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Stress: Two Simple Strategies

We have two different parts of our nervous systems, one that lights up when we are under threat "fight or flight" and one that is often labeled "rest and digest".  

  1. Being under stress and in "alarm" mode changes our breathing.To switch from alarm mode to rest and digest, try this simple exercise.  Place your hands on your lower ribs.   As you breath in, feel your lower ribs expanding outwards, against your hands. This movement of the ribs is a cue for the nervous system to switch from alarm to rest.  The neurobiology is complicated, but the science is clear. (This is different than "belly" breathing, which does not have this effect on the nervous system. 
  2. During the "alarm" phase, massive amounts of glucose are released into the bloodstream and are targeted for the lower extremities. (There is some really good data about chronic stress and adult onset diabetes as a result). It makes sense that when you are under increased stress, do your best to vigorously exercise your legs. Bike, run, walk briskly, whatever. You will feel the difference afterwards.

 

 When stress increases, the effect is as physical as it is mental. The good news is that we can use physical strategies to combat the effects of stress as well.  

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The Land In Between

A fundamental issue that every business must address is this: Who do we serve? And why?

For all of us here at BWA, we are clearer than ever about those two questions and I would like to share some thoughts with you.

Fundamentally, we straddle two very different worlds. We clearly are not a spa and we are also not physical therapists. We serve the land in between those two, which happens also to be where the greatest need is.

While we aren't a spa, the work that we do is inherently relaxing and renewing. Few things give my therapy staff greater pleasure than to see the smiles of our clients after a session. We have the sense that we have contributed to his/her day, allowing them to resume their schedule with a little more ease and grace.

On the therapy side, most people who come to see us initially have some sort of muscular discomfort that has made their life more difficult. Often, these muscular problems weren't severe enough to address with their doctor, just an annoyance that made everyday life that much harder. Moreover, many of them ascribed the pain to aging or considered these problems "normal" until they saw us for Precision Neuromuscular Therapy.

This is our place in the community, our niche and our mission. So many people hurt and don't know that our special form of massage therapy can truly help. We are massage therapists, but we emphasize the therapy part of the equation.

To have the skill to accomplish real results in muscular discomfort requires a far deeper understanding of anatomy and much greater clinical skills than general massage. For all of us at BWA, this isn't a hobby or a part time job, it is our mission and our place in the world. Thank you for being part of it and part of our family.

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Stress: Dispelling Misconceptions By Doug Nelson

Somewhere along the way, the meaning of the word stress went astray. Today, stress is usually considered a negative, and most active people view stress reduction as impractical at best.  To better understand stress, we must first look at its history.

 

Stress research began in the 1950's with a growing understanding of how it affects the body. Early pioneers in the field were people like Walter Cannon and Hans Selye. The concept of stress was new at the time, so Selye borrowed the term from mechanical engineering in an attempt to define the physiological response he was identifying. Ultimately, stress research became a new field of human health, but the foundations of his research are often misunderstood, as is the effect of stress on the system.

 

What is stress?

 

Selye defined stress as simply the cost of adaptation. When the human nervous system senses change, a response is needed and adaptation is required. The collective cost of all adaptations is called stress. Selye made no mention of whether the stimulus (which can be emotional, mental or physical) was by nature good or bad; any change requires response and adaptation. Therefore, stress is simply responding to life, and life is stressful. Lack of stress is called rigor mortis. Not much of a choice!

 

Many people become “turned off” when someone talks about the evils of stress. Others believe if you simply breathe deeply, life will be better. But, breathing deeply isn’t enough. So, how do we reduce stress? Close the business? Sell the house?  Get rid of the pets? Not much of a choice...

 

With today’s hectic pace of life, it is imperative for us to understand and deal with stress appropriately. Here are a few points to consider:

 

  • Stress is cumulative. The initial effect of stress is to stimulate the system, much the way a performer is energized by adrenaline before a performance. If that adrenaline rush lasts too long or is too intense, performance suffers. The cost of constant adaptation is cumulative; unrelenting stress will damage the system over time.  
  • Bodies are battlegrounds. Have you ever come home after a tough day and said, “Wow, it’s a war out there”? The battleground of this "war" is your own body. Each skirmish, each victory or defeat, leaves a few casualties on the battlefield. Eventually, the “wounded” are strewn everywhere. Self-care approaches, such as physical exercise or playful activities clear the field (body) and are enormously helpful in reducing the harmful effects of stress.
  • Stress can be managed. To attempt to eliminate stress completely is misguided. Every active person must learn to intelligently address the cumulative residual effects of stress and find reasonable methods to manage it.  What works for one person may not work for another, but understanding and committing to a method that works for you can help improve performance, productivity and overall health. 

 

Let’s face it: For a boat to push forward in the water, waves must be created. Boats that do not move in an effort to avoid stress may as well be called docks. Those of us with a mission in life don’t want to sit, we want to sail! Sailing can be stressful. Managing stress shouldn't be.

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