Most people speak as if stress just happens to them, when in reality it is something that is happening within them.Here's my take on stress - stress is a prolonged physiological response to a perceived threat. When we perceive a threat we have a physiological response called the fight or flight response. Our muscles tighten, heart rate elevates, breathing increases, etc. Your body is preparing you to fight or run away to protect you from the threat.
This worked great in cave man days when the threat was a saber toothed tigers. But in today's society we have the ability to perceive almost anything as a threat. Anybody out there tighten up every time the boss enters the room? "My boss can fire me". That may be threatening.
Anybody get stressed out by deadlines? "If I don't get that paper done I may not graduate". "If my wife/husband finds out the're gonna hate me". In each of these scenarios the perceived threat leads to activation of your fight or flight response.
However in today's world fighting or running away from your boss is not deemed appropriate behavior. So what happens is that the fight or flight system stays activated or gets reactivated frequently (every time you see or think about your boss for example). And after awhile this becomes the norm for your body and your brain reacts accordingly.
Thus a maladaptive neurophysiological feedback loop has been created and anchored within your body. Here's an example. Your boss = perceived threat = activation of the fight or flight response = tighter muscles. You neither fight or flight and so this system does not deactivate = even tighter muscles = pain. Pain is now a new perceived threat = fight or flight response = tighter muscles = more pain. And this is what I mean by a maladaptive neurophysiological feedback loop.
And once this maladaptive feedback loop has been anchored in your body, well that is when you are "stressed out", and you really do need a massage. An occasional massage can definitely help in reducing stress by activating a relaxation response within the body. Regular massage, and regular activation of the relaxation response can change that neurophysiological feedback loop in a positive way. Stay tuned.
In my next blog I will explain the relaxation response, how massage activates this response and how you can consciously anchor in a brain-body relaxation loop vs. the unconscious brain-body stress loop.
Peace to you and all you touch,