Our bodies are designed to handle stressful situations, referred to as the “flight or fight” mode, wherein when we need to quickly react, the body goes into action and produces hormones that stimulate the adrenal system, raise cortisol levels and gets our muscles instantly ready to go. Once that situation is resolved, our body has the remarkable ability to return back to homeostasis or normal balance quickly.
But modern-day life may keep one in flight or fight readiness too often. This may be due to ongoing work pressure, relationship and money issues or the stress related to the current state of the world. Chronic stress can, over time, overwork the adrenal system resulting in fatigue and poor circulation. In turn, fatigue and poor circulation limit the ability of the body to deliver essential nutrients to the eyes.
The retina and eye are extensions of the brain. It is therefore conceivable that “ophthalmologic” diseases may actually also be “brain” diseases in disguise, both of which depend on the vascular system.
The Effect of Stress
Chronic stress can result in hypertension, digestive dysfunction, depression, anxiety and fear. Chronic stress may be a major cause of visual system diseases such as glaucoma and optic neuropathy, dry eye syndrome, as well as aggravate other eye conditions, such as diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration.
Though most cases of glaucoma are open-angle glaucoma, there are many cases of normal-tension glaucoma where the eye pressure is considered within normal range. Causes or contributing factors can range anywhere from genetic susceptibility, stress sensitization, to a disturbed stress resilience system. For example, patients with primary vascular dysregulation respond more strongly to psychological stress, which in turn is linked to ocular blood flow and damage to the structure of the eye cause normal tension glaucoma.
Other stress-inducing vision issues include dizziness, eye strain, sensitivity to light, eye floaters and eye spasms.
What Can We Do?
We know that management of stress and how we react to stressful situations, as well as complementary nutritional support can work together to protect vision.
An underlying assumption is that stress management can help activate residual vision and restoration. Though we cannot always control external forces that cause stress, we can have a measure of control over how it affects us on a daily basis by employing the following techniques.
1. Keep breathing. When you find yourself feeling stress, take a minute and take long, slow breaths.
2. Eat a healthy diet. Avoid sugar, refined carbohydrates, diet sodas and all artificial sweeteners (stevia is fine), stick with healthy oils and avoid fried foods and vegetable oils unless unrefined. Do not cook with vegetable oils at high temperatures. Eat plenty of leafy greens and other vegetables and fruits, particularly berries, preferably organic if possible.
3. Exercise regularly and take a walk when you feel stressed.
4. Take breaks when possible to meditate, do yoga or Qi Gong, walk in the wood, etc., particularly when feeling stressed.
5. Nourish healthy relationships with friends and family and avoid unhealthy ones when possible.
6. Wake and go to sleep with a positive image or a positive affirmation.
7. Get plenty of sleep – Turn off the computer and phone at least an hour before bed.
8. Take good supplements for the eyes and body since we cannot always eat the way we need to.