What is Stress?

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Written by: Brittany Lee-Anderson

What is stress?

Stress for most of us used to be clearly defined by the need to survive. The need to run from or to fight a predator, or the need to find sustenance and shelter, were driving causes of our stress. Any success allowed brief moments of reprieve as well as rest and relaxation. A clear defined cause and effect, allowing stress to be the catalyst for survival. You either make it or your don’t.

Our current predicaments of day to day stress, luckily, are not as clearly defined but rather a series of cerebral problems stemming from an unidentifiable source. Some examples being: the internet, bills, errands, texting, media, memos etc. Without a clear, defined problem the ability to create solutions and in result dissipate our stress has become almost impossible. The stress then builds insidiously, preventing our conscious mind from ever knowing that there is a problem that needs to be dealt with. Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of us that deal with the massive stresses of having to find food and shelter, but most of us in America are living in a new state of “stress” without the right tools to solve our problems, never reaching a true state of rest and relaxation.

How does stress effect the body?

There are two systems in our body that are in a constant state of fluctuation. The first being the Sympathetic Nervous System which causes the “flight- or- fight” reaction that is active when we are in a state of stress.The Sympathetic Nervous System slows down digestion, increases blood flow to the skeletal muscles, increases heart rate, reaction time and increases adrenal function. All very important responses that allow us to be alert and ready to handle the stresses at hand.

The second system is called the Parasympathetic Nervous System which provides the “rest- and- restore” response in our bodies. It increases blood flow to the smooth muscle which increases digestive activity, thereby increasing nutrients in the blood, which supports growth, cell division, and storage of energy. Also a very important system which is the counterbalance and restorative system to the Sympathetic Nervous System.

The problem with today’s stress is that the Sympathetic Nervous System stays active unconsciously all the time, overriding the natural shift into the Parasympathetic Nervous System. The ability to heal and restore our bodies becomes impaired and in result our bodies start to degrade slowly over time creating vulnerabilities that could lead to chronic pain, injuries, and anxiety.

How does massage help with stress?

Massage creates an environment that allows our bodies to shift into the “rest-and-restore” state of restorative relaxation. Implementing more massage in your life allows your body to heal and can help counteract the chronic pain and anxieties in your life in a holistic way that does not involve pills. Imagine how vital massage can become in your life and what consistency can do for your body.



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