Stress is your physical, emotional, and mental response to change, regardless of whether the change is good or bad. Without some stress, people wouldn’t get a lot done. The extra burst of adrenaline that helps you finish your final paper, win at sports, or meet any other challenge is positive stress. It’s a short-term physiological tensing and added mental alertness that subsides when the challenge has been met, enabling you to relax and carry on with normal activities. If you can’t return to a relaxed state, this stress becomes negative.
Using the analogy of a rubber band, positive stress is just the right amount of stress needed to stretch the band and make it useful. Negative stress snaps the band.
When you find an event stressful, your body undergoes a series of responses. These come in three stages:
Your body releases adrenaline, your heart beats faster and you start to breathe more quickly. Both good and bad events can trigger this reaction.
Consuming Energy Stores
If you remain in the mobilizing energy stage for a period of time, your body begins to release stored sugars and fats. You will then feel driven, pressured and tired. You may drink more coffee, smoke more and drink more alcohol. You may also experience anxiety, negative thinking or memory loss, catch a cold or get the flu more often than normal.
Draining Energy Stores
If you do not resolve your stress problem, your body’s need for energy will become greater than its ability to provide it, essential resources such as nutrition and fluid are drained and internal cellular damage is generated. At this stage, you may experience insomnia, errors in judgment and personality changes. You may also develop a serious illness such as heart disease or be at risk of mental illness.
Warning signs and symptoms of stress overload could be any of the following:
Fatigue, chronic headaches, irritability, changes in appetite, memory loss, low self-esteem, withdrawal, teeth grinding, cold hands, high blood pressure, shallow breathing, nervous twitches, lowered sexual drive, insomnia, and gastrointestinal disorders.1
We may not be able to control what stressful situations enter our lives, but we can control the way our bodies cope by ensuring that our bodies are well equipped. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the theory is that if the body is in a balanced state, it is able to heal itself.
We have vital energy or ‘Chi’ flowing throughout our bodies in pathways called meridians. The responsibility of these meridians is to nourish our organs, cells and tissues with this vital energy, and is essential for our bodies to survive. This vital energy enters our bodies through our diet and lifestyle. If we want our bodies to function optimally, we should be providing it with the best fuel possible.
If our diet is bad, our ‘Chi’ will be slow and sluggish, causing congestions along the meridians which means that our organs will not receive the energy they need to function, and over time an imbalance will occur in the meridians causing infections and eventually, disease. Stress creates an excellent breeding ground for illness.
Stress and Reflexology
Reflexology is a natural form of healing that is non-invasive and completely safe. It involves specific thumb and finger pressure techniques applied to reflexes on the feet, causing a flow of energy throughout the body. Once the energy starts to flow, the body’s own healing power is activated.
Coping with Stress
One of the most important benefits of Reflexology is its effectiveness in reducing stress. As Reflexology encourages the body to relax, other functions are also affected. The entire body receives its nerve supply from the spine. Abnormal tension leads to tightening of the muscles of the spine, therefore nerves are affected, resulting in pain. When tension is relaxed, circulation increases, allowing oxygen and nutrients to flow to all the organs, balancing the biological systems.2
Keeping the body well balanced can be done through following a healthy diet, regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, practicing relaxation techniques and reflexology.
About the Author:
Written by: Debbie Makin, Therapeutic Reflexologist. Contact us to get in touch with Debbie.
References: 1 Balch, P. (2010), Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Fifth Edition, Penguin Group, New York, pages 736-739, 2 Dougans, I. (1996), Complete Reflexology, Element Books, Great Britain, pages 20-22, http://www.health24.com/Mental-Health/Stress
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