What is stress? - What does it do to our body? - Tools to help deal with it.

How many times have you said ‘I’m just stressed thats all’ over the last 6 weeks? The last 6 months, the last 12months?

How many of you get to the other side of Christmas and are thankful it’s over for another year? How many of you get ill during the Christmas period? How many of you need time off to recover from your time off? 

The traditional image of Christmas; A family in their picture perfect home surrounded by pristine snow perfectly decorated the roaring open fire, families gathered at the dinner table sharing perfectly cooked meal, opening carefully chosen presents, - a postcard perfection.

Reality check

Life is just too complex and messy to ever guarantee the mainstream portrayal of a perfect Christmas. And yet, we still expect it. Throughout the weeks leading up to this ONE important day in the calendar, you feel your stress levels rise and the pressure increase. The straw that breaks the camels back - You over cook the sprouts. 

The Pennsylvania State University recruited 122 employed men and women for a piece of research. The participants completed self-reported stress and happiness assessments: Participants reported feeling more stressed at work than at home. Saliva samples for levels of cortisol (a marker for stress) were taken alongside the assessments. These gave a different result: The participants had lower cortisol levels at work than at home.

‘How?’ I hear you say

Think about it. We may feel stressed while we're desperately trying to hit that deadline or have a doubled workload because your colleague has taken themselves off to the Bahamas for a 3-week break. However we’re in an environment where we are putting all of our energy and focus toward completing one task at a time. – (More on this later- see Journaling).

When we get home, we have a just a few hours to workout, cook a healthy meal, do the laundry, do life admin, walk the dog, not to mention socialise all before we try to squeeze in 7-8 hours of sleep all to rise the next morning, fresh faced, energised and ready to do it all over again. Just because it’s called the ‘Christmas break’ it doesn’t mean the regular demands home life go away, If anything, its exacerbated- add present and food shopping, decorating, seeing friends, Christmas parties, secret Santa’s to the ‘to do’ list. Not to mention affording to do all of these things. Let me just go get my money tree out of the attic whilst dragging down the Christmas decs.  

What does stress do to our body?

When you’re stressed, our body releases hormones priming us for a fight or flight response, raising heart rate and blood pressure and tightening muscles. This is a natural response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival. This is great if you’re trying to outrun a pack on lions in the Serengeti desert. 

However, we’re seeing that modern living is becoming increasingly more demanding,. There’s no defined enemy to fight or run away from, and yet our body is on high alertand so stress chemicals are being released consistently over prolonged periods of time. They begin to break down the immune, gastrointestinal, neurological, and musculoskeletal system.

So what’ s the answer?  Here a few suggestions that might help. The important thing is to find what works for you.  

These tools are not just for Christmas!

Massage

Pain is stressful, Stress is painful. 

Pain and inflammation in connective tissues lead to irregularities in the flow of blood & nutrients to the tissues. This lack of circulation and waste build-up causes inflammation and painful knots develop. 

Massage aids hydration and waste removal, allows the body to re-organise itself, removes restrictions & releases tension which aids improvement of circulation, more mobility and flexibility, reduces pain and stiffness in muscles and joints and leaves you relaxed and revived.

If you’re local to Norwich, we at Kefi offer a variety of massage therapies. In the relaxed setting of The Barn Beauty Rooms, Sprowston, we take time to ensure each massage is bespoke and tailored to the individual, taking a holistic approach which means no two massages will be the same. Our goal is to work with your body to not only make positive physical changes, but to aid relaxation too.

Exercise

Not only does exercise boost energy and overall health, but research also continues to find that it’s the best prevention and treatment for stress, anxiety, and depression.  

More specifically Pilates – Pilates has an overarching goal to re-gain the body’s natural rhythm and coordination. “If you don’t use it, you lose it”. It is a specific form of exercise and body conditioning that targets muscles with precision to produce real results in posture, flexibility, core strength, muscle tone, flexibility and balance.

‘’Contrology is complete coordination of body, mind and spirit. It develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong posture, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind and elevates the spirit. Exercises drive pure fresh blood to every muscle fibre of our bodies’’ – Joseph Pilates

Breathing 

Take 5. Pause. Take a deep breath. Savour something about this moment. Carry on.

Inhale in to your back, sides and chest, exhale, empty your lungs of every single drop of air, breathe the stress all the way out. Repeat 5 times and again later in the day.

Correct breathing can reduce stress, anxiety, increases energy, eliminate toxins and improve sleep. 

Pilates will also help you to develop proper breathing techniques. It helps to flood the blood with fresh oxygen and therefore replenish red blood cells, which nourish muscles.‘’Practice breathing until the art of correct breathing becomes habitual and automatic and subconscious, which accomplishment will result in the bloodstream receiving its full quota of oxygen and thus ward off undue fatigue’’- Joseph Pilates, Return to life.

Journaling 

‘‘Journaling creates space for self-reflection, but it also holds you accountable through goal-setting and confidence challenges. Self-reflection and goal setting have been found to be incredibly powerful tools that engage the pre-frontal cortex of your brain. The more often we can do that in our routine, the more likely we are to achieve the goals we desire.One of the big reasons we are so stressed and full of anxiety is we consistently multi-task. Journaling forces you to get off that train for a bit and zone in on the present moment’’ - Mel Robbins- 5 second Journal

Understanding Mind-Body connection. 

Neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that allow the brain to communicate with the nervous system throughout the body. Therefore, our thoughts influence our bodies directly because the body interprets the messages coming from the brain to prepare us for whatever is expected.

There is a cultural shift – we have automatic routines that continue to ignore our body’s needs rather than listening from within. It is important to find a connection so we can live in our body and not entirely in our mind. 

In Pilates, control of the mind is required for control of the body. You will train your brain to take control over the nervous system, which controls the muscles. ‘‘A body freed from nervous tension and over fatigue is the ideal shelter provided by nature for housing a well balanced mind that is capable of successfully meeting all the complex problems of modern living- problems are clearly though out and calmly met’’- Joseph Pilates

We wish you a Merry Christmas and hope we’ve armed you with a few more tools in your box to help kickstart 2019 stress free. For anyone struggling with getting back on track and wants support to improve their lifestyle and well-being or discover more about how Kefi Pilates and Massage could benefit you- Get in touch. We’d be happy to help!

Beth Jex