What to do about stress

We all have those days. The days that seem to drag on and couldn’t possibly get any worse. The stress and frustration culminates into frantic feeling of hopelessness and anger or depression. Stressful situations have a physiological effect on the body that exist as a means of self preservation, or the “Fight or Flight” response. We evolved this response over millions of years as means of protecting ourselves from environmental dangers that were often life or death. Now it is a result of being stuck in traffic when you are late for a job interview. Our priorities may have changed, but the negative impact of prolonged exposure to stress has not. In this post, we will discuss how stress affects us, and what we can do about it.

Why do I feel this way?

Stress is a natural response to situations that can be perceived as danger. It originally would keep us safe from wild boar stampedes, or alligators. Our “Fight or FLight” response is regulated by our Central nervous system (CNS) that is triggered by two hormones: Adrenaline, and Cortisol. These two hormones are created by the adrenal gland when told to do so by the hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for controlling behaviors such as hunger, and maintaining body temperature. These chemicals have an affect on multiple parts of the body. It causes an increase in respiratory and cardiovascular rate in order to get highly oxygenated blood to the parts of the body that need it most when fleeing a 40 foot python.

You’re Tearing me apart, stress!!!

So how does this actually affect us? Horribly! Not only are we Irritable and Depressed, we also can have more physical symptoms like headaches or insomnia. Other parts of the body also begin to feel the affects.

The Heart

The increase in heart rate and blood flow causes an increase in blood pressure. When running for your life, this is considered worth it and rare. When sitting in traffic on a daily basis, however it can cause an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, or aneurysm. 

The Muscular System

As massage therapists, this one is particularly relevant. As a means of protecting from injury, the muscles tense up in preparation for a fight. The muscles will relax and release once the stressful stimulus is gone, but those of us who have constant deadlines, commute to work, and have to shuttle the kids to and from Dance/TaeKwonDo or Piano, the stress never seems to go. If the muscles are not allowed to relax, over time this can cause chronic pain in the back, shoulders, and extremities, and cause headaches.

The Immune System

Stress has the immediate effect of stimulating the immune system so that it can help with your bear mauling wounds, but over time, this weakens the immune system as it is over used, and reduces its ability to fight of foreign invaders. Things like the Cold of Flu will hit you hard, faster, and more often as you are unable to effectively fight it off.

The Digestive System

We all love using our digestive systems to eat and process delicious foods. Sometimes, under stress, these chemical process can be affected. You liver will produce extra blood sugar in order to give you more energy when running from a black widow spider. Great in a flight, but chronically, it increases your risk of Type II diabetes.

The increase in respiratory rate can upset your digestive system. You are more likely to have heartburn, Acid reflux, or GERD as a result of the increase in Stomach acid. This increase in digestive rate can also change the way food moves through your body, causing diarrhea or constipation. 

So What Can We Do?

Stop being stressed silly.

For those of us in the real world, here are some more realistic tips:

  • Identify stressors in your life: Easier said than done. Can you find anything that can be addressed in your life, or eliminated all together in order to help reduce stress?
  • GET MOVING! Exercise, even in reasonable quantities, helps to release endorphins which make you feel good. Sometimes it is as easy as taking a walk on your lunch from work. It helps with stress, but also acts as a temporary distraction or diversion from workplace stressors.
  • Get out there and see people Spending quality time with loved ones who make you feel safe and understood can go a long way to helping reduce your fight or flight response. You can even double up on strategies by going for walks/runs with friends and talking about the day.
  • Eat better A better diet and exercise helps to reduce depression and anxiety, which are symptoms of stress, but can also feed into the causes of stress. Be sure to eat healthy, and regularly so as to feel better through out the day. Be sure to reduce the following: Alcohol, Caffeine, Sugar, cigarettes, and drugs.
  • MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF!  You need to look out for yourself. It cannot be all work and no play. Make time for play with friends and loved ones. Maybe throwing the ball around or just having massive tickle fights with your kids (need to be your kids. This is key) Make time for vacations, and never let yourself believe that you cannot take the time from work. You need to disconnect and let it all go for at least two weeks. If you are made to feel guilty about this, consider a career move. 
  • Get a massage. Seriously. Preliminary studies show that Massage therapy can greatly reduce the symptoms and causes of stress. Up above, I mentioned the effects of stress on the muscular system. These tense, locked up muscles can be relieved with a quick session. They can have positive effects on the following: 
    • Anxiety
    • Digestive disorders
    • Fibromyalgia
    • Headaches
    • Insomnia related to stress
    • Myofascial pain syndrome
    • Soft tissue strains or injuries
    • Sports injuries
    • Temporomandibular joint pain

The bottom line is, you are doing yourself no favour by running yourself into the ground. Take the time to take care of yourself. Take the time to get a massage from a Registered Massage therapist now.

Where can I get one?

Find a local Registered Massage Therapist who is qualified to provide prenatal massage therapy. If you are in the Durham Region (Whitby specifically) give Elements Massage and Wellness a call, or use our easy to use Online Booking Tool and book with any of our three qualified registered Massage therapists.

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