We all know that it feels good to get a massage. You, hopefully, feel more relaxed after a massage. Did you know that there are scientific benefits to how massage can help reduce stress? Let’s first take a look to see what stress actually does to the body and then discover how massage can counter the negative effects of stress.
Endocrinologist, Dr. Hans Seyle coined the term stress. Can you imagine life before the word stress??? He separated stress into two main categories; eustress and distress. Eustress or good stress is the type of stress we feel when we exercise, purchase a new car or go on a first date. We’re not worried about this type of stress. In fact, I might even go as far as to say we all need a bit more of this stress in our lives! Distress is the negative kind of stress that most of used to experiencing. Frustration at work, fighting with a loved one, parenting stress, or running late are all types of distress.
Let’s expand on distress for a minute, since that is the type of stress that we are going to focus on. Distress is not just emotional stress such as divorce, loss of a job or breaking up with a significant other. Although these are some of the worst kinds of stress that anyone can experience. Distress can also be caused, on a more subtle level, from poor food choices, food allergies, lack of sleep, poor posture, exposure to chemicals such as household cleaners or make-up. Illness, surgery or hospitalization also causes stress. Stress is more than the emotions we feel, sometimes our body is stressed and we don’t even know it!
Now that we have a better understanding of stress, let’s look at what it does to the body. When the body experiences stress the adrenal glands, specifically the adrenal cortex, releases cortisol into the blood stream. Cortisol has influence over many activities in the body. Chronic stress can result in elevated cortisol levels and can:
Increase blood sugar levels, therefore increasing chances of Metabolic Syndrome or Diabetes
Slow blood flow to the digestive tract, slowing digestion, interfering with nutrition absorption and increasing weight gain
Weaken the immune system, leaving you more susceptible to infection and illness
Decreases bone formation, possibly resulting in osteoporosis or osteopenia
Shut down the reproductive system, increasing chance of miscarriage or infertility
Slows thyroid function, decreasing energy and slowing metabolism
Did you realize that stress can be so detrimental to your health? Almost all the leading causes of death are caused by stress!
Okay….take a deep breath and relax. There is so much that you can do to alleviate stress and prevent or reverse many of these symptoms. Look for our next article where we’ll discover what massage can to do to counter the negative effects of stress and then look at things you can do on your own to further eliminate stress from your life!