Stress in the body is usually caused by stress in the environment surrounding it. It comes in many forms:
1. Incorrect diet, alcohol and drugs chemically stress the body
2. Sitting in the sustained positions physically stresses the body
3. Having a heavy workload or working with difficult people emotionally stresses the body
4. Doing too many things at once, or being overwhelmed with work mentally stresses the body
There is healthy stress where you want to get things done, which is motivating (eustress) and bad stress, which provokes a negative response in the body (distress).
Distress has an affect on the adrenal glands and their associated hormones. If we have distress our “flight or fight” response is activated. This is necessary if you are being attacked by a wild animal or in a dangerous situation: increased breathing, pulse rate, blood pressure and sympathetic nervous system activity all enable us to react quickly and get to away to safety.
However these days we are triggered into stress by an angry customer or boss, making a mistake in our work or just having too much work to do. Instead of running, fighting or taking action (which uses up our stress hormones), we sit still! The hormones are left racing around our bodies with no place to go. Moving burns these chemicals off and the body is able to process them, but if we stay still they stay in our muscles and tissues in the form of chemicals which cause tension and pain. The muscles are then pre-stressed, especially the neck and back muscles. If we have repeated stress this tension builds up. Hypertension (permanently raised blood pressure) occurs leading to heart conditions and other diseases.
The good news is that there is a way out! Actually several ways out….
1. Walking in nature (walking not running a race)
2. Listening to relaxing music and doing nothing
3. Learning new skills and habits to decrease stress levels
4. Consciously relaxing through deep breathing, meditating, or using a relaxing visualisation technique
5. Taking a hot bath/sauna/spa
The hypothalamus controls the relaxation response and activating this response counteracts stress: blood pressure goes down, the muscles relax, and breathing slows down.
There are a few tricks to relaxation:
1. Do it in a quiet environment
2. Take the phone off the hook, and ask not to be disturbed
3. Focus more on your inner world than your outer one: your body, sensations, and the breath
4. Be comfortable. Make sure you wear loose clothing, feel warm and in a position where your body doesn’t hurt.
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This information was copied and paraphrased from the following books:
Facilitated Stretching – R E McAtee and J Charland
Stretching and Flexibility – K Laughlin
Overcome Neck and Back Pain – K Laughlin
PilateSystem – T Blount and E McKenzie
Elayne Lane is an instructor of the Universal Healing Tao. She has been teaching and doing bodywork in excess of 20 years.