The Effects of Stress and How to Manage it with Relaxation
By Hayley Luna Rose, Oct 1 2018 11:50AM
Stress is a part of life, it’s inevitable that in the course of our day to day lives, we will encounter stress. Some stress is good, life would be pretty boring if there was no stress at all and we all just sailed along with nothing to drive us! Stress, or pressure, can help to motivate us, such as having a deadline to complete an assignment. Without the deadline, the assignment might never get finished!
Some stress is not so good, such as illness in the family or legal disputes. However, as long as the issue gets resolved in a reasonable time frame, these short-term stressor’s can be manageable, and we can navigate them without the stress leading to illness.
The difficulty arises when stress piles on top of stress, on top of stress, for example, stressful situations at home as well as issues with your boss at work. Or if there are ongoing, low-medium levels of stress over a long period, such as work-related stress or neighbour disputes, on top of all the usual day to day stuff, finances, kids, managing the house and working full time!
There is also no denying that the world is getting busier and time is flying faster and faster. How any times have you heard someone say this year “this year is flying!” we are all feeling it and our fast-paced lives can contribute to stress over time.
The woman that I meet as clients often come to me talking about feeling that they are lagging behind, that they haven’t accomplished what they expected by their 30’s or 40’s, buying the house, getting married, starting a family. These self and society inflicted “life rules” can also add to the never-ending burden of stress.
The other woman I meet are so busy taking care of the kids, the house, their partner or husband, other relatives and in many cases also working full time. They have literally no time to themselves, or if they do, they spend the whole time feeling guilty! Another way to fire up the stress hormones.
So, what happens when we are under all this stress? If we can’t cope with it, or become unwell, does that mean we are weak or not good enough? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! As I’ve pointed out above, our lives are busier, fuller and faster paced than at any other time in history. We have so many options, we put so many expectations on ourselves that it’s no wonder so many of us are literally buckling under the pressure.
This constant stress causes our body to be in constant “attack” mode. You may have heard of the “fight or flight” response. This is our bodies intricate system for helping us to deal with short bursts of stress or danger. Think hunter coming across a sabre tooth tiger and needing to get away fast! Cue sympathetic nervous system, driven by the hormones cortisol and adrenaline. This response speeds up the body system, your breathing rate increases to get enough oxygen on board and your heart rate increases to ensure enough nutrients are circulating to the organs. Blood is pumped to the organs of survival, the heart, the lungs and the brain, the digestive system slows down or stops working. This can cause symptoms of panic attack, we feel shaky, our legs go weak and we feel sick or vomit due to this digestive upset.
Unfortunately, while this system is awesome in an emergency, the body isn’t able to determine actual life-threatening emergency and the build-up of unpleasant but not immediately threatening stress. Meaning that over time, if we remain under stress this system can go into overdrive. This causes immense pressure on our heart and other organs, we can begin to struggle to think clearly and feel drained because our body is in constant attack mode. Our sleep may also be disturbed due to anxiety and worries during the night, or from being wired on caffeine in an attempt to keep going. We will often crave sugar during times of stress, over load of sugar causes spikes of insulin which also causes havoc to our hormones. We can increase in weight and feel irritable, a never-ending cycle!
We begin to look tired, our skin isn’t as radiant due to lack of blood circulation and disrupted sleep, our shoulders tense, we get headaches, it just isn’t fun.
I feel tired just typing about it all! Chronic, long term stress, really is debilitating and it’s no wonder that stress is a silent killer, over time it can contribute to cardiac problems and chronic illness, as well as having an effect on our overall health, mental health and wellbeing.
There is however no need to panic! There’s lots that can be done to counteract the effects of stress and it starts with having a regular (daily) practice of relaxation. This isn’t as time consuming as it sounds, even between 5-10 minutes of deep breathing or listening to soothing music will help to lower your heart rate, improve your sleep and support you in managing stress.
Over time, regular relaxation can help to improve our sleep, reduce blood pressure and heart rate, support us in eating a healthier diet and exercising (let’s face it when we are stressed these are often the first things to slip!) Relaxation can also help to lower levels of alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking which often increase during times of stress in an attempt to relax.
So, if we can receive such health benefits from just 5-10 minutes per day, imagine the benefits from taking time to relax for an hour on a regular basis, say once per month.
My Reflexology and Reiki clients tell me that during their treatments they completely relax, often their treatment is the only time they get to fully switch off and just “be.” Reflexology and Reiki can help to dramatically improve sleep, they can help the body to go into repair mode, rather than fight or flight and they can help to improve our overall resilience, as well as our infection resistance.
Treatments such as reflexology and reiki offer deep relaxation. It allows the body and mind time to reset. When clients have treatments, often their tummy rumbles. Clients tell me that this is highly embarrassing, and they will apologise! I disagree, no need to apologise!
What this shows is your parasympathetic system kicking back in, the body is slowing down, heart and breathing rates reduce and the digestive system can work more effectively. I love to hear this rumbling (as well as any snoring!) because it means my client has gone into full relaxation mode. The sweet relief of such relaxation is quite incredible! I myself would have a treatment everyday if I could, but I have at least monthly, if not fortnightly. It really does help to improve my general health, happiness and wellbeing.
If you’re experiencing stress, please get in touch for a chat about how the relaxing therapies at Luna Rose Therapies may help you. I’ve been through work related stress myself and reiki and relaxation were the main things that got me through it. It isn’t all bad, if I hadn’t have gone through the stressful periods I wouldn’t be able to empathise so well with my clients who are experiencing stress. I probably would have never began to learn holistic therapies, so I’m now eternally grateful for that stressful period. The stressful times are often blessings in disguise in hindsight, as its during difficult times that we evolve, learn about ourselves and find ways out of difficult situations such as stressful jobs.
My advice, life is busy, fast paced and stressful, by taking regular time out to relax, it can make such a difference to our health, happiness and wellbeing. You DESERVE it, you are AMAZING and are totally WORTH taking care of. Fill yourself up first and you will find it so much easier to care for others, after all, you cannot keep pouring from an empty cup, even though so many women, including myself in the past try.