Sunday, April 30, 2006

Massage and Stress

A certain amount of the pressures of life is good. It pushes us to be more. However, there’s a balance and a line that gets crossed when the pressure gets to be too much. When pressure has crossed that line it becomes stress and something goes wrong in our body. Weight lifting and exercise is a good example. When are you putting enough demand on your body using weights and exercise to keep it young and healthy and when are you actually wearing your body out prematurely? A stress is something that is making too much of a demand on the body, putting it on overload, and the body gives way. It takes on many forms from a bone breaking to a nervous breakdown to an emotional trauma that now causes sleepless nights. In a more hidden form, the stresses of everyday living cause tension in the body that builds up overtime and is very harmful. Since stress is synonymous with “out of balance”, when part of the body is forced to overwork compensating for a negative impact on it, it is easy to see why stress is considered the ultimate trigger of all health disorders.

We can become addicted to “the adrenaline rush” of stress, not giving our bodies enough sleep, living on caffeine and a donut for breakfast or no breakfast at all and fast foods. Running on adrenaline, we engage in one high demand activity after the other, which is an out of balance pattern that is placing too much demand on our bodies and not giving it what it needs to recover. This lifestyle can only go on for so long. Yang will eventually hit a wall and become Yin to slow us down and make us do the right things to balance this busy life. You have lots of places to go and things to do but stop enough to give your body, soul and mind what they need so you don’t injure it and wind up stuck in bed.

The following is an extensive quote on massage and stress from The Complete Body Massage by Fiona Harrold, the founder of the London School of Massage.

“Massage…restores balance and harmony to a troubled mind and tense body, it helps us to feel better about ourselves and it leaves us with a fresh, optimistic viewpoint of life. It is the ultimate antidote to the damaging effects of chronic tension and it prevents stress from taking root in the first place. This may sound miraculous, yet experience shows that massage offers all this and more.

The human body is extraordinary in its capacity to renew and regenerate itself. Its own self-regulatory mechanism returns the body to a state of internal balance and harmony even after we stretch all its systems to cope with excessive pressures - a process known as homeostasis.

Chronic, long-term stress inhibits this natural rebalancing. By constantly exploiting the body with unrelenting demands we deprive it of the time and energy to repair and restore itself to harmony. Massage intervenes, allowing the body to carry out its own healing by regulating the actions of the autonomic nervous system {the motor nerve messages sent to the body to carry out the involuntary functions such as your heart pumping as opposed to voluntary such as lifting your arm – these regulating motor nerve messages turn things on (sympathetic) and off (parasympathetic)}.

The nervous system divides into two processes which govern our reaction to our surroundings in complementary ways. The sympathetic system deals with the ‘flight or fight’ response when the body gears itself up for stress. Hormones such as adrenaline and cortisone pump into the bloodstream, the heart beats faster and the digestive functions close down. This is fine if we relax once the emergency has passed. If we carry on responding to pressure, we end up on permanent alert, wearing the body out and heading towards illness. The parasympathetic system, which reverses the ‘flight or fight’ reactions, is then blocked. Massage stimulates this restorative effect and induces relaxation.

We would be wise not to underestimate the importance of containing stress and replacing it with relaxation. The stress hormones released when we feel under threat can damage the body’s nervous system, organs and immune system in a self-perpetuating sequence of effects. When the pituitary gland is stimulated it releases adrenaline and cortisone. If, due to unrelieved stress, cortisone continues unchecked, it suppresses the immune system, leaving the body defenseless against viruses.

Relaxation also works on the mind. In the course of our day, when we are awake, thinking, concentration, our brain waves resonate on the ‘Beta’ frequency. The more anxious or angry we become, the higher we go into Beta and if we stay there for too long, we not only undermine our immune system, but become fatigued and accident –prone. Deep relaxation takes us into the much slower ‘Alpha’ frequency – a meditative, trance-like state that recharges us even more than sleep. Research has shown that a regular meditative rest such as massage can increase immunity, improving white-cell response to stress. Massage is probably the easiest way of inducing such rest, as a chronically stressed individual may find it difficult to relax alone.”

Factoring in the critical “chi” of love…Are you trying to make it on your own? Have you detached yourself emotionally from those around you? Do you turn down help? Are you too independent? Is an addiction to food, books, a hobby or work replacing love? On the other hand, are you too needy? Are you desperately addicted to attention? Are you addicted to the social highs; partying, sex and alcohol? These imbalances are going to have a great effect on your life and those around you. The stress of these imbalances is very disruptive to the point that they can destroy all your dreams leaving you depressed every morning. You must believe that you are not caught in these neuronet programs. You are reprogrammable and you can be happier than you have ever been. You must stop what you are doing and get the help you need to think right and go through the withdrawal as the neurons disconnect and reconnect where they should be.

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