I think we all have a fairly good idea of what stress is. We hear how bad it is for us and how it will harm us and there is a lot of information about how to relieve or lessen your stress. However, stress is part of life. There is good stress and bad stress and it will always be there. However, I recently had an experience that introduced me to TENSION, the evil step child of stress!
About a month ago, I was fostering a motherless litter of 10 puppies. This means puppies whining, peeing, pooping, needing attention and wanting to play…all the time. I tend to think I am super woman and completely underestimated the amount of time and energy this would take. As you know, I ended up physically locked up and in pain. The puppies went back to the shelter to be adopted and I started repairing my house and body.
I wanted to understand why this had such an effect on me physically. I am in reasonable health and have a good life, so why did I end up in so much pain?
At this time I also had some clients come to me with similar issues and pain patterns…ya gotta love synchronicity! They were experiencing increased issues at work, in relationships, with children, health concerns, etc.
So I started to research the effects of stress on the body and how tension was a factor. The physiological response we have goes all the way back to our caveman brothers and the “fight or flight” response.
Stress raises the heart rate, increases blood pressure, shuts down parts of the brain function so blood can flow to muscles, shuts down some organ functions, etc. Most of this is old news, but something that we don’t usually think about is the body’s physical preparation for fight or flight as our muscles are preparing for great amounts of work. This means that they are tense and tight. Ever witness a cat before it pounces or a dog that is ready for a fight? Every sinew is on ready, twitching and strung, waiting to assist the body in fighting the predator or fleeing to live another day.
Well how come our caveman brothers didn’t just die on the spot? Considering that they didn’t have massage therapists in those days, it is a wonder (hee, hee).
In the case of an animal, if they experience the stress of being chased by the lion and manage to escape, it has been observed that they will shiver and shake for a period of time and then go on about their day.
We see this in our pets, when they have been in trouble or a skirmish; they shake it off…LITERALLY! Animals shake off stress and tension, releasing all the adrenaline that was dumped into their system as part of their stress response.
Well, it turns out that we still have this instinct buried within us, but once our frontal lobe engages the response is interrupted, for example - you are in a car accident and start shaking, but have to think about copying driver information, interacting with emergency personnel, etc.
This is probably why people with physical jobs usually have less symptoms of stress than office workers…they are able to work off their stress. That “walking on eggs” feeling at home or work or the feeling of impending doom can be wearing and have physical effects if there is no release.
There are some types of trauma releasing exercise out there; TRE, Somatic Trauma Resolution, as I found on the internet. These types of exercise are being used for Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome for survivors of abuse and veterans. www.tre.org, and I found it very interesting.
Now I began to understand what happened to my body; the tightness started with a rib that was out of place for a while and the fascia kept tightening up throughout my body and adding constant cleaning and bending, a sacrum that acts up, not enough sleep, irritation and not enough play time took its toll on my body. Sound familiar?
I got a massage, went to the chiropractor, got back to my stretching program and my meditation. This last litter I was very aware of what was happening and made sure to stay on top of my stress levels.
The easiest and quickest way to release pent up adrenaline and stress is to move your body; walk, exercise, yoga, dance, followed by stretching. I have also found that reading something short and inspiring and then sitting and contemplating or meditating is very powerful too.
To begin your day or at the end, take the time to unwind and/or prepare for the battles that life brings…take time to take care of you.