Why Stress Matters — and How You Can Handle It

Stress is both a normal and typical reaction to external causes. How many times have you said, “Oh, I’m so stressed.” Probably a lot. You may feel stressed about a lengthy to-do list, a frustrating interaction, or the state of the world.

When you’re stressed, your body will respond, both physically and mentally. Your fight-or-flight response will kick in, and you may have an elevated heart rate, get a bit sweaty or feel a boost of energy. Stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing: When you feel stressed before an exam, it can help motivate you to study.

Chronic stress, on the other hand, can wear on your physical and mental health. Stress will manifest in your body and may appear as:
• Headache
• Anxiety
• Changes to your eating habits
• Muscle tension or pain
• Restlessness
• Chest pain
• Lack of motivation or focus
• Substance misuse
• Fatigue and sleep problems
• Feeling overwhelmed
• Mood changes, including being irritable or angry, feeling sad or experiencing depression
• Change in sex drive

Managing Stress

If you are frequently stressed, over the long term, it can have a negative and pervasive effect on your health. Stress makes every problem seem worse, can lead to disease and inhibits your recovery if you’re sick, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).

There are several strategies you can put in place to help manage stress, and avert these outcomes.

Cut down on stressors: If it’s work that’s causing you stress, speak to your manager and see if there’s a way to manage your responsibilities. Look for ways with all stressors to reduce their impact — maybe that means having your child buy lunch at school, rather than prepping food during hectic mornings, or making a meal plan so that dinnertime runs smoothly.

Exercise: In addition to every other health benefit that comes with physical activity, exercise is also a mood lifter. Try going for a walk or bike ride if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Be thoughtful about eating: Stressful times can make people opt for foods full of fat and sugar. Or, sometimes it’s a total appetite killer. Eating the rainbow is better for your health and also gives you the energy to confront problems.

Meditate: Deep breathing and meditation can help quell stress. Turn off all devices and sit quietly for a moment. Notice what thoughts come to the surface, make note and let them go as you exhale.

Get support: Don’t feel like you have to figure it all out on your own. Qualified mental health professionals can help you reframe thoughts, pinpoint strategies that will help you and more. Friends and family can reframe the situation and offer solutions.

Do fun things: What do you love to do? Don’t abandon your hobbies due to stress. Time spent on the activities you love is a solid stress management tactic. Being creative allows you to be more productive in other parts of your life.

Journal: Writing down your worries and concerns can also be a helpful tactic. Keep a notebook handy or use an app on your phone. When you are feeling overwhelmed write it down. It can be a to-do list, something you want to remember, someone’s name, grocery list etc. Then when you need the information you know where to look.

The damaging effects of stress are well-known, but fortunately, our bodies have a built-in system for managing and recovering from it. This system is called the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS). Research has found that short periods of relaxation may be psychologically and physiologically regenerative.

Research has shown that Massage can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, relax your muscles and increase the production of endorphins, your body’s natural “feel good” chemical. Serotonin and dopamine are also released through massage, and the result is a feeling of calm relaxation that makes chronic or habitual as well as acute or short-term stress much easier to overcome.

Benefits of Massage Therapy for Stress

Taking care of your body should be at the top of your priorities. By adding therapeutic massage to your routine now, you’ll feel, look and simply be healthier far into the future. In fact, stress relief alone can improve your vitality and state of mind. So what better way to prep for a long, happy life than a relaxing, therapeutic massage?

Body & Soul Massage in Salem Ma offers Therapeutic Massage for Stress and Pain relief. Monthly Massage membership and Pain Relief packages are available. To learn more visit www.bodysoulsalem or call for an appointment 978-825-0040.
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