It is a beautiful Tuesday morning here in Port Moody. It is right after the BC Day long weekend and I can look back on a wonderful weekend with my family, hanging out, playing soccer, going on rides, and yes, even doing a little work on videos and articles and a book I am writing.
As I get back into the Tuesday routine I am compelled to address a special category of patients that is all-too common. That category is the “Stress-Free” person.
I can’t talk about patients in any way, so I will create a fictional character. Let’s say his name is Doug. Doug has been under care for four weeks, and has been raving about his results. “I can’t believe how great I feel.” Normally, if a patient is crazy about their awesome results, I will buffer it a little.
“Listen Doug, I know you are feeling great, but it is important to stay the course because you may have ups and downs in the first two months and that is totally normal as your body heals.”
A week later, the unthinkable happens. Doug’s back pain creeps back. “Why do you think that is?” I ask him.
“I don’t know. I didn’t do anything.”
“Doug, do you remember the three sources of stress we talked about?”
“Yes, physical, mental/emotional and chemical… but I am not under any stress.”
“So you have no stress at all?”
“No, my diet is great, my life is great, I exercise, everything is great. I don’t get it!”
It’s not unusual that I look down at the little table where people place their belongings and I see a packaged energy drink (or a Starbucks or a bottle of pop) Poking out of his jacket is a cigarette pack or vaporizer. They have not one but two cell phones, and they are both buzzing. I look into his chart and see he is on 5 medications for anxiety, blood pressure, and pain. I look at their appointment list and they have no-shows, and I recall them complaining that our hours don’t suit them (yes, that’s a sign of stress).
Let’s not even get into their bad CoreScore, or the decreased movement and misalignment of their spine.
This person isn’t always overweight or weak, in fact they can often wear the mask of being what we think is healthy. They even fool themselves sometimes.
This is hard to deal with as a doctor.
Can you live without stress?
I want you to imagine the Lions Gate Bridge for a moment. Even without cars on it, does it have any stress? Of course it does. Stresses make it stand.
“Complete freedom from stress is death. Contrary to public opinion, we must not— and indeed cannot— avoid stress, but we can meet it efficiently and enjoy it by learning more about its mechanism and adjusting our philosophy of life accordingly” – Hans Selye
The truth is that even without the vape smoke or processed drinks or stimulants or job we are exposed to physical emotional and chemical stress every single day whether we like it or not.
Physical: Exercise, gravity, sitting, repetitive strain, any physical challenge we undertake and even getting out of bed in the morning is a certain amount of stress on our bodies, not to mention the cumulative damage from the experiences throughout our lives.
Emotional: We are under more stress than ever, we hear more news, more traffic, more financial stress.
Chemical: Probably the root of it all, pollution, pesticides, herbicides, plastics, caffeine, fats, the list goes on.
So let’s look at this in a new way. It isn’t that you are not under stress. It is how much stress. More importantly, how much stress can your body process.
If you can process more stress, you can do all the things you want. If you can’t process the stress, then you won’t be able to get out of bed in the morning.
Understanding the mechanism of stress means understanding that your brain and whole nervous system controls the way your body processes every stress in your life. When your nervous system functions optimally, your life force flows and you can process more and do more of the things you love.
When I hear you (yes you) tell me you have “no stress” part of me wants to yell “BS!!” (That means baloney sandwich)… but I will probably take a more tactful approach that may still come off a bit harsh to some.
“Relapses are caused by something, a weak point in your body that isn’t able to process the amount of physical, emotional or chemical stress you are under. There is no other possibility. I just want you to be mindful of this and let me know next time if you discover anything in your lifestyle that explains this.”
Knowing is Half the Battle
It may take time for people to realize that what they previously perceived as healthy or normal is a source of stress. Maybe it’s the rock climbing, or the weights, or the pump class, or the spinning. They don’t realize that the 2 hours of watching the news, or the way they treat their co-workers or festering on the hatred of an opposing sports team is emotionally taxing.
They don’t realize the diet pills and even the vitamins they are taking are a stress on their body. The so-called “diet” they are on is harmful and filled with processed foods, or jogging during rush hour and being exposed to toxicity in the air.
Or maybe it is something bigger, significant, that they just decide to ignore.
My job is simple. When that stress exceeds your ability to process it, it causes dysfunction in your body (a subluxation), and it’s my job to correct it and help you address what’s causing it.
It’s a journey isn’t it. I have a relatively small part in it, to provide care to improve the function of the nervous system. It is a relatively small thing that can make all the difference in the world.