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Stress – The Tiger in the Modern World.

The stressors of modern life can have major effects on our health and wellbeing, including decreased energy and difficulties sleeping, depression and anxiety, headaches, chronic pain, and changes in appetite. Aside from the self-care inherent in getting regular massages, which can help relieve some of the immediate effects of stress, massage can aid in reducing some of the other issues brought upon by chronic stress.

Human beings evolved to hunt prey and in turn be hunted by predators. Our ‘Fight or Flight’ response was designed to help us fight back or run away from anything that wanted to eat us. However, in the modern world, predators are not as likely to attempt to kill us, at least not in the average day-to-day existence, but our hormones haven’t figured that out yet. The modern stresses of daily jobs, money troubles, or relationship issues are not the same as a tiger leaping out of the bush, but they create the same reaction in the body, without the immediate release.

Cortisol and adrenaline are the hormones produced during the stress reaction, which slow down the digestion, speed up the heartrate, and flood the muscles with blood. These effects are fine in the short term, but without the relaxing effect of the ‘Rest and Digest’ mode, which would come after the immediate danger is gone, the body cannot return to ‘normal’. If the body has been in ‘Fight or Flight’ mode for too long, it can start to shut down, which is when we get the headaches, chronic pain, and other difficulties associated with stress.

Self-care is essential to return the body to ‘normal’. Taking some time out of each day to relax and focus on oneself is an excellent start to relieving the stress response. Meditation, yoga, laughter, and hugs all stimulate the ‘Rest and Digest’ system. To engage and release the ‘Fight or Flight’ mode oneself, high-impact activities can be effective, such as running or sports. For longer duration effects, regular Massage is one of the best things one can do for their health.

The relaxing nature of a massage will calm the stress response, and the physical presence of another human being can work wonders for the touch starved or the lonely. If headaches or chronic pain are associated symptoms, your Massage Therapist can assess and treat the required areas. Digestive issues are also within a Massage Therapist’s scope of practice, within reason. A gentle massage of the abdomen can stimulate the digestive system if stress has caused it to slow down. And after getting a massage, most patients find that they are able to sleep easier.

As always, be sure to contact your physician if the effects of chronic stress are getting too much for you, but remember that your Massage Therapist is always there, and will help you to the best of their ability. Take a chance to breathe, find some quiet time in your life, and remember, there are no tigers hiding in the bushes.

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