Stress and the Stress Response Evaluation

Stress harms our health if we do not manage it correctly. A Stress Response Evaluation measures the way our bodies react to stress. Treatment plans can then be designed, including neurofeedback therapy, to retrain the brain and body to respond normally to stressors.

Please describe how different types of stress affect our bodies and our health.

Dr. Greg Olsen: Okay. That’s a great question. Stress is a really big topic to talk about and going into how different types of stress affect our bodies is the first step to look at. The way our bodies are designed, the body doesn’t differentiate between good stress or bad stress. It just recognizes that there’s a stress. It delivers an appropriate response and then hopefully that stress goes away and you recover. That is classically what we call the fight or flight response. You have a stressor, you run or you fight, and it’s over and you’re done.

When that stress response occurs, again, whether it’s a good stress or bad stress, and how often it occurs and if you recover is really the part that impacts our health. Stress by itself is kind of life. But if you can imagine, if you’re constantly being stressed and you never recover, you never recover, you never recover your body goes into a state of adaption where it’s going into a breakdown state or catabolic state rather than anabolic or recovery. In terms of how that affects our health, some people will say when I get stressed my shoulder muscles get tight or I feel tense all over. Those are definitely things that we can feel with regards to how stress affects us.

But when we look at it for how stress affects our health, it really comes down to everything all the way from the muscles down to the very cellular functions in our body. It can disrupt our hormone functions, cellular nutrition, neurotransmitter function, how our brain works, how our nutrition works, digestion. The impact is very broad as far as how stress can affect our bodies and our health.

How does a stress response evaluation work? What is being measured?

Dr. Greg Olsen: Great question. The stress response evaluation is a very unique test. What it does is it’s evaluating the stress response in your body. And, as I mentioned before, you have a stress and you’re exposed to it, the normal response would be to experience that stressor, take care of it and then be done. Again, in the flight or fight response, you run into some kind of a stressor, say it’s a bear, you fight it or you run. And once it’s done, it’s done.

The stress response evaluation, what it is measuring is different parameters such as an EEG evaluation. An EEG is measuring the brain wave activity. Then below that it’s measuring different body areas that are being regulated by your nervous system automatically, things like heart rate, heart rate variability, skin temperature, skin conductance, your breathing pace, muscle tension. All of those are being controlled automatically. Once those are being measured, then the test exposes you to three standardized stressors, computerized. It measures what your stress response is and what your recovery is or even if you are recovering. Depending upon if this is something newer in your life whether your body is maladapting related to this or if it’s something that’s been going on for some time, we can really see what patterning your body has done and is doing related to this stress response.

How are the results analyzed and used to help a person manage their stress?

Dr. Greg Olsen: Once we have the testing done, the results are analyzed by comparison to what we call a normative or normal data or how a normal person would respond. With that result sequence or understanding of what’s happening, we can then design a customized program to help that person. That may be anything from neurofeedback to biofeedback, ways in which those programs are used to help retrain the body to come into a normal stress response or recovery stage. There can also be different types of treatment done such as retraining for breathing patterns, what we call functional neurology type testing looking at primitive reflexes and postural reflexes that are providing primary input for brain function, brain response.

And then on a personal level as far as being able to help a person manage stress, one of the most interesting things with this testing is that the person’s correlation with their perceived level of stress and how their body’s responding showed absolutely no correlation, meaning a person can come and feel like they have absolutely zero stress and then when they are tested, they could be in a deep stage of chronic long term stress that they don’t have a conscious recognition of. That’s really one of the most dangerous states because a person can think that they’re doing fine but their body’s actually performing very poorly. When we look at those states, having people become more aware of what’s happening with them and recognizing different stressors and teaching them on their own things they can do outside of the office, things such as breathing patterns and inside the office, bio feedback and neuro feedback and appropriate dietary management and chiropractic or functional neurology care to really rebalance that stress response.

Is this type of stress response evaluation appropriate for all ages and how does someone get started?

Dr. Greg Olsen: The stress response evaluation in terms of testing,  can be as early as, depending upon the maturity of the kid, eight, nine or ten years old, can be an early starting point. There are other ways of applying it for younger ages if we need to but that’s the best way to see it. For getting started, that really involves someone giving a call to the office and expressing an interest in getting evaluated for your stress response. And then we set you up and get you scheduled for the testing.

For people suffering with a high level of stress or anxiety, what type of relief can they expect?

Dr. Greg Olsen: When people are suffering or experiencing a high level of stress or anxiety, oftentimes we’ll separate those two items. Clinically, the type of relief that they can expect is once we have identified these patterns, and start getting them on the right track for retraining their bodies to respond properly to stress, they simply very commonly will state that they feel even keeled. Stressors don’t tend to get to them. Stomach upset, digestion straightens out. Those are the types of things that people will be able to experience in terms of the relief from that stress and anxiety.

Learn More

To speak with Dr. Greg Olsen, visit www.askdrolsen.com or call (949) 859-5192 to schedule an appointment.

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