How do you manage the stress of modern everyday life? Many of us muddle through, coping as best we can. Sometimes we fight against it, or work to fix it. Sometimes we just ignore it or repress it, hoping to avoid possible discomfort. We have all heard throughout our lives how stress negatively affects our immune system. It is at the heart of many diseases (pun intended) and is a leading cause of death. Chronic stress and long held tension in our body can become like armor. We hope to shield ourselves against the effects of stress. This chronic tension affects our immune system, energy level, emotional well-being, posture, and our ability to concentrate.
Endocrinologist Hans Selye discovered it is not necessarily the stress that affects our health. It is the way we perceive the stress. If we change our thinking, we change our body’s response to it. Is it a threat or is it a challenge? In both, the body gears up for action. We breathe faster to get oxygen to the brain, our blood pumps faster and, we sweat to regulate our temperature. The difference between anxiety and excitement is our perception. We either constrict or adapt and grow. It can strengthen us or weaken us. Can we bring our attention and presence to what is wanting to grow within us to meet the challenge?
There are many effective ways to relieve stress; such as exercise, yoga, meditation, spiritual readings, or being in nature can be immediate tools one can use. When we take space, we discover we are much bigger than the stress in our lives.
One of my first spiritual teachers, Stephen Levine, often said, “The body is solidified mind.” During retreats with Levine, we would dialogue with our body, and it’s places of tension and actually ask the tension where it comes from, what it wants, what it’s trying to tell us?
I have found that one of the best ways for me to reduce the effects of stress is to get a professional massage. Through relaxing our body we can relax the mind. A skilled massage therapist can dismantle the long held stress and its disruptive patterns in the body. The benefits of a skilled massage are more than just the physical benefits of released tension and improved musculo-skeletal function. The nurturing effects of human touch also release oxytocin, a hormone that affects our heart physically and emotionally. (A good excuse to hug someone right now.) We experience more caring, empathy, and ability to respond. We recover faster. We become better at stress. Oxytocin is what causes us to seek connection. It helps us to not only trust ourselves more, but we seek connection and strengthens so our relationships and our network of support.
Did you know that massage is offered morning through evening daily at the Seattle Athletic Club by our highly skilled, licensed massage therapists? Call today for an appointment. It can transform your health.