Who isn’t completely stressed out these days? With the ongoing pandemic, intense political climate, and civil unrest, we are all on edge more than ever. We are also touch deprived, which has a greater impact than most people realize. It can be intensely overwhelming and the impact to our bodies can be dramatic.
Fight or Flight
Stress creates a “fight or flight” response in the brain, which causes adrenaline to rush through our veins; that moment when we feel, see, taste, and hear even more clearly and sharply. We get that charged moment when our bodies naturally want to react and save us. A burst of energy comes that enables us to power up to fight. A stress hormone called cortisol is responsible for this response. Cortisol boosts the body’s ability to respond to stress stimuli by borrowing resources from other crucial body functions to supercharge the areas that will help it fight. It essentially robs one area of the body to help another. Cortisol increases our heart rate, increases glucose in our bloodstream, decreases our ability to reproduce, and decreases our ability to digest food properly.
The human body is remarkable at ensuring we have all the power we need to fight off an outside stressor. Redirecting that power is fantastic in the short term, as it makes us stronger and more able to fight things head on. Our natural fear response to that kind of stimuli gets pushed back so it doesn’t impact our ability to survive. What the body naturally wants and pushes for is survival. This is when those superhuman acts of survival happen.
When we constantly live in a stressor-filled environment, the impacts on our daily living are enormous—the body redirects power from crucial systems due to the “fight or flight” response. Our bodies are not meant to be in this constant stress state. We gain weight. We get depressed and moody. We do not sleep well as we are always on edge waiting to fight and our body will not let us rest. Our health declines. It could even lead to a heart attack.
Stress Management Tips
Stress management is key. Eating well with a balanced diet can help keep our bodies fueled. Make sure you take the time to enjoy life, appreciate the small things, read a book, take a walk, and exercise. How many times have we all heard those pieces of advice and not taken them? It is a vicious cycle with stress. We know we are stressed and are not feeling the way we want to feel; we see the impacts in our lives yet we do not seem to be able to do anything to change it. We can never get rid of all the stress that we have. Sometimes that stress can be overwhelming and we feel buried in it and struggle to get out.
I like to tackle stress in a different way. I know the golden rules for stress reduction, yet they do not always work for me. When I need immediate stress relief, I turn to two things—getting a massage or turning on some loud music and painting. For me, the power of touch is the ultimate healer of stress. When we were children, we would run to our parents for a hug when we were distressed. As an adult, we sometimes forget how important kind and loving touch can be and how much it can heal. This is especially true during a pandemic, when we are told to be afraid to be too close to others. The key is doing it safely with strong safety precautions in place.
The Power of Touch
People who get regular massages find that they are better able to manage their stress; it makes them feel stronger and more able to deal with what comes their way. During massage we often lose ourselves in the moment and can just let the world be still for a moment. Having someone take care of us for a while can help melt away stress. It is such an amazing feeling, and it is a major reason I work for Cortiva Institute and train massage therapists and estheticians. I firmly believe they will change the world through the power of touch. For me, massage has changed my world completely and better enabled me to deal with what is thrown at us every day. Massage lowers our hearts rates and helps our bodies function better. Stress will always be around. We can’t change that, but if we let the power of touch heal us along the way, we will be better equipped to manage it. The key to stress reduction is finding what works for you.
Submitted by Elisabeth Johnson. Elisabeth is the Campus Director of Cortiva Institute in Cromwell, CT. Cortiva Institute offers both a massage therapy and an esthetics program and is currently enrolling for the fall sessions.
She can be reached at 860.667.1886 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Elisabeth resides in the Stony Creek section of Branford with her other half Chris, his three kids, and their dog Juniper. She has a love of hiking, the Red Sox, Patriots, and spending time at the ocean.