The term 'stress' refers to both positive and negative effects on our body and mind - though it's more often known as a negative issue.
Good Stress (or 'Eustress') actually helps the body by providing motivation, focus and spurring improved performance. Negative Stress (or 'Distress'), if prolonged and undealt with, can accumulate and cause numerous issues in mind and body.
Our Nervous System plays the lead role in managing stress, and contains two divisions (the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous Systems) that control opposing reactions and tasks in the body. The Sympathetic controls what is perhaps better known as the 'fight or flight' reactions - those reactions that increase blood circulation (especially to the muscles), the release of Adrenalin and increased oxygen intake. These all prepare the body to 'fight' or 'flight' in certain situations. Ideally, you would utilise these body reactions to deal with the threat facing you and then the systems would reset themselves and return to normal.
Unfortunately, daily challenges such as; traffic congestion, difficult customers, work and family commitments, house mortage payments, bills and other common hassles can also trigger this response - only the stress is prolonged and you cannot necessarily physically fight the problem nor run away from it.
These long term stresses can cause increased levels of Cortisol, another adrenal hormone, which can lead to higher anxiety levels, impaired immune function and healing, as well as stress on the body's other organs and systems.
That Parasympathetic System controls functions in the body that are more attuned to relaxation and renewal of the body. Conserving energy, rest and digestion are several of the functions this system manages.
Below are some ideas to help reduce the effects of stress.
Deep Breathing - simple but very effective, the act of taking a good, deep breath works on the body in a number of ways. When we are stressed, our breathing becomes shallow and quicker - this can result in poorer oxygen levels in the blood, fatigued muscles, waste build up in tissues and increasing anxiety levels even more! By taking deep breaths, you ensure a better supply of oxygen, you use the correct muscles for breathing and can physically help some of the symptoms of stress.
Go for a Walk - by actually 'walking away' from everyday stresses, you can allow yourself to gain some perspective on a situation that you might not normally. Things can build up and before you realise, you are feeling overwhelmed by issues that are looming large over you - taking a step back may allow you to see them as smaller, more manageable issues. The added benefit of exercise helps the body to cope physically with stress build up.
Massage - massage can play a very large role in stress management. Not only does it grant you the time and space to simply relax and remove yourself from a particular situation, it triggers the Parasympathetic Nervous system and can reduce production of Cortisol. By working tension in the muscles, massage can also help flush toxin accummulation and aide the lymphatic system. Styles such as Reflexology, Relaxtion and Hot Stone can be particularly helpful.
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