I've always disliked the term 'Stress Reduction'. Stress is part of life and most of the time we really don't have control over what stressors present themselves to us. What we can do is learn, over time, how to handle our reactions to stress and with some practice even become able to change our reactions altogether. The goal is to be able to acknowlege what is eliciting a stress response and to take care of ourselves as best as we can. When we get 'stressed', it activates the sympathetic portion of our nervous system which, by definition, turns off the parasympathetic portion. Both can not be on at the same time like a lamp. Our 'fight or flight' respones take over resulting in the release of
Muscles tense up to guard against pain and injury. Over time chronic tension can lead to muscle spasm and headaches.
Our heart rates increase, the heart pumps harder and blood vessels to large muscles dilate to bring more fuel to body parts that would be used to stay and fight an enemy or run away as fast as possible. Eventually this could increase the risks for hypertension, inflammation in the coronary arteries, heart attack and stroke.
Stress signals the body to release cortisol and epinephrine which though necessary at times, can stress your kidneys, liver, disrupt blood sugar stabliztion. It can cause us to over or undereat, have digestion issues and not absorb nutrients from food properly.
Sleep will be out of the question if you're flooded with the hormones and neurotransmitters necessary to outrun a foe which can lead to more stress as you realize that you have to face the day on little sleep so we drink more coffee, eat more of the wrong foods, drink more alcohol to stabilize ourselves and help the body to achieve equilibrium.
So many things real and imagined cause these stress reactions. Illness, trauma, divorce, big decisions, wondering what someone meant by an email and worrying about things we can't control.
Massage supports our bodies by helping to trigger what Herbert Benson referred to as 'The Relaxation Response'. When interested, I teach people easy breathing and stretching techniques, at the end of their session, to manage stress and promote inner peace.