Newsletter July 2013
Welcome to July's newsletter. I hope you enjoy reading this edition. If you decide, once you're on this page, you'd like to go to the main website instead just click on the logo above.
General Wellbeing - Long term stress and what it does to your body
Stress is a term we here a lot about in modern life, and how being exposed to long term stress can cause health issues, such as high blood pressure (hypertension) and the secondary complications that accompany it such as heart disease, aneurisms, and kidney problems. Not to mention increased irritability on a day-to-day basis. The important thing to do then is limit your stress levels, but equally I think it's also good to ask: What is stress?
The Stress Management Society (http://www.stress.org.uk) define stress as follows: 'Stress is caused by two things. Primarily it is down to whether you think situations around you are worthy of anxiety. And then it's down to how your body reacts to your thought processes. This instinctive stress response to unexpected events is known as 'fight or flight'.'
The problems come, however, when you're system is always on a state of alert, due to constant stress stimuli that you can't escape, such as work deadlines and money worries etc. In terms of time, we're talking months or years, rather than hours/days. However, what happens over this time is that due to the ongoing release of the stress hormones, it starts to affect your general perception of life and can lead to overall increased anxiety.
The 'fight or flight' response - what's happening?
Hormones are automatically released by the 'sympathetic' nervous system (the part of the nervous system that responds to external stimuli). These chemicals increase your heart rate, shut down the non-essential bodily systems (such as the digestive system) and use the extra blood available to power the muscles. As already mentioned it is designed to protect and get you away from short term danger, or perceived short term danger....and generally it works well.
This anxiety becomes a self-reinforcing feedback loop. You feel anxious, stressed and lacking control due to the inability to 'get away' from the stress and because of this your sympathetic nervous system becomes further stimulated, releasing more stress response hormones so that you feel greater anxiety.
What to do?
If from reading this article you recognise the symptoms and feel you're suffering from long term stress then speak to your GP, and/or contact a therapist that specialises in treating it. They will be able to give you advice, help and guidance on how to develop coping strategies to lower your stress levels. In addition, keeping a good diet, staying away from excessive caffeine / alcohol consumption, exercising regularly, massage and meditation can help.
How can massage help?
Massage stimulates the 'parasympathetic' nervous system, which is the 'opposing' force to the sympathetic nervous system and therefore helps to calm the body down. Massage also helps reduce muscular tension, often a side-effect of stress. So whilst I would suggest it is not the complete answer, it can be used as part of a package of therapies.