All About Stress
Stress and You
A change in environment is a stress on your body. Whether mental or physical, when this change becomes apparent to you, your body has already undergone a series of responses in regulating its internal systems to counterbalance this stress.
Let's Get Technical
Homeostasis is the ability of your body to attempt to maintain a state of balance or stability when dealing with external changes.
The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) stimulates and controls the subconscious functions of your body. A functional component of the nervous system controlled by the higher centres in the brain. It has two divisions, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) takes precedent during stressful situations. Common activities attributed to the SNS are the "4 E's"; exercise, excitement, emergency, and embarrassment. The SNS causes sweat, hair to stand on end, the halting of digestion, increase in blood supply to heart and voluntary muscles, and decrease in blood supply to the skin.
The Parasympathetic Nervous System allows the body to enter maintenance mode. The most important activities include the "3 D's"; digestion, defecation, diuresis. The PNS is most active when one is relaxed and resting, resulting in a decrease of heart rate, increased movement of the intestines for digestion, decreased respiratory rate and pupil constriction.
Stress and Disease
There are many diseases and illnesses, that although are not directly caused by stress, being under stress allows your body to be more susceptible, including heart disease, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, and other chronic life altering diseases. Stress weakens your immune system and its ability to fight disease.
Stress and Massage
What does all this have to do with massage you ask? Well, just about everything. Massage attempts to undo the accumulation of what daily stresses have done to the body. The effects massage has are essentially the opposite of the effects of the sympathetic nervous system.
Massage increases circulation to the area directly being treated, as well as general circulation, while slowing respiration and heart rate. It's while you are relaxed in a massage that you might hear that resonating grumble in your stomach… No, you're not starving… your body is in a state of relaxation, so it's starting to digest.
There are many ways to counter the effects of stress. Breathing exercises, regular cardiovascular exercise, stretching, eating healthy, regular sleep patterns, activities such as yoga, tai chi, and of course, massage!
Stress can be devastating. Make a plan to use several stress management techniques or activities to stay physically and mentally healthy. They can be enjoyed with friends and family, or done individually. There are many options. Take action now!
For more information, please read the following articles:
From Health Canada: Coping With Stress.
From Heart and Stroke Foundation Canada: Stop that Stress
From Alberta Health Services: Stress (Information and Resources)