In a world where success is measured in dollar signs and overtime, downtime is often not prioritized. However, as money adds up relaxation and peace can still elude us.
Many people do not take the power of relaxation seriously, but the effects of long-term stress can leech into every aspect of your health and wellness. If you’re at all concerned about leading a long, healthy life, reducing stress should be a top priority.
Stress Effects on the Body
Stress affects every single system of the body, some in more obvious ways than others. The body’s response to stress is designed to help you survive perilous situations. Short term this means your body slows a lot of other processes down to focus on one thing: getting you out of danger. As the stressor passes, the body’s functions return to normal. Chronic stress, however, does not allow the body to return to normal. This results in physical symptoms that present themselves in every system of the human body.
Musculoskeletal system: Stress causes muscles to tense up. As the stress fades, muscles will begin to relax but chronic stress results in chronic muscle tension. The effects of this can be felt in sore muscles and tension headaches.
Digestive System: Stress can cause heartburn, ulcers, the feeling of “butterflies, and even vomiting. Stress also can interfere with proper nutrient absorption.
Inches on the Belly: Stress causes the adrenal cortex to release cortisol. Excess cortisol can cause the body to store excess fat around the midsection, adding unwanted inches.
Nervous system: The nervous system (specifically the sympathetic nervous system) is responsible for the fight or flight response, allowing you to flee from possible danger quickly. However, having this response triggered long term puts extra wear-and-tear on the nervous system and can leave you feeling run down.
Reproductive Health: Irregular menstrual cycles are common in those experiencing a lot of stress. Symptoms of menopause can also be more pronounced.
Stress Effects on the Brain: When stress first hits you actually may feel more focused thanks to the fight or flight response. This state of awareness though becomes taxing on the brain long term and can lead to a foggy feeling. Studies have also shown that long-term stress can actually cause changes to the brain’s structure and function. The hippocampus, responsible for memory and emotions, is physically smaller in people that have been under long periods of acute stress. Also, cortisol has been known to actually hardwire people’s brains differently to be in a constant state of fight or flight.
Now, that might all seem rather scary, luckily, you’re not powerless to stop the effects of stress. There are many proven methods that will help you to feel calm and in control.
Ending the Cycle
If you have five minutes….
You’ve probably been told at least once in your life, just take a few deep breaths. While it may seem silly, science has proven that deep breathing is our bodies built in relaxation mechanism! Slow, deep breathing stimulates the systems in the body responsible for calming us down. Studies have shown deep breathing not only helps calm you down quickly, but it also can help lower blood pressure, regulate the pH of your blood and improve symptoms of asthma. In fact, some studies have actually shown that deep breathing changes the way your body works on a cellular level. Now that’s some relaxation!
If you have a half an hour…
Relax with a cup of tea! Turn off all the electronics, find a cozy place to snuggle into, and slowly enjoy a cup of hot tea or tisane (herbal tea.) The simple act of slowly sipping a warm beverage relaxes the body, however some teas have compounds that actually induce relaxation. One herbal tea, chamomile, has been shown to reduce symptoms in mild to moderate generalized anxiety disorder. If you have allergies to any members of the daisy family, such as ragweed, it is best to enjoy chamomile with caution, as there have been reported cases of allergic reactions. If you’re concerned, it is always best to check with your medical provider before adding anything new into your dietary regimen.
If you have an hour…
Yoga is a great way to relax body and mind. Coupled with deep breathing, yoga helps to relieve muscular tension and is wonderful for getting your body into shape without too much strain. While any sort of yoga practice is great for relaxation, certain poses are better than others. Attending a yoga class (either in person or through an app on your phone) is a great way to learn more!
If you have two hours…
While many people view them as luxuries, facials and massages are amazing for both relaxation and revitalization. These spa services help in a number of ways to relax the body and mind. The most obvious way is that a typical massage or facial lasts for at least one hour, couple that with the time you take in a relaxation room prior to the service, you’re looking at least 90 minutes of time reserved simply for you to relax. Not only that but human touch helps release dopamine, which naturally makes you happier. Plus, after a facial you look great and your skin will thank you for it! The Decléor Signature Facial offered at Designer’s Denn, features a luxurious back massage, facial massage, aromapressure, as well as hand paraffin. Another wonderful option is the 60 Minute Signature Massage, a full-body experience featuring foot paraffin and warm stones. If you’re really feeling stressed a 90 minute option is available as well.