Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Stress


Stress is a physical, chemical and psychological factor or a combination thereof, which threatens the balanced functioning of the internal environment in the body.

We are all exposed to stress and how we react to it is important for our health, both today and in the future. The more science understands about the chemicals travelling in our bodies during stress, the better it is understood how they can impair our physical and mental wellbeing.

Stress has profound effects on our body systems as it changes the internal environment. When a stressor is present, the body starts a chain of reactions where the hypothalamus directly influences the adrenals to release adrenaline (epinephrine).  Stress can impair the body’s ability to regulate inflammation as the immune system is weakened.

Different forms and causes of stress
1.     Work stress
Various institutions have conducted research and the results show:
-      A direct link between a high stress job and a 23% higher risk of heart attack. (University College of London)
-      An increase in the risk of diabetes in women (Journal of Occupational Medicine)
-      A possible acceleration in ageing (a study in journal PLoS ONE)
2.     Dwelling on a stressful situation
Can be linked to health problems such as depression, heart disease and even cancer.
3.     Every day stress
May lead to chronic conditions in the future, even a decade later.
4.     Chronic stress
May increase the risk of diabetes in men (according to researchers from the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg).

Some of the effects of stress
-      Decreased productivity at work
-      High blood pressure
-      Obesity
-      Diabetes
-      Muscle tension/pain
-      Sleep disturbances
-      Heart attack
-      Increased risk of even catching the common cold, a wart, etc.
-      Can interfere with conception
-      During pregnancy can lead to stillbirth (National Institutes of Health study)


Antidotes
-      Smiling: when next in a stressful situation smile. A true, genuine smile can lower the heart rate.
-      Mindfulness meditation: has an impact on the stress hormone cortisol and can affect the survival rate of people dealing with certain illnesses.
-      Pets: detract attention from the stress source and stimulate the flow of endorphins, the relaxing/happy hormone.
-      Pampering: Take time out, do the activities you enjoy, have a coffee with a friend, read, garden, etc.

Complementary therapies
Many therapies influence how we feel, such as:
-      Aromatherapy
The nose detects the smell of essential oils and this reaches the brain. Through our life, a memory bank of smells has been created, which are linked to various memories.  Those linked to a positive memory can help the body and mind to relax ‘today’.
-      Massage
A relaxation massage, certainly when combined with essential oils, brings the body and mind to rest. The essential oils penetrate muscle tissue and enter the blood stream; this multiplies the benefits of the oils used.
-      Reiki
As a natural healing energy, Reiki not only brings relaxation but deals with the source of the stress. After a treatment there is a feeling of joy, happiness and lightness. Becoming a Reiki channel, these effects have a longer lasting effect.
-      Reflexology
Stress buster. Relieves many of the stress-related symptoms and balances the internal energies; a person is therefore better able to cope with daily pressures. All the senses are more relaxed and therefore there is less feeling of nervousness and panic. Stressful events no longer place undue demands.

References

Chan, A.L. (2013). Stress research: 10 new things we learned this year, for National
                  stress awareness week. Retrieved from
awareness-month-new-findings-2013_n_2979654.html#slide=2281213

Crane, B.  (1997). Reflexology, the definitive practitioner’s manual. London: Harper
                  Collins

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2010). Stress Symptoms: effects on your body, feelings and
                  behaviour. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress-                 symptoms/SR00008_D

Van de Graaf, K.M. (1992). Human anatomy. Dubuque, IA: Wm. C. Brown