In today’s fast moving, high energy, and constantly changing environment that we live in, are we slowly killing ourselves with stress? Stress can, and will, present itself in several ways in our daily lives. Ninety percent of all doctor’s visits are stress-related. There is no way around it, but you can learn how to overcome and deal with the stress in an appropriate manner. Not all stress is bad for you, but prolonged periods of stress can be detrimental to your body, mind, and heart.
When we encounter stress, our bodies release hormones called adrenaline and cortisol. The adrenaline will increase your heart rate, boost your energy supply, and elevate your blood pressure. Cortisol is the primary stress hormone. Cortisol increases glucose (sugars) into the bloodstream to allow its use for the brain. Cortisol also shuts off nonessential functions that may be detrimental in a fight-or-flight situation. The immune system, reproductive system, digestive system, and growth processes are all suppressed. Both the body and the brain are altered with mood control, fear, and motivation. In most cases, when the stressor is removed or passed, then the body’s stress response system will regulate and normalize. But if the stress is still present for long periods of time, then your stress will become chronic.
Once the stress becomes chronic, you have the highest risk for numerous health issues. However, it’s not so much the stress that causes the heart disease and health issues, but the way we handle the chronic stress. With chronic stress, your body never regulates or goes back to normal so it stays at a hyperactive state: increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and suppressed immune and important functions. If you try to tackle stress with smoking, drinking, and sleeping, you will only increase your chances for heart diseases.
Tobacco is a vascular constrictor, so smoking to handle stress is only making it worse for your body. With irregular heart rates, increased blood pressures and your arterial walls closing in, you cannot transport the necessary oxygen throughout the body to handle the stress. If you try drowning it away with alcohol, you are only further altering your mind and only putting the stress on the shelf for the night. Also, along with smoking and drinking, there normally comes a lack of exercise. That is a recipe for disaster on the heart!
Meditation, Exercise, and Massage
Some ways to manage your stress in a healthy manner are to identify the true stressors and understand why they stress you out. Meditation is a good way to assist in understanding your stress. The more time you take for yourself “to look within,” the better you will see the stressors before they happen. Exercise is also an excellent way to help manage stress. Chronic stress on our muscles can create issues in muscles health, strength, and balance. Taking the time to exercise can help you clear your mind, strengthen your body, and reduce your stress.
The last technique for stress management is my favorite, massage. Most people think of a massage as a luxury, something they treat themselves to or give as a gift, but a massage has many health benefits as well. We have over 400 individual muscles making up roughly 40 percent of our body mass. One of the best ways to rid the muscles of the chronic stress and tension is a deep tissue massage. The buildup of chronic stress in the muscles will leave a lingering effect. The muscle tension will cause shortening of the muscles and start to pull on the tendons. Prolong tension on the tendons can lead to pain where the tendons attach to the bone causing inflammation resulting in tendinitis.
Not only can inflammation occur, but trigger points will start to set in as well. These trigger points can cause all kinds of issues: tension headaches and TMJ (Temporo-mandibular joint) pain, if in neck and shoulders; and digestive issues and back pain, if in abdominal region or colon. If trigger points are never treated, they will start to take over. Ridding the body of the trigger points with massage will increase blood flow (circulation), promote balance, and promote stress-free relaxation.
A massage can help activate your stress response system to regulate and level off the body’s fight-or-flight. Recent studies have shown decreased cortisol levels in participants who received massage for stress management (study from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles). By leveling the cortisol and adrenaline in the body, all normal body functions will start to work properly again.
Another huge benefit to getting a massage is receiving one of our essential human needs — touch (according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs). The human touch can do so much for a person and, when it is intended for stress relief, you are in for a great massage.
Stress, work stress, life stress, need stress reduction, need stress management? Schedule today!