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Dr. James Wilson

Dr. James Wilson

James L. Wilson D.C., N.D., Ph.D. has helped thousands of people with Adrenal Fatigue regain their health and vitality during his 24 years of private practice.

Listner, July 11

Listner, July 11

Stressed to Excess

Wellbeing, Feb 2010

WellBeing, Feb 10

Stress Less

Woman's Weekly Feb 2010

Woman's Weekly Feb 10

A modern-day problem

Listener Jan 09

Listener Jan 09

Relax, don’t diet.

Understanding Stress

 Understanding the Signs, Symptoms, Causes, and Effects

We all face different challenges and obstacles, and sometimes the pressure is hard to handle. When we feel overwhelmed, under the gun, or unsure how to meet the demands placed on us, we experience stress. In small doses, stress can be a good thing. It can give you the push you need, motivating you to do your best and to stay focused and alert. Stress is what keeps you on your toes during a presentation at work or drives you to study for your midterm when you’d rather be watching TV. But when the going gets too tough and life’s demands exceed your ability to cope, stress becomes a threat to both your physical and emotional well-being.Stress is a psychological and physiological response to events that upset our personal balance in some way. When faced with a threat, whether to our physical safety or emotional equilibrium, the body’s defenses kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight” response. We all know what this stress response feels like: heart pounding in the chest, muscles tensing up, breath coming faster, every sense on red alert.
 
 
 
The Body’s Stress Response
The “fight-or-flight” stress response involves a cascade of biological changes that prepare us for emergency action. When danger is sensed, a small part of the brain called the hypothalamus sets off a chemical alarm. The sympathetic nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline, nor-adrenalin and cortisol. These stress hormones race through the bloodstream, readying us to either flee the scene or battle it out. Once the threat has been resolved, another hormone called acetylcholine is secreted which helps the body to lower the "stress hormones", thereby allowing the body to return to a normal state. Please view the diagram below.
                                                    
 
With stress, heart rate and blood flow to the large muscles increase so we can run faster and fight harder. Blood vessels under the skin constrict to prevent blood loss in case of injury, blood tends to clots less readily – just in case we bleed, pupils dilate so we can see better, and our blood sugar increases, giving us an energy boost and speeding up reaction time. At the same time, body processes not essential to immediate survival are suppressed. The digestive and reproductive systems slow down, growth hormones are switched off, and the immune response is inhibited. This is stress, and many of these bodily processes can really mess with our health if they remain in a chronic low grade state long term.
The biological stress response is meant to protect and support us. It’s what helped our stone age ancestors survive the life-or-death situations they commonly faced. But in the modern world, most of the stress we feel is in response to psychological rather than physical threats. Caring for a chronically-ill child, being caught in peak hour traffic with our mobile phone or getting audited by the tax department all qualify as stressful situations, but they do not call for either fight or flight. Unfortunately, our bodies don’t make this distinction. Whether we’re stressed over a looming deadline, an argument with a friend, or a mountain of bills, the warning bells ring. And just like a caveman confronting a sabertooth tiger, we go into automatic overdrive. Our minds cannot distinguish between real or perceived stressful events either.
If you have a lot of responsibilities and worries, you may be running on stress a good portion of the time—launching into emergency mode with every traffic jam, phone call from the in-laws, or segment of the evening news as you sit down trying to digest your evening meal. But the problem with the stress response is that the more it’s activated, the harder it is to shut off. Instead of leveling off once the crisis has passed, your stress hormones, heart rate, and blood pressure all tend to remain elevated.
Furthermore, extended or repeated activation of the stress response takes a heavy toll on the body. Prolonged exposure to stress increases your risk of everything from heart disease, obesity, and infection to anxiety, depression, and memory problems. Because of the widespread damage it can cause, it’s essential to learn how to deal with stress in a more positive way and reduce its impact on your daily life. Dr. Wilson’s book on Adrenal Fatigue has a very useful 33 page chapter on how to adopt the correct lifestyle changes to minimise the effects that stress has on your body.Dr. Wilson mentions: "The particular kind of rest you need to recover from stress and adrenal fatigue come not so much from lying down, but from standing up for yourself, and from removing or minimising the harmful stresses in your life."
 
 
To get a handle on stress, you first need to learn how to recognise it in yourself. Stress affects the mind, body, and behavior in many ways— all directly tied to the physiological changes of the fight-or-flight response. The specific signs and symptoms of stress vary widely from person to person. Some people primarily experience physical symptoms, such as low back pain, stomach problems, and skin outbreaks. In others, the stress pattern centers around emotional symptoms, such as crying spells or hypersensitivity. For still others, changes in the way they think or behave predominates.The following lists some of the common warning signs and symptoms of stress. Use it to identify the symptoms you typically experience when you’re under stress. If you know your red flags, you can take early steps to deal with the stressful situation before it—or your emotions—spiral out of control.
 
  
Cognitive Symptoms                                     
• Memory problems                             
• Indecisiveness
• Inability to concentrate
• Trouble thinking clearly
• Poor judgment
• Seeing only the negative
• Anxious or racing thoughts
 
Emotional Symptoms
• Constant worrying
• Loss of objectivity
• Fearful anticipation  
• Moodiness
• Agitation
• Restlessness
• Short temper
• Irritability, impatience
• Inability to relax
• Feeling tense and “on edge”
• Feeling overwhelmed
• Sense of loneliness and isolation
• Depression or general unhappiness
 
Physical Symptoms  
• Headaches or backaches
• Muscle tension and stiffness
• Diarrhea or constipation
• Nausea, dizziness
• Insomnia
• Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
• Weight gain or loss
• Skin breakouts (hives, eczema)
 
Behavioral Symptoms
• Loss of sex drive
• Frequent colds  • Eating more or less
• Sleeping too much or too little
• Isolating yourself from others
• Procrastination, neglecting responsibilities
• Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
• Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)
• Teeth grinding or jaw clenching
• Overdoing activities (e.g. exercising, shopping)
• Overreacting to unexpected problems
• Picking fights or arguments with others
 
Keep in mind that the signs and symptoms of stress can also be caused by other psychological and medical problems. If you’re experiencing any of the warning signs of stress, it’s important to see your health-care professional for a full evaluation. Your health-care professional such as naturopath, chiropractor or medical doctor can help you determine whether or not your symptoms are stress-related. Dr. Wilson’s highly targeted Adrenal Fatigue Program may help your adrenal glands cope with stress, and providing you make the appropriate diet and lifestyle changes, you should not have to suffer the health destroying efects of stress in the 21st century.
1. Spouse’s death
2. Divorce
3. Marriage separation
4. Jail term
5. Death of a close relative
6. Injury or illness
7. Marriage
8. Fired from job
9. Marriage reconciliation
10. Retirement
Source: Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory
 
Causes of stress
The potential causes of stress are numerous and highly individual. What you consider stressful depends on many factors, including your personality, general outlook on life, problem-solving abilities, and social support system. Something that’s stressful to you may not faze someone else, or they may even enjoy it. For example, your morning commute may make you anxious and tense because you worry that traffic will make you late. Others, however, may find the trip relaxing because they allow more than enough time and enjoy listening to music while they drive.
The pressures and demands that cause stress are known as stressors. We usually think of stressors as being negative, such as an exhausting work schedule or a rocky relationship. However, anything that forces us to adjust can be a stressor. This includes positive events such as getting married or receiving a promotion. Regardless of whether an event is good or bad, if the adjustment it requires strains our coping skills and adaptive resources, the end result is stress.
Major life changes
Major life events are stressors. Whether it be a divorce, a child leaving home, a planned pregnancy, a move to a new town, a career change, graduating from college, or a diagnosis of cancer, the faster or more dramatic the change, the greater the strain. Furthermore, the more major life changes you’re dealing with at any one time, the more stress you’ll feel.
Daily hassles and demands
While major life changes are stressful, they are also relative rarities. After all, it’s not every day that you file for divorce or have a baby. However, you may battle traffic, argue with your family members, or worry about your finances on a daily basis. Because these small upsets occur so regularly, they end up affecting us the most.
Daily causes of stress include:
• Environmental stressors – Your physical surroundings can set off the stress response. Examples of environmental stressors include an unsafe neighborhood, pollution, noise (sirens keeping you up at night, a barking dog next door), and uncomfortable living conditions. For people living in crime-ridden areas or war-torn regions, the stress may be unrelenting.
• Family and relationship stressors – Problems with friends, romantic partners, and family members are common daily stressors. Marital disagreements, dysfunctional relationships, rebellious teens, or caring for a chronically-ill family member or a child with special needs can all send stress levels skyrocketing.
• Work stressors – In our career-driven society, work can be an ever-present source of stress. Work stress is caused by things such as job dissatisfaction, an exhausting workload, insufficient pay, office politics, and conflicts with your boss or co-workers.
• Social stressors – Your social situation can cause stress. For example, poverty, financial pressures, racial and sexual discrimination or harassment, unemployment, isolation, and a lack of social support all take a toll on daily quality of life.
 
 
Internal Causes of Stress
Not all stress is caused by external pressures and demands. Your stress can also be self-generated. Internal causes of stress may include:
• Uncertainty or worries
• Pessimistic attitude
• Self-criticism
• Unrealistic expectations or beliefs  
• Perfectionism
• Low self-esteem
• Excessive or unexpressed anger
• Lack of assertiveness
 
Risk factors for stress
The presence of a stressor doesn’t automatically result in disabling stress symptoms. The degree to which any stressful situation or event impacts your daily functioning depends partly on the nature of the stressor itself and partly on your own personal and external resources.
The nature of the stressors. Stressors that involve central aspects of your life (your marriage or your job, for example) or are chronic issues (a physical handicap, living from paycheck to paycheck) are more likely to cause severe distress.
A crisis experience. A sudden, intense crisis situations like being robbed at gunpoint, or for example being in a major automobile accident or being attacked by a dog, or being raped, are understandably overwhelming. Without immediate intervention and treatment, debilitating stress symptoms are common.
Multiple stressors or life changes. Stressors are cumulative, so the more life changes or daily hassles you’re dealing with at any one time, the more intense the symptoms of stress. Dr. Wilson describes in his book how it is often an accumulation of several events which eventually can cause adrenal fatigue.
Your perception of the stressor. The same stressor can have very different effects on different people. For example, public speaking stresses many out, but others thrive on it. Additionally, if you’re able to see some benefit to the situation—the silver lining or a hard lesson learned—the stressor is easier to swallow.
Your knowledge and preparation. The more you know about a stressful situation, including how long it will last and what to expect, the better able you’ll be to face it. For example, if you go into surgery with a realistic picture of what to expect post-op, a painful recovery will be less traumatic than if you were expecting to bounce back immediately.
Your stress tolerance. Some people roll with the punches, while others crumble at the slightest obstacle or frustration. The more confidence you have in yourself and your ability to persevere, the better able you’ll be to take a stressful situation in stride.
Your support network. A strong network of supportive friends and family members is an enormous buffer against life’s stressors. But the more lonely or isolated you are, the higher your risk of stress.
Effects of chronic stress
Chronic stress wears you down day after day and year after year, with no visible escape. Under sustained or severe stress, even the most well-adjusted person loses the ability to adapt. When stress overwhelms our coping resources, our bodies and minds suffer. If stress continues on, your body then switches to a different mechanism to deal with the long-term stress. Your body releases more cortisol, a hormone which allows you to stay in an active, attentive state for long periods of time to deal with the chronic stress at hand. This stress response, however, can be quite damaging to your body if it continues for years and years – which is why chronic stress can have such a negative impact on your health. See the figue below.
Health effects
Recent research suggests that anywhere from 60 to 90 percent of illness is stress-related. The physical wear and tear of stress includes damage to the cardiovascular system and immune system suppression. Stress compromises your ability to fight off disease and infection, throws your digestive system off balance, makes it difficult to conceive a baby, and can even stunt growth in children.
 

Stress and Your Health
Many conditions are caused or exacerbated by stress, including:
• Chronic pain
• Migraines
• Ulcers
• Heartburn
• High blood pressure  
• Heart disease
• Diabetes
• Asthma
• PMS
• Obesity  
• Infertility
• Autoimmune diseases
• Recurring upper respiratory tract infections 
• Increasing allergies
• Irritable bowel syndrome
• Skin problems
 
 
 
Emotional Emotional effects
Chronic stress grinds away at your mental health, causing emotional damage in addition to physical ailments. Long-term stress can even rewire the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to everyday pressures and less able to cope. Over time, stress can lead to mental health problems such as:
• anxiety
• depression
• eating disorders, and
• substance abuse.
 
 
Severe stress and trauma
Severe stress reactions can result from sudden, catastrophic events or traumatic experiences such as a natural disaster, sexual assault, life-threatening accident, or participation in combat. After the initial shock and emotional fallout, many trauma victims gradually begin to recover from its effects. But for some people, the stress symptoms don’t go away, the body doesn’t regain its equilibrium, and life doesn’t return to normal. This severe and persisting reaction to trauma is known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 
 
 
Common symptoms of PTSD include:
• Flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, or nightmares about the trauma
• Avoidance of places and things associated with the trauma
• Hypervigilance for signs of danger
• Chronic irritability and tension
• Depression.
PTSD is a serious disorder that requires professional intervention.

 

Amy B said,

August 12, 2010 @ 12:21 pm

I am currently studying Herbal Medicine and am learning about adrenal fatigue which I have recently identified that I have been suffering from for 10 years after the suicide of a sibling etc. I have spent so much time wandering what is wrong with me and experienced a slow and progressive decline in my general health! It is so amazing to find a website as informative as this one that is easy to read and understand and has provided me with even more in depth knowledge. Thank you so much for sharing this knowledge and providing such an excellent resource. I can’t wait to kickstart the healing process.

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