In Part 1
Last week I introduced the idea that stress is likely to be the root cause of your, and many people’s problems. We also went over the two types of stress, external and internal, and how external stress influences internal stress. Continuing I explained the positive and negative effects for three of the six categories of stress – physical, chemical, and electromagnetic.
Now let’s take a look at the positives and negatives of the next three; mental (psychic) stress, nutritional stress, and thermal stress. Then we shall go over the role of your nerves, collectively making up your nervous system, play in evaluating and processing stress in the body.
Mental (Psychic) stress1
Good mental stress is thinking or using your mind in a positive manner. Having a plan or setting goals for yourself and doing the work to achieve them is an example of good mental stress. Another example could be overcoming adversity to become a stronger, “better” person. Without mental stress, our minds would not develop, just as our muscles would not develop if we didn’t subject them to physical stresses.
In our modern world, we are constantly subjected to and subjecting ourselves to bad mental stress. One common form is focusing on things that you don’t want in life instead of focusing on the things we do want or already have. There are many other forms as well including verbal abuse from others, studying too much, and often challenging religious or social beliefs that are imposed upon you, or even self-imposed. Constantly being rushed or taking on more work/responsibility than you can manage will also result in negative mental stress.
Eating whole foods in accordance with what nature intended (seasonally), eating local and organic foods, and not over- or under-eating are all representative of good nutritional stress. The term stress, in these instances, is used to indicate the stress produced by digestion, assimilation and metabolizing of foods.2
Bad nutritional stress is the direct opposite of good nutritional stress and is caused by not eating foods that nature intended – eating an orange in the dead of winter. By consuming non-organic meats and vegetables that have been sprayed with all types of harmful chemicals. As well as over-eating, which will put too much stress on digestion and assimilation. And under-eating, which from a lack of nutrients, puts you in a malnourished (stressful) state. This form of negative stress from food is responsible for a large percentage of disease in our modern world.3,4
Thermal (Hot/Cold) Stress
The most obvious form of a good thermal stressor is maintaining a precise body temperature of 98.6 degrees. When it’s hot or could outside, our bodies thermoregulatory system is stressed in order to keep the internal body temperature constant. It’s a very good idea to stress this system or a regular basis to maintain its dynamic capacity to deal with temperature changes.
Anything that burns you is a form of thermal adverse negative stress. Whether that means getting burnt from heat such as sunburn or getting burnt due to cold, known as frostbite. Another adverse stress is exposing yourself to conditions that either keep your body temperature too high or low for extended periods of time.
The Nervous System
Your nervous system,5 your nerves, play a vitally important role in evaluating and processing stress in the body. Your nervous system is a combination of two systems that work in unison. The peripheral nervous system controls conscious movement, such as controlling voluntary muscle contraction. While the central nervous system, which contains the autonomic nervous system, controls actions that we don’t typically regulate such as digestion and elimination of food, releasing hormones, sweating, and regulating blood flow to various muscles and organs.
Autonomic Nervous System
The autonomic nervous system is split into two branches: sympathetic and parasympathetic. When the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is activated, often as a response to stress, it produces a fight-or-flight response. This response results in the release of stress hormones that elevate your heart rate and blood pressure, while decreasing digestive and repair processes. Our parasympathetic nervous system, when activated, supports digestive and repair processes, thus opposing the effects of the sympathetic nervous system.
Chronic Stress Suppresses the PNS
When repeatedly or continually stressed, you’re continually using your energy reserves for immediate use. At the same time, the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is suppressed. If the PNS is constantly suppressed, you will be unable to effectively digest foods to absorb their nutrients and repair your body. This over-stimulation of SNS is why stress can be so detrimental to our overall health, a common cause behind many chronic diseases.