Here at the clinic we are presented with several chronic pain patients. Pain is expressed across the board and can be caused by diverse reasons. We have been increasingly curious about the rate of patients who experience symptoms of pain or disease and anxiety and wanted to further study this correlation. Some research we have come across has proven that there is in fact a direct correlation between anxiety, pain & disease.
When we experience anxiety or stress our body goes through what is called fight or flight. This natural stress response in primal dates has been beneficial to escape life threatening and dangerous events such as fleeing from a predator or escaping a hazardous situation. Fortunately in today's age we don't necessarily experience life threatening events such as fleeing for safety. However, currently we are experiencing exponential rates of people who suffer from mild-severe anxiety as well as rapid clinical diagnoses of "burn out" among large populations.
Today's fight or flight response can be triggered by events such as; due dates, public speaking, dead lines, not enough "likes" on social media, social isolation, interviews, meetings, financials, family drama and other non-life threatening situations. We have evolved into a society that is fear driven but all in which are completely mentally perceived. Below are some statistics that express the rates in which adults and children diagnosed with anxiety.
National Institute of Mental Health states that "Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year."(NIMH)
National Institute of Mental Health studies also show that "Anxiety disorders affect 25.1% of children between 13 and 18 years old. Research shows that untreated children with anxiety disorders are at higher risk to perform poorly in school, miss out on important social experiences, and engage in substance abuse"(NIMHH)
Whats also interesting is that there are correlations between anxiety and physical symptoms such as; (ADAA)
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Adult ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactive disorder)
BDD (body dysmorphic disorder)
All recorded from Anxiety and Depression Association of America
Kendra Cherry expresses that when we experience fight or flight "the sympathetic nervous systems stimulate the adrenal glands triggering the release of catecholamines, which include adrenaline and noradrenaline. This results in an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate"(AIS)
When we are in fight or flight we experience uncomfortable physical symptoms including rapid heart beat and breathing, pale or flush skin, dilated pupils, "butterflies" in stomach, dizziness, sweating and muscle tension causing possible trembling. All of which effect the inner bodily systems throwing the body out of homeostasis. By definition, "homeostasis is the tendency toward a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological processes". And the physiological processes is "relating to the branch of biology that deals with the normal functions of living organisms and their parts".
When we encounter such devastating imbalances in the body is when we experience disease on all levels; physically, mentally and emotionally. Disease by definition is "a disorder of structure or function in a human, animal, or plant, especially one that produces specific signs or symptoms or that affects a specific location and is not simply a direct result of physical injury".
If we continue to stay in the state of fight or flight over a long period of time is when we acquire diseases, conditions and diagnoses as mentioned above. With all of this explained we can only assume that the root cause of the large majority of people suffering is stemmed from chronic - long term anxiety!
Some ways we can reduce daily stressors;
Daily Meditation practice
Exercise - even 15 mins of moderate activity daily - better than nothing
Relax your muscles - gentle stretch, self massage, oil bathing
Deep breathing - pranayama, breath work, focused breathing
Eat a well balanced diet - properly nourish with whole foods
Slow down - plan your day 10-15 mins early so you don't feel the sense of rush
Take a break - honor your boundaries
Make time for hobbies - reading, knitting, hiking etc.
Talk therapy - reach out to a trusted person, family member, friend or therapist
Give yourself credit - go easy on yourself and account for all the things you have accomplished
Eliminate triggers - become aware of what stresses you and try to minimize the exposure if possible
Journal - use a journal to free right as a way to untangle your mind and make sense of the things that cause the stress. Free write with no judgement.
Shower/bathe - imagine cleansing away all the impurities that are stressing you
Nature - get out into nature, sit in the sun when possible, connect with nature as much as you can.
“Any Anxiety Disorder.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/any-anxiety-disorder.shtml.
Cherry , Kendra. “How the Fight or Flight Response Works.” The American Institute of Stress, 21 Aug. 2019, www.stress.org/how-the-fight-or-flight-response-works.
“Facts & Statistics.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA, adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics.