What exactly is stress—and what more insidious effects does it cause? The dictionary defines stress as “great pressure or force; strain.” In today’s world, we think of stress as the result of too much pressure laid upon us by life, causing mental worry or anguish. This, in turn, manifests itself in tight neck and shoulders, headaches, nervous stomach, etc. But these physical and mental conditions are really only the beginning.
Studies show that stressful situations can develop into more threatening health conditions. For instance:
A sudden or unexpected stressor can activate your adrenal glands, which sends adrenaline and other hormones into your bloodstream. This brings about an increase in your breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and blood flow to the muscles. This physical response was appropriate generations ago when it was needed for our very survival, but today much of our stress is emotional. With the high number of mental stress incidents that we can experience each day, these repetitive physical responses can begin to wear out all of the body’s intricate systems.
When your stress is chronic, your body releases cortisol, a hormone designed to help the body handle a period of prolonged physical stress. This hormone is hard for the body to metabolize and consequently can lead to an immune system that becomes heavily suppressed, a damaged cardiovascular system, and a worn out endocrine system (the system responsible for handling stressful conditions).
According to Paul J. Rosch, M.D., president of the American Institute of Stress, in Yonkers, N.Y., the following are some of the common stress symptoms:
- Frequent headaches, jaw clenching, or teeth grinding
- Neck ache, back pain, or muscle spasms
- Frequent colds and infections
- Rashes, itching, hives or unexplained allergy attacks
- Chest pain, palpitations, or rapid pulse
- Excess anxiety, worry, guilt or nervousness
- Depression or frequent mood swings
- Insomnia or nightmares
- Difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, confusion
- Significant weight gain or loss without diet change
- Nervous habits such as fidgeting
- Constant tiredness, weakness, or fatigue
Regular massage is the ideal remedy for a stressful life. You first experience the relief from massage’s soothing movements that can loosen tense muscles, but there are so many more benefits.
Massage can open the lines of communication throughout your body. For instance, your blood and lymph circulation is increased, which helps all parts of your body to receive essential nutrients, dispose of waste products, and defend against disease.
Stress may take its greatest toll on the nervous system. Massage can address the imbalances that stress causes in your body by stimulating the sensory receptors that interconnect and harmonize all areas of your body, bringing it back into proper balance. This brings about that sense of well-being you experience that goes far beyond the release of tense muscles.
Studies from the Touch Research Institute in Miami indicate that stress hormones consistently fall after massage, no matter what the age of the client. Workers receiving massages showed brain waves that reflect greater mental alertness, and their feelings of job stress were markedly reduced. Nighttime sleep patterns also improved. Tiffany Field, director of TRI, summarizes: “People think massage is just running hands over the surface of the body. But in stimulating the skin, we’re showing you’re overhauling the nervous system.”
Between massages, try to lessen stress in your life by avoiding its causes. Try to identify what gets you stressed. Is it necessary to be affected by the situation? Can you alter the situation so it’s no longer stressful to you?
Realize that in most cases you have to agree that something is stressful to you before it can affect you adversely. Are you actually creating the stress yourself?
If you want further information, or have specific questions regarding stress, just ask at your next session or leave a comment below.