through our gastrointestinal systems.... and when we do, we end up with irritable bowel, ulcers, indigestion, nausea, poor appetite or increased appetite. Some of us respond to psychological stress through our cardiovascular systems... and when we do that, we end up experiencing high blood pressure, shortness of breath, tacacardia, panic attacks etc. Some of us react with our endocrine systems... and when we do, we tend to develop such things as hyper- or hpyo-glycemia, heavy menstrual flow, no menstrual flow, adrenaline rushes or depression. A response through the nervous system can lead to hives, paralysis, numbness, insomnia etc.

We may respond with more than one system... but most of us have a "major" system that responds to stress. Think about what your FIRST reaction is to shocking news?????  Does your stomach drop to the floor - your mouth goes dry and you feel an immediate urge to go to the bathroom??? That's gastrointestinal. Do you go pale and light headed... your heart beating faster and a quick intake of breath??? Cardiovascular. Do you go numb, possibly hear a ringing in your ears and your hands begin to shake??? Nervous system. Do you suddenly feel the need to RUN or hit something?? Most likely -- your response type is endocrine. There are others.. but you get the idea.

The thing is ... if you know which system responds most to stress, you can do something to alleviate the impact of stress on your life. If, for instance, you are a cardiovascular responder... you can practice heart-smart behavior and exercise regularly so that your heart and lungs are as healthy as they can be. You can learn ways to keep your blood pressure down and how to relax through a stressful situation.

Now.. not everyone with an ulcer has a gastro-intestinal stress reaction. It is only ONE cause of that condition... but it is STILL a cause. The same goes for high blood pressure, diabetes, and menstrual problems. There CAN be other causes besides stress... but stress can easily be a contributor if not a culprit.

To deal with gastro-intestinal reactions... usually prevention is going to be half the battle. In other words, if, for instance, a person knows they have gastro-intestinal reactions to stress... they should avoid spicy or fatty foods just before they approach something they KNOW will be stressful. They should pay particular attention to the nutritional balance of the foods they eat, so that they are not compounding a touchy system with extra tasks. Eat light (but nutritionally sound) prior to a stressful event, and do your best to maintain a normal and regular eating schedule.

Be sure also to keep things like antacids, or antidiarrheals on hand so that you can treat a problem at the very first sign ... (and remember that another potential for gastro-intestinal reaction is constipation) BUT do your best to not become dependent on artificial regularity (laxatives and antidiarrheals).

Learn to use stress reduction methods... and concentrate on things like relaxing the stomach muscles... relaxing the colon muscles.. etc. Try spending time concentrating on deep relaxation.. learning to "feel" the difference between a relaxed state and a stressed state makes all the difference in the world (and it IS possible -- in fact, it is the GOAL -- to learn to relax in the midst of stress).

Anyway enough of the psychology course. Hope I didn't lose everyone on this one.

Joanne


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