How Does the Body Respond to Stress?
Stress is triggered by either a physical threat or an emotional disturbance, which produces a physical response in the body. When your body senses a perceived threat (physical, or emotional), its defenses kick in as a means to protect itself. This is known as the “fight, or flight” response. The physical changes that occur as a result of this response are produced by the hormones cortisol and epinephrine, which are released by the nervous system. These hormones prepare the body for action by increasing the body’s heart rate and blood pressure, quicken breathing, and tighten muscles. These changes provide increased strength, reaction time and enhance your focus to prepare the body to either fight or flight. This response to stress is important as it can help you survive emergency situations like fighting off an attacker. Unfortunately the body cannot distinguish between a physical threat and emotional upset.
Therefore, when you experience stress over a pile of bills, or a fight with a loved one, your body reacts the same way as it would to a life or death situation. In our society, many of us are in a constant state of stress. This long-term exposure becomes detrimental and creates a variety of health problems such as rheumatoid arthritis, allergies, asthma, cancer, increased blood pressure, heart attack, GI disorders and more.
Symptoms of Stress
· Increased tension in muscles that can lead to headaches and back pain
· Problems with the temporalmandibular joint (the jaw) as a result of grinding teeth
· GI problems i.e. constipation, diarrhea, nausea
· Decreases immune system, which increases chances of becoming ill
· Feelings of anxiety, depression, and irritability
· Skin problems i.e. acne, eczema, cold sores
Facts About Stress
· 8 out of 10 women regularly experience physical symptoms of stress
· More than 7 out of 10 men regularly experience psychological symptoms of stress
· Stress related absenteeism costs employers in Canada $3.5 billion each year
· Work Place stress contributes to the following statistics: 19% of absenteeism, 40% of turnover, 60% of workplace accidents, and 30% of short and long term disability
· 48% of people report lying awake at night due to stress
· 1 in 3 people feel like they are living with extreme stress
· According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, in 2009, Canadians who reported feeling stress increased by 30% compared to the previous year
· 70-90% of Dr. visits are directly linked to stress
Ways to Reduce Stress
There are several ways to reduce and manage stress from exercise, breathing/meditation exercises, hobbies, yoga, proper sleep, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, and what I am going to touch on is massage therapy.
Massage therapy can greatly reduce stress and the effects on the body. Studies carried out by the Touch Institute at the University of Miami found that massage was found to reduce levels of cortisol (stress hormone) in the body. It was also shown to decrease individuals perceived stress and anxiety levels. In addition, massage therapy can ease the symptoms associated with stress such as muscle tension, jaw soreness from grinding teeth, reduce/eliminate headaches, improve sleep patterns, and increase the immune system by stimulating white blood cells. In addition to this it’s time to yourself where you can turn your brain off and unwind and let’s be honest, it just feels good.
American Psychological Association
Clinical Massage Therapy