By Dr. Ryan Kiser
Are you burned out? Do you know someone who is burned out? Chances are the answer is a resounding yes to one of those questions. One can pretty much burnout from anything, but most commonly I would say it is associated with work. People can also burn out in school, parenting, and relationships.
This typically happens when our body can no longer adapt to the amount of stress we are placing on it. It simply cannot keep up with the lack of sleep, being overworked, lack of proper nutrition/hydration, lack of movement, lack of social engagement, and lack of pretty much anything that promotes health.
Add in the last 17 months of isolation, lockdown, fear and anxiety and all of this is a recipe for disaster.
Here is a list of 42 terrifying statistics related to stress at work. Did you know that over 120,000 Americans die a year from work related stress? Me neither. Let’s take a deeper look.
Why does this happen, you ask?
Let us take a walk through the average person’s day.
They wake up after roughly 5 hours of sleep, which is 3 hours too little. They have 1-2 cups of coffee to combat the lack of sleep. They are bombarded with emails/calls/texts about upcoming meetings and projects all morning. They force down a lunch, which is most likely processed, and finish lunch with another coffee. They round out the day with more emails/calls/texts/meetings, only to finally go home and continue working. God forbid there are kids at home to be taken care of, which there probably is. When all this overwhelming and persistent stress happens day in and day out, it can have profoundly negative effects on the person.
Before we get into that, let us talk about how our body attempts to deal with all of this.
Our body’s ability to manage and adapt to stress is rooted in our central nervous system. The CNS is the master system of the body and controls every action and reaction. The CNS is made up of the brain and the spinal cord. Our spinal nerves branch off our spinal cord and supply every cell/tissue/organ in the body.
There is a portion of our nervous system that is called the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system deals with the internal organs. I like to think of autonomic as automatic. It deals with everything that our body does unconsciously, or automatically. For example, you do not have to tell yourself to breathe while reading this. If you do, you are probably burned out. The ANS is responsible for things like heart rate, breath rate, and digestion. Our ANS is deeply impacted by stress and bears the brunt of our stress response. An increase in stress will increase heart rate, decrease digestion, increase breathing, increase sweating, tighten muscles, and dilate pupils. All these actions are related to the part of the ANS that is called the sympathetic nervous system.
The most significant adverse effect is the significant decrease in immune resilience with increased inflammation.
The sympathetic nervous system is our “fight, flight, or freeze” system. This is what kicks in when we come face to face with a giant tiger while walking down a dark alley. Either we are going to take that tiger head on, or we are going to run from it, which is probably a better option. The third option of freeze means exactly what you think it does…freeze. As in nothing happens.
The stress of a giant tiger should be short lived (once we get away). Then our body can go back to operating how it should – in the parasympathetic state. Our parasympathetic nervous system is where we rest and digest. This is the control system for recovery and healing. Its job is to basically unwind the work of the sympathetic division after a stressful situation.
What does that big tiger, previously mentioned, do during most of its day? It pretty much spends its day lying around and relaxing. That is exactly what our nervous system is wired to be doing. We should be cruising through our lives with minimal stress and maximum happiness. How does that sound compared to the scenario I described earlier? Sounds ideal to me. So, what happens when we are continually stressed past the point our body can handle?
Our bodies are not wired to be continually stressed out. We are not wired to be bombarded by stress from every facet of our life. You would think once we got home from work and could relax, we would. But what do we do? We look at today’s negative headlines and get into twitter battles with people we do not even know. In our office, we say our stress comes from the four T’s (thoughts, traumas, toxins, and technology). These 4 stresses all have the same response on our body, because our body has only one stress response.
Technology is the newest form, and everyone is addicted to it. Your body perceives your twitter battle as an actual fist fight. Or, how about the perpetual state of fear most people have been living in for the last year and a half? Long-term stress and a decreased ability to adapt to said stress, can cause a multitude of symptoms and diseases. These include heart disease, depression, anxiety, diabetes, stroke, and a decrease in immune function to name a few. This inability to adapt is at the root cause of so many things we see in our office every day with every patient.
So, what do we do?
One of the main principles of Future Generations is that our body is self-healing and self-regulating. If you give the body what it needs, it will act perfectly, or what we like to call normal. Imagine that? Our body’s ability to self-heal and adapt is primal. It is innate to us. The only thing we have to do is not interfere with it.
In our office we measure the interference to our system in a few ways. We take structural movement radiographs to find how the spine does or does not work. Changes to the structure and function of our spinal column is the physical manifestation of interference to our nervous system. We also do two different types of scans to measure where stress is stuck in the body, along with a heart rate variability measurement. Our HRV shows us in real time how well our body is adapting to the stress that is being thrown at it. It demonstrates our own body’s ability to adapt to the stress and how to respond to it.
Once we have all that information, we put into a plan of action to get the person down the path of normal. The parasympathetic nervous system lives in our cervical and lumbar spines. The sympathetic nervous system lives in our thoracic spine. Adjusting the cervical and/or lumbar spine is like flipping a switch on your nervous system to calm down. Most patients who get adjusted for the first time tell us they went home and took a 3-hour nap. Their body was finally allowed to calm down and activate its own unique healing potential.
Do you want that for your own body? Let us know how Future Generations can help you on your own health journey.