STRESS, the silent killer and how massage can help
In today’s world we deal with so much stress. Stress of bills, jobs, friends, traffic, family, our pets, groceries, what to eat, when to eat, what to take, or not to take and the list goes on and on. We often spend the entire day from waking until sleep stressed with no break or time to relax and recover from the effects of stress. In fact, stress becomes our normal way of being. In small doses stress plays a very important role and is a good mechanism to protect us. The stress response is the same now as it was thousands of years ago. It is a loop in the body that tells us there is danger, we run and either are eaten by a predator or live and then relax. Stress response is first and then the relaxation response follows. In modern life we often are missing the relaxation response as we go from bed to rushing to feed the kids and get them on the bus, to traffic, high stress job, lunch meeting, more traffic, kids soccer game, making dinner, paying bills, checking email and the list goes on and on. The stress response stays activated and the body never relaxes to allow the body to achieve balance. When we sense danger or feel threatened our nervous system responds by releasing stress hormones. These hormones including adrenaline and cortisol flood the blood stream and kick the body into emergency response. Blood pressure rises, immune system is suppressed, the aging process can be sped up, the digestive system is suppressed, the breath becomes faster, the muscles tighten, blood is sent away from the digestive system and toward the limbs and the body gets ready to “fight” or “flight”. When we have a healthy amount of stress it can sharpen our concentration, help us stay focused, and alert. In the face of danger it can save our lives giving us extra speed and strength. However, when we let stress govern our lives and keep the stress hormones in our blood we have long-term negative health effects. Some of these symptoms of stress include depression, poor appetite, often sick, fatigued, pain in the body, sleep problems (too much or too little), weight problems, heart problems, constipation, diarrhea, loss of sex drive, anxiety, short temper, skin conditions and so on. So we just keep fighting and flighting. Yoga, massage and meditation are some techniques to help us to counter the affects of stress on the body. Self care gives the practitioner a break from the stress hormones and allows the relaxation response to kick in reducing the negative effects of stress. Focused movement such as asana (yoga poses), nurturing touch (massage) and meditation helps not only to quiet the mind causing the body to relax but also aid the blood and lymph to flow more freely through the body assisting digestion, and immune functions. When the mind relaxes the muscles in the body will relax and reduce the tensions caused by stress. These mind-body balancing tools are known to improve muscle strength, circulation (and hormones), flexibility, and oxygen uptake and are also great tools for the autonomic nervous system to activate the parasympathetic system helping the body to relax, restore and rejuvenate.