No one is immune to the effects of stress; in fact, the human body is built to experience and respond to it. Being overwhelmed or unable to cope with pressures in life is a common stress to experience at this time.
Thirty-three per cent of people globally say they are severely stressed, 77 per cent say it impacts their physical and mental health, and 48 per cent say it interferes with their sleep.
The Covid 19 Pandemic has heightened people’s feelings of stress, anxiety, worry, and fear particularly in lockdowns. Because of the delta variant of Covid-19, about half of Australia’s population is currently in lockdown, adding to that feeling of stress.
In Dr Ron Ehrlich’s book A Life Less Stressed, he recommends taking a holistic approach to managing stress by focusing on sleep and how we breathe.
The Five Categories of Stress
The team at the Sydney Holistic Dental Centre defines stress as “anything that compromises immune function and promotes chronic inflammation”, the common denominator in all diseases.
To that effect we use the five stressors model to identify and help minimise and manage stressors:
Different Ways to Look at Stress
The nervous system perspective
Part of the nervous system regulates involuntary physiological processes. It contains three divisions: sympathetic, parasympathetic, and enteric, and there are broadly speaking three responses:
Ideally, we should be in the parasympathetic mode which is commonly associated with ‘rest and digest’ and a state of relaxation
When we are confronted with perceived threats or stressful situations the “fight or flight” response kicks in
When confronted with dangerous or threatening situations like abuse, violence, or trauma, the ‘freeze’ response can occur
Stress impacts your health
Stress can weaken your immune system or increase chronic inflammation because stressors are common denominators in both mental and physical illnesses.
Exposure to environmental toxins
Stress kicks in when your immune system is exposed to:
Environmental air pollution
Mould in your house
Excessively close exposure to WiFi radiation
Other stressors include:
Eating unhealthy food
Sitting at your desk all the time
Underlying infections or chronic inflammation within your body that you are unaware of (such as undiagnosed oral diseases which often have no pain associated with them, but can affect immune function)
Identifying and reducing as many of these stressors as possible is the goal of managing stress holistically.
The Five Pillars For Balancing Stress
Life is a balancing act. If you think of it as a balancing beam, on one side you can identify and minimise as many stressors as possible, and on the other side is to develop resilience in your body and mind to handle the stress in our modern world.
The five pillars for balancing stress, building that physical, mental and emotional resilience are:
Every one of these pillars and every stressor mentioned before is interconnected – they are not isolated. This is what a holistic approach is all about.
A Holistic View of Managing Stress and Sleep
Prioritising ‘a consistently good night’s sleep’ as the habit of a lifetime is foundational.
Stress can keep you awake at night, but developing good sleep hygiene will help you obtain ‘a consistently good night’s sleep’. But don’t be hard on yourself…there are always ups and downs.
You will inevitably have periods in your life when you don’t get enough sleep for days or maybe even weeks.
However, if the problem persists, you should address it. Consider these two suggestions:
Talking to somebody about what it is that you’re so stressed out about.
Journaling before you go to bed.
Consulting a sleep physician to explore potentially more serious issues.
We work closely the Sydney Sleep Centre.
“If you haven’t slept well for a few days or a week, let alone months or a year, you can find sleep deprivation makes you short-tempered and dismissive. If you get a good night’s sleep, your attitude can change dramatically.”
– Dr Ron Ehrlich
Change How You React To And Manage Life Stresses
The best method to deal with stress is to take a holistic approach:
Take a holistic view to balance your health and consider how everything is interconnected
Concentrate on what you can control rather than worrying about what you can’t…this is even more important during the pandemic and lockdowns
Because mood and food are inextricably linked, be conscious of what you eat and how you nourish yourself
Practice getting in touch with your feelings ….for many of us this takes practice
Rather than bundling it all up, talking to professionals in this area can often be constructive and helpful
Practice breathing exercises to switch on the ‘relax, rest and digest’ part of your nervous system within minutes… yes it’s true… by:
Inhaling through the nose for four seconds
Breathing out for four seconds slowly
Holding your breath for four seconds
Repeat that five to ten times a day
Two Thoughts In Conclusion…
Your health is far too important to leave to anybody else… even though we are here to help on that journey. Take control of what you can control… it will be the best decision you’ll ever make.
Focus on sleeping and breathing well as THE foundational pillars of a holistic approach.
Thanks to Brent Bultitude for Hosting Dr Ron on 2HD Radio