Stress is our internal response to external changes and challenges, whether real or imagined — a deadline at work, an upcoming dinner with the in-laws, relationship issues or just our imagination running wild.
We experience stress when we lose faith in our ability to cope, whether with the world in general, or with specific people and situations. At some point in a busy day, this feeling of helplessness can strike any of us and we feel "stressed out."
The Adrenaline Rush
Our stress response is a signal that our body and all its major systems have been activated. This classic fight-or-flight reaction is not just in our heads. It's an automatic response that reverberates throughout our entire body. Adrenaline is released, muscles tense up, our stomach tightens, our heart rate quickens, breathing becomes shallower, blood vessels on the skin surface contract, blood pressure rises, and digestion and intestinal processes shut down.
None of these conditions are meant to persist for very long. The body couldn't stand for it. They are short-term responses to immediate perceived dangers. Yet we live in a society that is constantly presenting us with stressful situations. Some are very specific, such as challenges at work, financial pressures, and family issues, while some are rather vague, generalized feelings of being at the mercy of other individuals and forces beyond our control.
Unless we take conscious action, our stress response stays permanently turned on, even at low levels. Such extreme mobilization can only be maintained for so long before our minds and bodies show signs of exhaustion.
Consequences of Chronic Stress
Over time, excessive adrenal stimulation depletes vitamins and minerals from our bodies, including those essential to the functioning of the immune system like vitamins B and C. Elevated adrenal activity can also cause a buildup of fatty substances on blood vessel walls, and damage the functioning of the digestive system. People under chronic stress are prone to more frequent and more severe viral infections, such as the flu or common cold, and vaccines, such as flu shots, can be less effective.
The simple truth is that stress breaks down your body's natural support systems and defenses, while relaxation strengthens them.
Natural Stress Relief in Just 3 Minutes
One the most important things you can do to return your body to optimum health is to release stress, whether physical, mental or emotional.
Reflexology, both a science and an art, is a proven method to help you deeply relax and let go of your stress. Reflexology stimulates the reflex areas and soothes the thousands of nerves in your feet, hands, ears and face that enervate each of your organs, glands and every part of your body.
The profound relaxation you experience through Reflexology improves circulation, assists in the release of toxins, increases energy and normalizes body functioning.
A reflexology session can last one hour or more, and you can easily give yourself — or a friend — a 3-minute natural stress release mini-session. You can download a free Foot chart to see the corresponding areas of the body your are affecting. To begin, sit in a comfortable position in a quiet room. Using a light, absorbent greaseless lotion, massage the feet with squeezing, stroking, kneading, wringing motions. Massaging the feet is a great preparation for Reflexology … or anything else!
Next, cross your foot over your knee, and hold the ankle, heel or toes of that foot firmly with the same hand. Place the thumb of your other hand on the sole of that foot. Starting at the heel, apply steady, even pressure with the outer edge or ball of the thumb (keeping the thumb slightly bent at the joint) using a forward, caterpillar-like motion called "thumb walking."
Press into one spot, move a little forward, press again, and so on. When you reach the toes, return to the heel area, pick a new spot and repeat the process. Continue until the entire bottom of the foot has been worked. Using your fingers, press the top of the foot from your toes to your ankle. Repeat on the other foot.
Now you've had a taste of a natural, powerful way to release stress and restore balance to your body, mind and spirit. Enjoy!