Total Therapy Blog
Stress Free Summer
Stress. It’s a word we’re all familiar with. Whether it’s rushing to get to work, resolving a conflict with a coworker, or getting the kids off to soccer, stress is a part of daily living.
But what is stress, exactly? When we’re confronted with a conflict or feel pressured, our bodies react as if we’re experiencing a real, physical threat. This response was very useful when we had to worry about saber-tooth tigers, but is less useful for those times when you’re stuck in a traffic jam.
When we’re under stress, the body is flooded with cortisol and epinephrine (also known as adrenaline). Together, these hormones create a physiological responses to stress. This includes rapid heartbeat, increased blood pressure, impaired memory, increased muscle tension, and rapid, shallow breathing. Left unchecked, long-term stress can lead to poor immune system functioning, and an increased risk of diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. (Test your stress smarts with the American Psychology Association’s stress quiz: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress-smarts.aspx).
The key to managing stress is to target both the mental and physical aspects of it. Stress is as much a state of mind as it is a state of body. How the brain interprets a situation (e.g threat, no threat) will dictate whether or not a stress response is initiated. Some of this is determined by your genetics – some people are genetically predisposed to have a lower stress threshold. A large portion of it is based on your own experiences. What happened last time? Was the experience a negative one? If you got into a conflict with your coworker the last time a deadline came up, chances are you’ll be eyeing that new deadline with a feeling of dread.
You can’t change your genetics, but you can change your body’s response. There are a variety of cognitive techniques that you can use to “reprogram” the brain’s reaction. Some of them can be as simple as changing your breathing, while others are more involved. Working with a health and wellness professional who specializes in facilitating healthy stress responses can be particularly effective. By learning how to change your brain’s response to negative stimuli, you can prevent future issues from causing stress.
Addressing the cognitive aspect of stress is extremely important. However, there is also an immediate physical component to stress. Muscle tension and pain resulting from stress can be effectively treated through hands-on therapy, like massage. Massage therapy serves to relax muscle tissue and release endorphins, which have a whole host of positive effects on the brain and body, including lowering stress levels.
By targeting both the physical and cognitive aspects of stress, you can increase your capacity to handle life’s curveballs. So the next time you have a work deadline, two kids to get off to soccer, and the in-laws visiting, you’ll be able to take it all in stride. Here’s to a stress-free summer!
Are you ready to take back control of your mind and body? There is no better time than now! Join us on our final week of the KickStart Your Summer Promotion!