Stress & Stress Management
Stress is the greatest threat to our health today, affecting our physical and mental well-being. Stress factors can be imagined (worry about the future) or real (financial problems). How damaging these factors are depends on our response to them. Some people are able to manage stress so that it does not affect them whereas others can worry about the slightest thing which has damaging consequences.
Stress can be positive or negative. Positive stress helps people perform to the best of their abilities, to achieve their goals, focus on and concentrate on an important event or moment ahead. Negative stress, on the other hand, causes us to respond by worrying, panicking or losing our concentration.
In this day and age stress factors are often intangible such as job insecurity, financial and relationship worries. The increasing pace of lifestyles, the complexities of professions, changes and added strains in relationships due to greater mobility and thus distance from others, has created burdens on our stress-management systems.
When we are stressed adrenalin rushes in, several systems (such as digestion) shut down, heart rate increases, blood vessels contract increasing blood pressure, and muscles contract. When stress cannot be resolved or avoided then often the body remains tense and cannot relax. The adrenal glands become tired eventually when the body is placed in a constant state of alert, causing people to be depleted and panicky rather than stimulated and awake. This is when stress is damaging and can cause disease.
During busy periods of life it is important to take time out to relax and allow your body to rest, learning to respond in a healthier way. We cannot simply tell our bodies to relax; we have to learn how to relax them via relaxing activities such as walking, seeing friends as well as using specific relaxation techniques such as breathing, visualisation, yoga and massage.
Managing stress with yoga and meditation
Both yoga and meditation are well-known methods for diffusing stress and tension, with beneficial, holistic effects. They are useful self-help therapies, teaching you to have control of the body and mind. Yoga does this through physical exercise, including adopting different postures, relaxation techniques and breathing exercises. Meditation helps a person find calm and a sense of their own centre using different focuses. Meditation has the physiological effects of allowing the muscles to relax and the circulation to become more efficient thus recharging the body and helping it to heal. This is similar to the effects of a short sleep.
Managing stress with massage
A holistic treatment such as massage can help induce deep relaxation, helping to remove pent-up tension of the stress response, without damaging the body. Many of us are unaware of how much tension we hold in our bodies so massage enables us to be more aware of what tension feels like, helping to release it and reminding us what deep relaxation feels like. When we relax we tend to find problems and events less daunting so we feel less threatened and stressed which in turn prevents the build-up of tension. Massage can enable us to avoid stress altogether, positively effecting our health and wellbeing.