..The Intuitive Times


A Body Wrap Contour for Stress Relief

by Lise Lamonthe

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Stress is the body's nonspecific response to positive or negative stressors. Stress is different things to different people, and is also different for the same person at different times in their life. What is stressful to us at age fourteen is different than what is stressful to us at age twenty-four. Stressors for a sixteen year old single mother can be quite different from the things that are stressful to a sixty-year-old woman.

The body's reaction to stress is the "fight or flight" response. This response can be like revving up a car and not going any where. If it happens too often, you can burn out the engine. There are specific physiological reactions that occur in our bodies as a result of exposure to stressful situations. Adrenaline is secreted, respiration increases, our extremities (hands and feet) get cold, our blood moves quicker, our heart races, our muscles tense up, our sugar levels increase, our blood vessels constrict and digestion is slowed. If this "fight or flight" response happens too often, it is easy to understand how ‘burn-out' follows.

Homeostasis is the process by which the body restores balance to itself. If we are exposed to too many stressors, then this process will not be able to keep up and unwellness and eventually dis-ease can set in. Homeostasis is like an built-in thermostat that regulates our body's physiology to be in perfect balance for us. We all have a ‘normal', individual level of arousal. Homeostasis, when we have stress under control, returns our arousal level to ‘normal.' What is ‘normal' is unique for each individual, but the process of balance is the same. This is part of the body's natural ability to heal itself. When out of wack, homeostasis does not return our arousal levels to ‘normal.' The body can then not heal itself efficiently, leaving the open door for dis-ease. Each of us is striving to reach a zero or normal arousal state.

There is also our mental/emotional and spiritual connection to stress. Mentally, we can handle things in an empowering manner creating good feelings about ourselves or we can perceive the world as being against us, disempowering ourselves and creating bad feelings about ourselves and our world. Our mental/emotional outlook will affect the impact of our stress. It is at this level where we decide to take responsibility for how we handle stressors that affect our life. It is where we decide to do what feels right or not. Some modern therapists believe that our spiritual outlook can have a direct impact on us physically and mentally/emotionally.

There are therefore three fronts on which to tackle stress management in one's life: physically, mentally/emotionally and spiritually. To respond in an empowering, responsible and an integral manner, we must look at how stress affects us on these three levels and how we respond to stressors body, mind/heart, and spirit.

There is a good deal that happens physically when we are exposed to stress. If the body is continually bombarded with stressful situations and physically responds with the "fight or flight" response, then it is easy to see how the body can burn out. Dis-ease and stress can be highly interrelated. In today's modern world, there are environmental stressors that we were simply not exposed to even twenty years ago. Modern life has brought with it"s convenience, materialism and expansive schooling, side effects that bombard us physically every day. Some examples of modern stressors are: car fumes, chemicals in our water, food and air, acid rain, pesticides, perfumes, scents or improper diet. Modern stressors affect us physically in an insidious way. We may simply feel unwell, slightly nauseous, muscle aches, weak memory, but nothing that is diagnosable by our family doctor.

Modern stressors are just always there and our bodies are continually going through the "fight or flight" response. Each of us reacts to these constant stressors in different ways. Some develop chronic fatigue syndrome, sick building syndrome or even depression. Some are affected in minimal ways that don't show any symptoms.

The Immune System:
Simply speaking, the immune system attacks any foreign substance in the body and quietly protects us from these invaders. As the immune system relates to stress, it is sensitive to adrenal hormones. Therefore, when our body's go into the "fight or flight" response and adrenaline is secreted, our immune system is taxed. When our immune system is over worked, whether from dealing with chronic stress or from genetic factors or lack of spiritual nourishment, we are vulnerable to a large variety of diseases from allergies to cancer. Our immune system is our body's way of defending itself from germs, distress and dis-ease.

The Total Load Theory:
In addition to modern stressors, which insidiously and continually erode our immune system, we may also be exposed to direct physically stressors. A car accident, an inherited disease, a sports injury, a cold, can all affect our body's ability to respond. From a holistic perspective, we see the Total Load Theory (see "Free to Fly" for a detailed description) come into play. It is our immune system that mainly responds to stressors and our immune system can only take so much. The Total Load Theory holds that when our immune system is taxed to the fullest, then dis-ease can set in.

Some responses to physical stressors are within our control and some are not. For example, if we attend school or go to work in a building that gives us sick building syndrome, we may not be able to change that. We can, however, decide to respond to the situation in a pro-active way by taking herbs, avoiding scents, avoiding parts of the building that are worse for us, drinking lots of spring water and whatever other strategies may help reduce the symptoms the building gives you. We may have to only attend half days. Mentally, we decide to either cope with the situation, face the challenge or let the situation tale control of us, spiritually demoralizing us. This decision will be driven by your spiritual sense of responsibility and will be in direct relation to your emotional well being. If you decide that things are totally beyond your control, then it follows that you will feel depressed, down in the dumps, and disempowered.

Our thoughts can foster hope or doom, resulting in feelings of upliftment or sadness. We choose how we react to all situations.

Emotions are a result of thought.: A+B=C
A = activating event (often this can be outside our control)
B = belief (our beliefs form our thoughts and our thoughts lead to our emotions)
C = consequences (our behaviours that result from our beliefs > thoughts > emotions)

Whether positive or negative, self-talk colours our actions and decisions. Deepak Chopra through quantum physics and aryuvedi medicine (an Eastern Indian philosophy of medicine that incorporates body, mind/heart and spirit) explains that our thoughts which lead to our emotions affect us physically. Each thought and consequenting emotion is received by every cell of the body. Hormones are then released in response to each thought, taxing our immune system.

Emotions perceived to be positive and acceptable are generally released through expression, alleviating any stress on our immune system. Emotions perceived as negative and unacceptable are generally stored, leading to chronic stress on our immune system.

At age two, our emotional patterns begin to develop. Throughout life, each time we are exposed to new emotions we develop a response pattern based on our experience whether healthy or unhealthy. To change unhealthy emotional response patterns we have to change the way we think.

The key to changing the way we think/feel is to break the habits that were created at earlier developmental stages. Our responses need to be in tune with our current progression. If our beliefs are our-dated, so to will our habitual responses be out of date. If our beliefs are conflicted, then we may experience chronic tension which will reflect where in our bodies. Prolonged tension can also lead to distorted thinking.

Positive patterns give us a healthy control over our lives. Negative patterns give us an unhealthy control. We choose how to handle things when we are overloaded. We may choose depression, drug or alcohol abuse, or illness as a means of controlling too much stress in our lives. The stress is temporally relieved, but new stress usually follows.

Our ability to make responsible choices will depend on how spiritually evolved we are. Whether you nurture your sense of spirituality at home, with friends, or at church, your ability to make wise choices or unwise choices, rests within your spiritual capacity. Your sense of spirituality can foster hope and optimism that will in turn positively affect your body and mind/heart. If you have a terminal disease, a highly developed sense of spirituality can greatly affects how you think and feel about life after death. A good feeling about what will happen to you after this life will certainly ease the pain and discomfort involved in leaving this life behind.

Spiritually, we have to accept life's challenges as ours, and not as the problem of someone or something else. Blame has no role for the spiritually responsible person. To deal with our personal challenges we must first accept them as ours. Too often it seems easier to avoid developing solutions and blame others.

Quite often the spiritual road can be challenging. Following a life that is spiritually in tune, means that our soul is at ease with our motives. We create our own life journey through right or wrong action, through treating others with love and respect. The first step to spiritually handling stress is to take ownership of our life's journey and it's challenges, and then to do things in a loving manner because it is right to do so, not because we are afraid if we don't do so.


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