Stress until recently has not been considered an illness, rather a lazy person disease, however as the cases have become more frequent and the symptoms more pronounced so research into the causes and effects of stress have begun. Although these studies have not been running for too long they have already produced some very definite results.
Modern thinking today has concluded that stress originates from one of the most basic of psychological responses, the fight or flight response. In the dark ages when faced with a large animal the body had two ways of coping fight the animal or run away. Bringing this then into the modern day, you are sitting in your car in the traffic and someone is banging their horn behind. You have two responses fight back or run away, however fighting back is considered socially unacceptable while running away would mean you leave your car behind. The only response we have left is to let the stress bottle up.
Stress was given two definitions by psychologists Goetsch and Fuller (1995) these definitions fell into three categories stress as a stimulus, stress as a response and stress as an interaction between organisms and the environment.
Everyone can be affected by stress; the degree that it affects your life depends on your lifestyle and working environment. Some forms of stress may even be considered beneficial to a person as it allows us the energy and interest to explore our environment, however, when stress becomes intolerable it becomes harmful.
Stress can manifest itself in several different ways both physical and psychological some of the more common are listed below:
Why does stress affect our body at all? Our bodies react to stressful situations by preparing us for action, increasing our heartbeat and blood pressure. Chronic stress will involve repeated episodes of increased heart rate which, in turn, produces increases in plaque formation within the cardiovascular system; the heart. In some severe cases, doctors have even observed changes such as enlargement of the adrenal cortex and shrinkage of the thymus, spleen and lymphatics. Stress can also affect the immune system, which in turn can make you more susceptible to disease; stress also appears to reduce the effectiveness of the immune system at killing foreign bodies.
It is important however to appreciate that not all stress is directly caused by yourself some is caused by others that you have no control over. The biggest continual cause of stress to most people’s lives is work especially if they work in a high-pressure environment, of which care work is now rated within the top five. Continual shift work does not help this condition as it causes a disruption in the circadian rhythms which can increase the symptoms of stress. Other common activities have also recently been given a stress rating. Some of the highest are, moving home, getting divorced and Christmas.
There are several theories that have been made about effective ways of managing stress and these have been divided into categories the first is Behavioural Techniques.
People can be taught to help alleviate stress by using simple techniques such as relaxation training and aerobic training. Aerobic training helps increase the heart rate and oxygen consumption naturally, individuals who exercise regularly show considerably lower heart rate when faced with a stressful situation. Cognitive techniques help people develop the knowledge of knowing what stressful situations are and then teaches them a method of coping with this situation.
Within these theories, Reflexology can help cope with stress by encouraging the body to relax. As a unit, the human body receives its nerve supply directly from the spine. An unusual amount of tension leads to the muscles of the spine tightening. This affects the nerves, which in turn produces pain.
Another area where reflexology is an advantage in itself is it aids the circulation of blood allowing it to flow more freely making sure that all the tissues and organs in the body receive all the necessary oxygen and nutrients. Then any toxins or impurities still contained are flushed or cleansed from the body.
Reflexology provides a way of inducing deep relaxation giving the human body a chance to seek its own homeostasis. When a body is relaxed it has a greater chance of healing itself.
Reflexology provides a method, which is virtually guaranteed to relax the body and balance its biological systems. This may vary with some people, as sometimes there is a surge of vitality and well being. However, this sensation will eventually progress to reach the mind and also the subconscious. This in itself will make a person more positive within their self and discourage ill health all of which are stress issues.
As the level and variety of stress has increased in modern society so have the methods of treating it, from conventional ideas such as antidepressants to more holistic thinking such as reflexology. Whatever your stress level and method of treating it. Just remember to recognise that stress exists and take care of yourself.