Managing Stress in a Healthy Way

Stress affects all aspects of your life, including your emotions, behaviors, thinking ability and physical health. No part of the body is immune. But, because people handle stress differently, symptoms of stress can vary. Symptoms can be vague and may be the same as those caused by medical conditions.

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Stress affects us all.  You may notice symptoms of stress when disciplining your kids, during busy times at work, when managing your finances, of when coping with a challenging relationship.  Stress is everywhere.  And while a little stress is OK (in fact some stress is actually beneficial), too much stress can wear you down and make you sick, both mentally and physically.

One of the greatest benefits of massage therapy is stress relief.  Humans have always been aware, it seems, of how detrimental unresolved stress can be.  Various herbs, aromatherapy, alcohol and drugs have been used throughout our history to ease the mental, emotional and physical stress that builds in the body, with touch therapy being the #1 choice throughout history.

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The first step to controlling stress is to know and recognize the symptoms of stress.  But recognizing stress symptoms may be harder than you think.  Most of us are so used to being stressed, we often don’t know we are stressed until we’re at the breaking point.

What is stress?

Stress is the body’s reaction to harmful situations – whether real or perceived.  When you feel threatened, a chemical reaction occurs in your body that allows you to act in a way to prevent injury.  This reaction is known as “fight or flight” or the stress response.  During stress response, your heart begins to race, breathing quickens, muscles tighten and blood pressure rises.  Your body is ready act.  This is how you protect yourself.

Stress means different things to different people.  What causes stress in one person may be of little concern to another.  Some people are better able to handle stress than others.  And, not all stress is bad.  In small doses, stress can help you accomplish tasks and prevent you from getting hurt.  For example, stress is what gets you to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting the car in front of you.  That’s a good thing.

Our bodies are designed to handle small doses of stress.  But, we are not equipped to handle long-term chronic stress without ill consequences.

Symptoms of Stress

Stress affects all aspects of your life, including your emotions, behaviors, thinking ability and physical health.  No part of the body is immune.  But, because people handle stress differently, symptoms of stress can vary.  Symptoms can be vague and may be the same as those caused by medical conditions.  You may experience any of the following:

Emotional symptoms of stress include:

·      Becoming easily agitated, frustrated and moody

·      Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control

·      Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind

·      Feeling bad about yourself (low self-esteem), lonely, worthless and depressed

·      Avoiding others

Physical symptoms of stress include:

·      Low energy

·      Headaches

·      Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation and nausea

·      Aches, pains and tense muscles

·      Chest pain and rapid heartbeat

·      Insomnia

·      Frequent colds and infections

·      Loss of sexual desire and/or ability

·      Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet

·      Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing

·      Clenched jaw and grinding teeth 

Cognitive symptoms of stress include:

·      Cognitive worrying

·      Racing thoughts

·      Forgetfulness and disorganization

·      Inability to focus

·      Poor judgment

·      Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side 

Behavioral symptoms of stress include:

·      Changes in appetite – either not eating or eating too much

·      Procrastinating and avoiding responsibilities

·      Increased use of alcohol, drugs or cigarettes

·      Exhibiting more nervous behaviors, such as nail biting, fidgeting and pacing

 

Consequences of Long-Term Stress

A little stress every now and then is not something to be concerned about.  Ongoing, chronic stress, however, can cause or exacerbate many serious health problems, including: 

·      Mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety and personality disorders

·      Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks and stroke

·      Obesity and other eating disorders

·      Menstrual problems

·      Sexual dysfunction, such as impotence and premature ejaculation in men and loss of sexual desire in both men and women

·      Skin and hair problems, such as acne, psoriasis and eczema and permanent hair loss

·      Gastrointestinal problems, such as GERD, gastritis, ulcerative colitis and irritable colon

Help is available 

Stress is part of life.  What matters most is how you handle it.  The best thing you can do to prevent stress overload and the health consequences that comes with it is to know your stress symptoms.

If you or a loved one is feeling overwhelmed by stress, it may be time to start a program of regular massage or arrange for a holistic health consultation to help you identify your triggers and symptoms.

Few experiences rival a full-body massage for pleasure and stress relief.  Word on the health benefits of massage therapy for stress relief has spread.  In 2006, 39 million Americans (one in six adults) had at least one massage, according to a nationwide survey by the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA).  And, you’ll find the benefits of massage therapy for stress relief are only the beginning. 

“Americans are looking to massage for much more than just relaxation,” says Mary Beth Braun, President of the AMTA.  Massage therapy can be effective for a variety of conditions, including arthritis, back pain, insomnia, headaches, anxiety, circulatory problems, injury recovery, postural deviations and structural imbalances. 

Call me now at (619) 818-5397 to schedule your next massage now! 

Please note:  Massage is not a substitute for medical advice.  In times of extreme stress response, you may want your doctor to evaluate your symptoms to rule out other conditions.

Author: janetlawlor

I'm a Board Certified Bodywork Therapist, Myoskeletal Alignment Therapist, Certified Posture and Pain Specialist, Certified Medical Massage Therapist, Certified Yoga Instructor and Certified in Functional & Correction Exercise. I've been dubbed the "Body Whisperer" for my uncanny ability to discover the root causes of pain and dysfunction.

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