Stress Relief and Rolfing
The Effects of Stress and How to Manage Them
Stress is defined as your body’s reaction to pressure from a situation or event that requires an adjustment or response. Although stress is a normal biological reaction to a potentially dangerous situation, the prolonged stress many of us experience in today’s world can cause damage to our bodies and our health.
How does your body respond to stress?
Unfortunately, we’re all familiar with stress! If you monitor your physical reaction the next time you’re in a particularly stressful moment, you’ll notice that your body essentially tightens and shortens. You’ll feel your muscles tighten up and pull in. Usually, we tell ourselves to push through stressful situations as we continue with our busy day. However, what we fail to consider is that these episodes are cumulative, meaning that the stress doesn’t just “go away,” it remains trapped in our bodies, negatively affecting our overall health.
Our bodies are dynamic and balanced systems. Any distortion in one part of the system affects the whole. For instance, a hurt back, knee, or neck might cause us to favor that area. Since we live with the force of gravity, and are constantly working to hold ourselves upright, favoring a painful area of the body can become a chronic imbalance that limits our overall movement pattern. The effects of stress can create this same imbalance physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Physical approaches to dealing with stress have a long and successful history. Rolfing is one of the earliest and most profound of the manipulation techniques. It is the most structured and developed of the “deep tissue work” disciplines. Its main premise is that the body’s structural organ is the fascia. Rolfing’s goal is to eliminate the ‘tightening and shortening’ which may be caused by stress to achieve proper body alignment under the influence of gravity.
Another proven way to reduce stress is meditation, which is the practice of clearing your mind, often by concentrating on your breathing. With practice, you can develop the ability to either dismiss or respond to the thoughts and feelings (including stressful ones) that come into your mind.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT )
CBT is a form of psychotherapeutic intervention used to treat depression, phobias, panic attacks and more. Its purpose is to increase awareness of your thoughts, giving you the power to change them. CBT teaches you to switch off the pessimistic part of your brain and just “let go.” In this time of social distancing, it’s important to note that CBT is taught and practiced remotely with great success.
Tai Chi or Yoga
Tai Chi is a form of moving meditation that is designed to calm the mind and strengthen awareness of your body. Yoga performs a similar function through poses and stretching, also employing a strong meditative aspect.
Reading is another activity that lets you disengage your mind from stressful thoughts. Not only does reading engage your attention, it also fills your inner voice monologue. You can’t focus on your book and think stressful thoughts.
Correct breathing produces beneficial hormones as well as reducing your heart rate, helping to reduce your stress level. The most effective breathing technique is commonly called belly breathing. Start by inhaling through your nose, using your stomach and lower part of your chest first. Then fill the upper portion of your lungs. Exhale slowly through the mouth. If you lie down and place your hand on your stomach, it should rise as you inhale and fall as you exhale. The result is a slower heart rate and a calmer state of mind.
Consider using any of these methods in conjunction with Rolfing to help maintain your physical, mental, and emotional balance and health!