How Stress Affects The Body and How Reflexology Can Help
Updated: Sep 13, 2019
Updated: Aug 19, 2018
Let me start by saying, the human body is truly an extraordinary thing. It is also a very complex thing to comprehend at times. I have always enjoyed learning about anatomy and physiology. You can never stop learning when it comes to our bodies. It is truly never-ending! I believe it is very important to understand how the body works in order to be effective in my work as a Reflexologist. I hope this blog will help someone to understand stress, the affects, and how Reflexology can help.
"Fight or Flight" Vs. "Rest and Digest"
Most people have heard of the "fight or flight" response of the nervous system, the way in which the body reacts to stress or danger. Many, however, have never heard of the "rest and digest" response. This system activates the more tranquil functions of the body; those that help maintain a healthy, long-term balance.
These systems are both a part of a much larger system named the Autonomic Nervous System, which controls and influences the way our internal organs function. We may think that we have only one nervous system but, we have several!
If you are constantly in "fight or flight" it stays activated and can cause long-term health problems. These kinds of stressors prompt the body to release large amounts of stress hormones like cortisol. Over time, chronically elevated stress levels lead to your internal organs becoming depleted of the raw materials they need to produce other important hormones and neurotransmitters. This is what you could call "burnout" or "adrenal fatigue".
The Sympathetic Nervous System, or the "fight or flight" response, prepares our bodies for action. The Parasympathetic Nervous System "rest and digest"helps produce a state of equilibrium in the body. Both are a part of the greater Autonomic Nervous system, responsible for involuntary and reflexive functions in the body.
The Sympathetic Nervous System is a fast-acting, unlike the parasympathetic system. The sympathetic nervous system activates a part of the adrenal gland named the "adrenal medulla", which then will release hormones into the bloodstream. These hormones activate the target muscles and glands, then causing the body to speed up and become tense, as well as more. Functions like the immune system are even shut down to a certain degree. Here are some changes your body will go through when the sympathetic nervous system is activated:
Heart rate increases
Blood pressure increases
Blood moves to the extremities
Bronchial tubes in your lungs dilate
Saliva production is reduced
Stomach stops many of the functions of digestion
Glycogen is converted to glucose
We have all had that sudden shock of fear or when we have been faced with danger, it is like being punched in the gut. This is the solar plexus firing as it sets off the "fight or flight" response from the sympathetic nervous system. "Fight or flight" is considered a state of stress. I think in this day and age, one of our main issues is being stuck in the sympathetic nervous system (state of stress) overload majority of the time. We don't go into this state occasionally, many of us are living there, 24 hours a day. As we wake in the mornings, we are already making list in our heads for the day, as we drive to work we try multi-task, as we get behind a slow driver that causes us to slam on our brakes, little things throughout the day, even as we lay our heads to go to sleep, our minds are in full gear. This is not natural or healthy.
The Parasympathetic Nervous System "Rest and Digest"
This system is much slower. The parasympathetic response is responsible for controlling homeostasis, or the balance of the body. It restores the body to a state of calm and counterbalance and allows it to relax and repair. The body experiences several responses when the parasympathetic nervous system is activated.
Saliva is increased
Digestive enzymes are released
Heart rate drops
Bronchial tubes in your lungs constrict
Pupils in your eyes constrict
Urinary output increases
Lowers blood pressure
All of these are changes that are designed to maintain a healthy balanced life while also, improving digestion and conserving energy.
It is important to find ways to de-stress. Living in the sympathetic nervous system majority of your day or life has long-term health, mental, and physical affects. Make time to get your nervous system back in balance. Find the "off switch" so to speak and find a way to transition into rest and digest, the state of rest and repair. The less time we allow our bodies to stay in the sympathetic nervous system, the better our health will become. It is well worth the efforts we strive for to rest and relax the body. Your long-term health depends on it.
How Reflexology Helps:
Reflexology is the scientific study of reflexes and the application of specific techniques that work reflexes in a particular way to produce a specific outcome. It is based on the evidence that we have nerves that lead from each organ, function, and from all parts of the body. Those nerves end in your hands and feet.By working and stimulating those reflex areas (nerves) that lead back to a specific part, you can focus in on the areas that will help reduce stress. The chief outcome of reflexology is to relax the body in order to do the following:
Improve the flow of blood, nerve impulses, and bioelectrical energy throughout the body
Allow the body to normalize, balance, and heal itself
Of course, there are MANY more things that reflexology assist with. Each foot has over 7,200 nerve endings. Nerve endings conduct nerve impulses through the peripheral nervous system to the spinal cord to the brain. This process produces an immediate reaction. It also mobilizes healing forces in the body. Jesus Manzanares, a Spanish medical doctor, and surgeon has researched reflexology since the early 1980's. He has over 70,000 clinical cases. In one of the studies, he performed an electroencephalogram (EEG) which determined that reflexology changes brain waves. It concluded that the central nervous system is a mechanism for reflexology. Reflexology is a very relaxing, non-invasive, healing modality. It allows the body to enter the "rest and digest" and put your body into the rest and repair state, too. When you receive reflexology, it allows me to work on those specific reflex areas that lead back to parts of the body like the brain, head, inner ears, solar plexus (ignites the "fight or flight" mode), hypothalamus, eyes, sciatic nerve, and more.
The marvelous thing about reflexology is it automatically switches a person's nervous system from the sympathetic mode "fight or flight" to parasympathetic mode "rest and digest" which allows the body to rest and repair. When I receive reflexology I notice my whole entire body relaxing. I will even notice my breathing slow down. While working with other clients I have also noticed a significant change in mood, as well. People come in stressed and sometimes barely hanging on. Once the session starts, I see a change from stressed out, agitation, or nervousness, turn to peacefulness. It is because their bodies are experiencing the state of homeostasis - balance. In this crazy, busy, stressful time that we live in, balance and rest are very rare. Make time for your health. The long-term effects of stress can become a life-threatening matter. The body needs rest and repair in order for the body to heal and stay well. Incorporate reflexology as a part of your health and wellness routine.
I also recommend finding other ways to help reduce stress naturally. Researching for yourself the many ways that are available to us. Also, remember to just be kind to yourself. Whatever you do today, let it be enough. Stop trying to run on an empty tank. I always have to remind myself that I have permission to rest, I am not responsible for fixing everything that is broken, I do not have to make everyone happy, and that sometimes I must have time for me, to rest and repair. As the saying goes, stressing does not take away tomorrow's troubles, it takes away your peace today. Maybe instead of focusing on your "to do list", maybe focus on a "to be list" like: I want to be happy, calm, loving, healthy, and awesome! Also, here are a few other things that seem to help me:
Getting fresh air and direct sunlight
Reading a book
Listening to calming music
Drinking calming herbal teas
Taking an Epsom salt bath
Using stress-reducing essential oils
Petting my dog
Laughing with someone (my awesome hubby)
The last two are my favorites! =)
Thank you for reading this week's blog on how stress affects the body and how reflexology can help. I hope that you found this helpful and informing. Feel free to contact me for any information or questions you may have. Stay warm, happy, and healthy!
To schedule an appointment, please call or text Sydni at (931-269-9829) or book through Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/purehealingreflexologyandwellness/?ref=bookmarks