Stress – Hidden Enemy of the Immune System
Stress occurs when the levels of pressure become so great, that we are no longer in a situation which excites and motivates us, but one which frightens us, seems too much for us to manage, is threatening and feels out of our control.
It is described by the Health and Safety Executive [HSE] as, “ the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demands placed upon them.”
Stress causes ill health because when we are in a situation where we feel out-of-control, with too heavy a burden placed on us, and unable to manage, we become disheartened, distressed and to some degree, depressed and anxious. We begin to have less patience with others, and have more disagreements and damage our relationships.
We can feel that everything is so overwhelming that we just don’t know where to start, so we don’t start, and achieve very little, or nothing, which just makes the dread increase, and we feel bad about ourselves because we know how important the thing that needs to be done is, and we’re not getting it done, and it is our responsibility.
Worked into that is that everyone likes to feel that others think good of them, and no-one likes to feel like they are letting other people down, and/or damaging their own good name and reputation – this increases the pressures on you, and so also increases the bad feelings you have about yourself, as many people are their own worst critic.
Being stressed can lead, for some types of people, to not eating regularly or properly, smoking more and drinking excessive amounts of caffeine or alcohol. All of these behaviours are harmful and can lead to worsening circumstances.
Another, and less easily controlled way in which stress affects us, is that when a person feels in trouble [out of control, frightened, threatened ways we do feel when stressed, not just in the presence of immediate danger], the brain automatically sends signals to the sympathetic nervous system to initiate the ‘fight’ or ’flight’ response.
The ’fight’ or ’flight’ response is this :
* Lungs pump faster and the heart starts to race
* Blood pressure rises, charging up the muscles and sharpening the mind
* The stomach gets jumpy and the rush of endorphins numbs the body
* The appetite, libido and immune system shut down, and the energy they would usually consume is diverted to muscles that will help the body fight the immediate threat.
So, as is indicated in the last sentence, the ’fight or flight response’, is designed to come into play when there is an ‘immediate’ threat – but it comes into play when we are very stressed, and this is a situation which does not always resolve quickly, so our bodies are being overworked in some areas, shutdown in others [which are very important and needed] and whereas the adrenaline released in the response washes out of the body quickly, the cortisol may linger much longer, for days, weeks, even years – keeping the immune system and other important functions depressed.
Children can be affected much more severely by this and long-term can have their growth, brain development and sexual maturity all slowed.
There is also the position where we can adapt to take more and more pressure, as needed for some times in our lives, but then when the situation is resolved, we cannot mentally cope with suddenly going from being subjected to high-stress, to no-stress. This is when people have nervous breakdowns, or worse. This is seen in high-stress jobs, such as the police force, where the average life expectancy of a policeman after retiring is only 10yrs – and considering they retire earlier than everybody else, that is quite young.
There is also ’Post Traumatic Stress Disorder’ which happens when someone survives intensely traumatic circumstances and may show such symptoms as withdrawal from others, flashbacks, and feelings of helplessness.
If we are stressed ourselves we can be assured our dogs are too, as they, like children, are affected by the stress within the family and immediate environment. Our dogs mirror us and so one way to deal with stress in our dogs, is to deal with stress within ourselves, and those around us in the family unit or pack, as the dog sees it. I have used two holistic methods to help my dogs with stress successfully, but also worked on myself and my reactions to situations and how I react and changed the ways I think and react which has also played a big part. Sometimes one of my children will come in and be very stressed, and it is up to me to stop and consider this and not simply react negatively to them if they are rude – which is unproductive as there is a reason why they are being like that – but in the rush of life it is as easy to forget and ‘not have time’ for these things as it is to become a little too self-absorbed. Claiming time for myself also helps me, and so helps the dogs also, as to a very large extent, the way a household functions, and the vibe present, is reliant on the wife and mother – I’m not sure why, and don’t willingly accept the responsibility of this, but do see it validified in my own home.
I have found Reiki to be excellent as it relaxes the dogs as it heals, also giving the dog quality time with you whilst it is receiving the Reiki. My home is a very busy home, with five children plus their friends in and out all the time, a husband with a high-stress job, and teenagers having hormonal changes going on and new, learning [but also sometimes upsetting] experiences going on, with them learning how to deal with them, and we all have our different and strong personalities, clashing sometimes, and learning to live together.
I give my dog’s Reiki whenever I am sitting down and one of them is with me, but they sometimes choose not to have it, but I must warn you – once you give Reiki healing to a dog, be prepared for them to never leave you alone again, and every time you visit their home expect them to be in your face asking for more because they Love it !
The other way I have helped mine and others dogs with stressful situations is by using EFT and this work very well, especially if the dog is nervous or skittish or doesn’t know you, as it can easily be done from a distance.
Of course both of these therapies can be done as distance therapies, but I do like to visit and be in the home as I get so much information from just being able to see the dog and ask there and then about anything I may pick up on, which could be so subtle the owner hasn’t noticed.
There is no doubt, stress is in our lives, and our dogs lives, and affects all of us, but if we are aware then we can do much to minimise adverse reactions and upset it can cause.