Your Body On Stress
Stress vs. Dis-Stress
Human beings are designed to handle stress. It helps us stay sharp, focused, alert and able to react quickly in times of danger.
Continuous, unrelenting stress, however, causes dis-stress – a negative reaction that can lead to pain, dysfunction and disease. Our lifestyles may inadvertently contribute to dis-stress – overwork, poor sleep, multitasking, too much TV, poor diet, prolonged sitting. And the list goes on: social isolation, unwillingness to disconnect from our digital devices, not enough time spent outdoors.
The power of prolonged, negative stress to destabilize or damage health should never be underestimated, Dr. Dedhia says.
“Whenever a guest comes to me with a symptom, I’m always interested in the impact of stress and level of dis-stress in his or her life. The problem may be digestive issues, decreased libido, back pain or immune system disturbances. As it turns out, everyone’s health is directly or indirectly affected by stress – you may not be aware of it until we begin to ask questions and dig deeper.”
The Integrative Approach
As an expert in sleep medicine, Dr. Dedhia always makes sure to address the issue of sleep quality – especially when the problem is stress-related. “In addition, the Canyon Ranch health and healing experience always includes individualized work with nutrition and exercise,” Dr. Dedhia says. Finally, if there’s a pattern of dis-stress, it’s key to work on habits of negative thinking.
“Stress is a process that begins with information your brain receives. Then there are thoughts you have about the information. Then, feelings and behavior. We can teach you to retrain your brain to think differently, heading off stress early in the process.”
Dr. Dedhia cited a number of approaches to stress management that contribute to healing mind, body and spirit:
- Information/thoughts (mind): Talk therapy, biofeedback, journaling, meditation
- Feelings (spirit): Healing Touch, massage, relationships, laughter
- Behavior (body): Physical activity, better nutrition, yoga, improved sleep
Managing Stress – A Lifelong Journey
Even an expert on stress needs to be respectful of its power. “I absolutely love the opportunity to be one-on-one with guests in consultations. I also love to present lectures on health and healing to guests, and to research emerging innovations in health,” Dr. Dedhia says. Yet, as with any professional whose services are in great demand, he spends more time than he’d like wrestling with tedious paperwork, travel hassles and other frustrations.
“To stay in balance, I practice being mindful. I have learned that there are things I must do on a daily basis. I need to work out or at least go outside for a walk. Nutritious food is very important. And I absolutely must get enough sleep!” Above all, Dr. Dedhia says, “I find joy and rejuvenation through maintaining connections with family and friends, and taking time for spiritual reflection.”
Click here to view Dr. Dedhia’s recommendations on 8 ways to cope with stress.
Imagine the Following Scenario:
You’re driving to work and the “check engine” light pops on. How do you react?
1. “Whatever.” [Detached Response]
2. Turn around and head home and back to bed. [Avoidant Reaction]
3. “What’s this? I hope it’s something minor, like a loose belt! Well, I’ll just have to call the shop from work and put it out of my mind for the next few hours; nothing I can do about it right now.” [Rational Acknowledgement and Awareness]
4. “Oh, no! Just my luck, it’s something major. I’ll be late for the client presentation. This is a disaster!” [Catastrophic Thinking]
If you chose No. 4, catastrophic thinking may be a pattern that signals a major component of your personality – Type D – characterized by chronic distress, “a negative and unhelpful response in mind and body,” according to Param Dedhia, MD, of Canyon Ranch in Tucson.
The prevalence of Type D personality is 21% in the general population; in people with known cardiac disease it ranges between 18 and 53%. If you’re inclined toward a Type D profile, suggests Dr. Dedhia, “perhaps you need to recognize the impact of worry, gloom and distress on your health.”
Chronic Stress Can Lead to Health Problems –
or Worsen Existing Ones.
- Addictive behaviors
- Chronic fatigue
- Memory disturbances
- Panic disorders
- Poor sleep
- Reduced immune function
- Skin disorders