How Does Stress Affect Neuropathy?

How Often Do You Feel Stressed?

Stress has become such a common condition in our modern world that too many people have begun to accept it as just another part of life. It’s no wonder the vast majority of Americans suffer from one or more chronic conditions related to stress! (How often do YOU feel stress take over?)

How Does Stress Affect Your Body?

Stress is more than an emotional feeling; it’s a chemical and physical reaction in the brain that impacts both mental and physical well-being.

When you experience stress, a complex process kicks into motion: your brain tells your adrenal glands (organs that sit on top of your kidneys) to make more hormones called adrenaline and cortisol; adrenaline kicks your energy up a notch along with cortisol, which increases your blood sugar levels. Cortisol is also responsible for the “spare tire” around your waistline.  

When you feel stressed your body shuts down other bodily functions like digestion and other key functions so it can focus on the immediate “threat” your body thinks is most important. Your brain functions differently and causes other, more simple hormones to kick in; your thoughts become clouded… it’s a very real and complex process.

YOUR_BODY_ON_STRESSYou Were Not Meant to Have Constant Stress!

The way our body handles stress is called the “fight or flight” response. It protected our ancestors from danger. But the threat was not constant. It happened, the body reacted, and when the threat was gone our ancestors returned to a “normal” stress-free state. It was not a constant problem the way it has become in modern society.

Fast-forward to today and many people live in near-constant stress. Imagine what that flood of hormones and bodily changes can do to the body when it happens so frequently!

Studies show that stress increases inflammation, and inflammation contributes hugely to multiple chronic diseases along with physical and mental pain.

How Does Stress Affect Neuropathy?

Have you thought about how, when you are under stress, your neuropathy symptoms seem so much worse? After reading through the symptoms we described above - especially inflammation! - are you surprised?

Stress can cause peripheral nerves in your hands and feet to experience worse numbness, increased burning, and more intense tingling sensations. While stress doesn’t “cause” neuropathy, it can absolutely contribute to your symptoms, so finding ways to reduce your stress load should help lower your suffering.

How to lower stress to lessen neuropathy symptoms?

Taking steps to lower your stress will result in numerous health benefits. Along with helping to lessen your neuropathy symptoms, you will improve your digestive health, stabilize your hormones, get better sleep, and reduce inflammation that may be feeding into other chronic issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, heart disease, and much more.

Mindfulness & Meditation

Try these simple steps to lowering stress:

  • Meditation and Prayer: Time to shut off and shut out all the distractions for even a few minutes! Natural stress relief meditation and mindfulness-based stress reduction are types of simple mental techniques that can be practiced for just minutes a day to bring about mindfulness and reduce stress or anxiety. If you’re new to meditation, just focus on being still and calming your thoughts. Prayer can also help with that and has been found to be highly beneficial in stress reduction. 
  • Box Breathing: We take breathing for granted, but many people do not breathe properly or deeply. Box breathing is the method of counting slowly in and out for four breaths each to regulate your breathing pattern. Fill your lungs slowly in through your nose and then exhale slowly out through your mouth. Picture drawing in strength with each deep breath in and ridding yourself of stress with each breath out.
  • Tai Chi: The elderly in Asian countries use Tai Chi for stress reduction, slow purposeful exercise, and balance! Tai Chi incorporates motion and mindfulness, with guided deep breathing incorporated into many classes, whether you attend in person, online, or by watching a DVD - there are levels for everyone, of all ages. 
  • Exercise- that you enjoy! Find something that you can do to get up and move. It may mean taking it slow and easy, so you feel safe and secure, but rest assured the more you try the easier it gets. Start by walking around your home or your driveway, then work your way up to a beautiful park. Go for a bike ride with a friend, or find a fun class at the Y or your local senior center that makes exercising fun (Chair exercises and Tai Chi are great starter classes, work your way up to a dance class is always a hit!)
  • Practice self-care: Take a hot bath with Epsom salts and essential oils, treat yourself to a pedicure, spend some time in a sauna, write in your journal, or do a devotional. Listen to your body and give it some love.
  • Find something funny to focus on! Research has shown that laughter can reduce stress (and who doesn’t love to laugh?) so reading a funny book or watching a funny movie is a great way to redirect your emotions away from stress.

If you're experiencing high levels of stress, the bottom line is that finding ways to manage and reduce your stress levels will work wonders for your overall health. Try one or more of the tips above, and share in the comments or on our Facebook Page if you have more tips to share!

Share this blog so others can benefit from less stress in their lives and reach out to the Momentum Health team if we can help you get relief from neuropathy pain.

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In God and in Health,

Dr. May

Dr. May Momentum Health Neuropathy