The Science of Relaxation: How Stress Impacts Your Wellbeing
Kia ora! I’m TV presenter, speaker and voice artist Monique Bradley. I’m a business owner, I’m a busy stepmum, science fanatic and foodie, and at the age of 50 have just started my Masters in Creative Practice! I like to keep busy, but recently I’ve noticed I’m struggling with my energy, stress and keeping on top of things. This in turn affects my mood, my productivity and overstimulates my already busy mind.
Just recently my friend Monica messaged me and said: ‘Monique – you just look tired.’
She was right.
I’m naturally a bright bubbly personality so to hear this comment was shocking, but timely! I’ve always been an ‘I can do it all’ kind of person but it seems like my mask was starting to slip.
Monica often says ‘Go and have a meeting with yourself to work it out’…….so I did. I realised that while I’m a highly productive person, the lack of scheduled relaxation time was really starting to impact my energy and work outputs as well. And to be honest, being stressed is just not fun!
In today’s fast-paced world, stress has become an unwelcome companion for many of us. From demanding work schedules to personal responsibilities, stress can take a toll on our overall well being. But have you ever wondered what exactly happens to your body when stress takes over? I could certainly feel the effects, but being a science fanatic, I wanted to know WHY it was happening and what I can do to take control of the situation.
The Physiology of Stress:
According to the research I found, stress is more than just a mental state; it’s a complex physiological response triggered by the body’s “fight or flight” mechanism. When stress hits, the brain releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, preparing the body for action. While this response was designed to keep us safe in threatening situations, modern stressors often lead to prolonged activation of these hormones, causing a cascade of effects on various bodily systems. And if you’re a midlife woman like I am, science also shows us that high levels of cortisol and adrenaline lead to weight gain around the middle! Isn’t life hard enough already?
Effects on the Nervous System:
The sympathetic nervous system goes into overdrive during stress, increasing your heart rate, constricting blood vessels, and diverting blood away from non-essential functions like your digestion, as an example. This can lead to elevated blood pressure and a heightened risk of cardiovascular issues over time. Additionally, chronic stress can disrupt the balance of neurotransmitters, potentially contributing to mood disorders like anxiety and depression.
Impact on Digestion:
As mentioned, stress can throw our digestion off balance by slowing down or even halting certain processes. This can lead to digestive discomfort, bloating, and nutrient absorption issues. Long-term stress may also worsen conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and contribute to unhealthy eating habits. As someone who has struggled with these symptoms most of my adult life, when I read about this it made a lot of sense and really highlighted the fact that for at least 25 years I’ve probably been living in a continual state of stress. Time to make a change!
Muscular Tension and Pain:
According to the research I found, stress often leads to the tightening of muscles, which can result in tension headaches, neck pain, and muscle soreness. Persistent muscle tension can hinder blood flow and lead to chronic pain conditions. Again – this was shocking because most of my adult life I’ve struggled with aches, pains and the cramp. Once again, this makes sense.
While knowledge is power, success happens when you take action. I don’t have a lot of time, but I need to do something and prioritise my wellness or ‘me-time’ for at least 30 minutes a day. I’m sure I can achieve that right?
Over my career I’ve tried many different products and programs but one thing I have always loved is massage. I even worked as a PA in a massage therapy clinic while I was going through my own treatment for RSI / OOS. It’s the one time where you don’t have to give out to anyone else. It’s all about you and there is nothing BETTER than the feeling you experience after a treatment.
How does Massage work for stress relief?
Massage therapy is not merely a luxury; it’s a scientifically-backed approach to reducing the physical and psychological effects of stress. When pressure is applied to specific points on the body, several remarkable changes take place:
Cortisol Regulation: Massage has been shown to reduce cortisol levels, promoting a sense of relaxation and reducing the body’s stress response.
Muscle Relaxation: Through targeted techniques, massage helps release tension in muscles, promoting better blood flow, reducing pain, and enhancing overall comfort.
Enhanced Mood: Massage triggers the release of endorphins—natural mood enhancers that promote feelings of happiness and relaxation.
Improved Sleep: Regular massage sessions have been linked to better sleep quality, allowing the body to recover and recharge.
Balanced Nervous System: Massage has a calming effect on the sympathetic nervous system, helping to restore balance and counteract the fight-or-flight response.
And even better, you don’t have to deal with the hassle of trying to book in with a massage therapist anymore as there’s such amazing technology available in the form of Massage Chairs and hand held devices that are designed for you to get the best results anywhere, anytime! Thanks to the development of the AI technology in these chairs and devices, the delivery and quality is always consistent and you don’t have all the extra hassle of booking a time, driving there, feeling all sticky or greasy after a treatment or feeling annoyed after receiving an average quality massage. Massage lounges like iRelax and Good Massage are also starting to pop up all over the country, indicating a growing need for this type of stress support.
Well, the science is clear: chronic stress can have a significant impact on your physical and mental wellbeing. However, the good news is that you have the power to counteract these effects through relaxation techniques like massage.
By incorporating regular massage sessions into your self-care routine, you are honouring yourself by putting yourself first, reducing the production of those nasty stress hormones, and nurturing a better state of overall wellness. Taking care of yourself should never be a luxury—it’s an investment in your health and happiness.
So from this moment on, I’m personally committing to scheduling in time for relaxation. It seems like an odd concept to me because in my head relaxation should just ‘happen’, but I must admit that I’ve caught myself many times doing work on my laptop, in bed, before going to sleep! After reading the research, I’m convinced. No more laptop after work and more time for massage. I’m excited to see the results!