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  • Csilla Newham

The 3 Stages of Stress and When to Seek Help

Updated: Apr 19, 2019

According to both Western Medicine and Traditional Chinese medicine, when our body functions optimally we are in homeostasis. We feel physically healthy, energetic, pain free, we are emotionally balanced, we are mentally stable and can think with clarity, we absorb all the nutrition we need and we feel inspired about our life.

According to the Generalized Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) of Western Physiology there are 3 Stages of stress developed by Hungarian endocrinologist, Hans Selye. Interestingly, in kinesiology we can determine the different stages of stress the person is in by the way the muscle responds during muscle monitoring.

Stage 1 - Alarm Reaction

Stage 2 – Compensation

Stage 3 – Exhaustion

Kinesiology might be able to assist your body to access and release the cause of your issue and support your body to come back into balance (or homeostasis). The longer you leave it to seek help the more prolonged the treatment, recovery time and associated medical cost (both financial and emotional) might be.

Stage 1 - Alarm Reaction is the stage when the body gets exposed to some type of stress be it physical, structural, emotional, physiological, mental or psychological. You got a cold or trauma to the knee or experienced emotional stress. These places the body into the well-known “fight or flight” response and the sympathetic nervous system activated. Cortisol and adrenaline are released into the blood stream and the body’s resources are mobilized — heart rate and blood pressure increase, breathing becomes more rapid, extra energy and blood flow is sent to the muscular system. The digestive system and part of the brain gets switched off. If the stress has been minor or removed or the problem has been remedied, the body will to return to homeostasis and it not it will move to stage 2. As an example, we hurt our knee and we don’t do anything about it, this is stage 1.

Stage 2 – Compensation: Continued exposure to stress will encourage the body to adapt. The body compensates for the stress by resisting it, reorganises itself thereby being forced to create a new homeostasis point. Resistance rises above standard level and it requires more energy to maintain itself. This is NOT sustainable for long periods of time. It is energetically expensive but if “successful” it remains outside of our consciousness. In this stage we could be feeling snappy, impatient and irritable towards people and situations that normally don’t bother us. E.g. Initial injury to knee (stage 1 stress) if ignored requires the body to compensate by perhaps putting more weight on the other leg which causes the hip to move out of alignment. It has a knock on effect that might lead our shoulder and spine to get out of balance, not to mention the suppression of the real cause of why you injured your knee in the first place.

Stage 3 – Exhaustion: This is the final stage of stress when all resources have been exhausted and the body cannot compensate anymore. This stage symbolizes a breakdown of your system. The long term cortisol (long term stress hormone) can affect every cell in our body, in our very genetics, in fact it changes the way our body codes our DNA. Relating back to the knee problem and consequent compensation in hip and shoulder and spine we are now having difficulty even walking without pain across our whole body.

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