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What is stress?

Stress is a very broad concept. It refers to all the reactions of our organism (biological and psychic) when faced with pressure/aggression from a physical, psychic or physiological agent.

These reactions are response mechanisms that vary for each individual and can lead to different emotions.

These response mechanisms are physiological responses of the organism. They seek to maintain the biological balance of the body through an adaptation process.

According to Dr. Hans Selye, endocrinologist at the Institute of Medicine and Experimental Surgery in Montreal, Canada, and a pioneer in stress research, the work of adaptation involves three phases connected to the nervous pathway (sympathetic system) and the hormonal pathway (hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands): alarm, resistance and exhaustion.

Stress has an impact on our mental and physical health.

The triggers of stress are numerous and vary from one individual to another. There are two types of stress: positive and negative. Good” stress can lead to new solutions and progress. Bad” stress puts us in a risk and/or danger zone.

Certain signs can alert us to stress that is harmful to our health. What are they?

Physical signs: dizziness, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, muscle tension, appetite problems, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
Psychic signs: anxiety, feeling of oppression, agitation, fear, worry, irritability, pessimism, concentration problems, anxiety attacks…

If the stressor persists, the body adapts and increases our level of resistance.
If we manage to deal with the stressor, the body relaxes and our inner rhythm returns to normal. We then gradually regain our vital energy.

When stress becomes chronic, the signals can become more serious such as heart rhythm disorders, hypertension, ulcers, insomnia, dermatitis…

When to consult a doctor?

It is important to consult as soon as possible. On the one hand, it is necessary to eliminate an underlying illness (such as depression) and on the other hand, it is important to avoid waiting for the condition to deteriorate and lead to more serious symptoms, or even an illness.

If we cannot avoid stressful situations, alternative medicine can be a tool to improve the adaptation work that our body provides in the face of aggressions.

Health and nutrition

In the case of stress (the first signal of which is anxiety), improving your lifestyle is essential. This can sometimes be enough to support the body and stop stress.

To do this, it is necessary to have a balanced diet, quality sleep, work on good emotional management and regular physical activity.

Balanced diet

In order for the brain to function at its best and to prevent stress, it must be properly nourished (it needs about 40 different nutrients). It may therefore be advisable to check with your nutritionist that these nutrients are included in your diet. In addition, certain foods can fuel a state of stress and should be reduced or even eliminated (sugar).

When you are under long-term stress, your body secretes a hormone called cortisol. This hormone is what is called “hyperglycemic”, meaning that it will increase blood sugar levels in the blood even without carbohydrate intake. In other words, we get fatter because of stress! In moments of intense stress or in cases of chronic stress, it is therefore essential to adapt one’s diet and to seek help to reduce stress. Weight gain can lead to other problems.

More information on nutritional support here.

Sophrology and emotional balance

The practice of sophrology will act directly on the parasympathetic nervous system and will contribute to bring the body back to balance following the alerts induced by stress.

Indeed, thanks to tailor-made protocols, sophrology brings you personalized tools in order to release tensions and negative emotions at first and facilitate the return to inner calm.

Thereafter, the work can be centered on the reinforcement of your resources and your confidence in you. This facilitates stepping back and letting go, always with the goal of achieving a confident detachment from stressful events. The return to calm is thus facilitated and faster. As the sessions progress, self-esteem is also reinforced.

Sophrology is an often effective practice with immediate benefits. It requires regular training, called sophro-training, outside the sessions with the therapist, for deep and lasting effects.

More explanations/information on sophrology here.

Get support in managing advanced stress

Once you have made certain changes to your lifestyle, there are several therapies that can help you support your body in managing stress.

Traditional Chinese Medicine: work in acupuncture and pharmacopoeia

In acupuncture, we will work on rebalancing the functioning of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, in order to support the body during the phases of alarm, resistance and exhaustion.

Indeed, the stimulation of acupuncture points allows the inhibition of stress hormones, such as cortisol, and the secretion of “happiness” hormones, such as endorphin, which will therefore act directly on the hypothalamic-sympathetic-adrenergic axis (fast axis that responds to the stressor) and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (release of cortisol). We seek to support the body in its biological rebalancing.

A study shows that acupuncture blocks chronic elevations of stress-induced hormones in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the hypothalamic-sympathetic-adrenergic axis[1]. 

During the exhaustion phase, the stimulation of certain acupuncture points significantly reduces the blood pressure response to mental stress[2], thus preventing stress-induced hypertension.

According to Chinese medicine, stress will impact the energy of several organs. It prevents the free flow of vital energy, which is managed by the Liver, overtaxes mental activity under the influence of the Heart, potentially generates rumination in connection with the Spleen, and draws on the energy reserves of the Kidneys. The objective of acupuncture and Chinese pharmacopoeia is therefore to reactivate the energy circulation, to calm the mind and to root the energy. This helps to avoid an overabundance of mental activity and excessive energy consumption.

Several acupuncture sessions at a rate of one session per week during periods of stress will help the body in its adaptation reaction. This will support the body in the resistance phase and prevent exhaustion.

More information on acupuncture here.

[1] Ladan Eshkevari, Eva Permaul and Susan E Mulroney,  Acupuncture blocks cold stress-induced increases in the hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal axis in the rat, Journal of Endocrinology, Volume 217: Issue 1, p95–104

[2] Hollyt R.Middlekauff, Jun Liang Yu and Kakit Hui, Acupuncture effects on reflex responses to mental stress in humans, American Journal of Physiology, Volume 280: Issue 5, May 2001, Pages R1462-R1468

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