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  • Writer's pictureLouise Bentley

Let's talk about stress baby - or how does stress affect my body and how does massage help?

It’s there now isn’t it, the Salt ‘n Pepa song? Don’t worry too much, it’ll be in your brain for the rest of the day, or possibly til you ask Alexa to play it on Spotify….you’re welcome!

Today I thought I'd chat about stress, the physiology of stress, the effect it has on our bodies, and what we can do to lessen the physical and mental illnesses that occur as a result (big word warnings now).

The word ‘stress’ is used as a throw away line these days, its almost lost it’s meaning really but

what exactly is stress? It can be defined as any condition which harms or breaks down the body at cellular level. It can be a precursor to so many physical illnesses, even though we often think stress is a mental illness. It's a syndrome - which means its a combination of symptoms, of which you may suffer 1 or many, and some people are genetically more susceptible than others

We’ve all heard of the Fight or Flight response right? Well that is what our body does when it experiences short term stress and can be a reaction to psychological stress or physiological stress. Our adrenal glands release adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol which sends blood to our skeletal muscles and heart, away from our digestive and reproductive organs. Helpful for when we need to run away from that sabre tooth tiger. Usually, once we’ve escaped from the tiger and it’s found someone else to eat, the stress hormones in our body subside and we get back into homoeostasis. This is all normal, good, and healthy for us. When we experience this type of stress on an ongoing basis, the constant release of stress hormones can have a negative effect on us - screwing with our digestive system, our reproductive cycles (yes men have cycles too) and our ability to sleep.

SO how does massage help? Well, if nothing else, it forces you to lie on my table for an hour, you have nothing else to do, nothing else to think about. This brings stress levels down immediately. Research shows that both dopamine and serotonin levels are increased after massage. We all know about these guys, they make you feel GOOOOD!!! Dopamine gives you a euphoric high, and works on skeletal muscle, while serotonin heads towards your viscera, helping your organs to relax and chill out.

Obviously all my sciency stuff is simplified - it’s been a while since I did my anatomy training, and I really just wanted to use big words to show you how clever I am! If there’s anything i got glaringly wrong please be kind - happy to take constructive criticism :D But if you’re interested in learning more about stress, do reach out, I can help you out, offer advice, or refer you on to others who can help.

In conclusion - sore shoulders from stress at work? Massage! Constipation/diarrhoea/IBS? Massage! Struggling to lose weight? Massage! Irregular or painful periods? Massage! Insomnia? Massage…. It’s not just a luxury people, it’s a necessity for a healthy life!

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