Do you have pain or tension in your neck, shoulders, arms, hip or back? Perhaps along with this pain/tension you’ve also had difficulty getting a good night’s sleep lately or you’re experiencing more constipation or diarrhoea. The poor sleep and digestive disturbance may also be causing feelings of low energy which is inhibiting your ability to exercise so you’re not able to get relief from your busy mind or mental worries. Emotionally you may be less calm, more easily upset, slightly down or feel stuck in life. Research shows these are signs that stress is beginning to have an impact on your physical, mental or emotional health.
Everybody experiences stress. But how does stress affect YOU personally, and what can you do about it? Our ‘stress-pert’ Marian Jarvis has the answers…
Who is Marian?
Marian Jarvis is a Shiatsu therapist and yoga teacher and has worked in the health industry for over 9 years. Her calming, balanced presence can make you immediately feel relaxed and help your Mondays feel like Sundays.
Marian has an intuitive touch and is able to tune into what your body needs. She is also great at guiding you into healthy lifestyle behaviours having worked for 5 years in health education. After a Shiatsu with Marian you will feel relaxed, calmed, blissed out, energised and full of new life. The wound-up or exhausted feelings will be gone so you can get a better night’s sleep and go into your day with calm, concentration, focus and renewed health and vitality.
What is Shiatsu?
Shiatsu is a therapeutic body-work that you may not have heard of, but its benefits are far reaching. Often referred to as Japanese acupressure massage, it is so much more than “just a massage”. It is one of the most relaxing and healing treatments you will ever experience. The treatment is non-invasive and the pressure nurturing as it works with comfort rather than pain. It can loosen stiff joints, release congestion or stuck energy in muscles and improve the function or your organs. It’s like doing a gentle yoga class without having to do the poses yourself!
How does Shiatsu help with Stress?
For those suffering from feelings of stress or stress related symptoms, Shiatsu is an essential part of your stress management strategy. By eliciting the body’s relaxation response Shiatsu has a beneficial effect on physiological symptoms:
• reduction in aches and pains,
• regulation of appetite and digestion,
• improved ability to go to sleep, stay asleep and wake rested,
• greater energy and stamina rather than adrenal fatigue and lethargy,
• reduced mental worry or busy-ness giving you a calmer mind, and
• lifted mood and ability to deal with difficult feelings.
The Stress-Less Program is now at Balance
We are so fortunate at Balance to have Marian’s “Stress-Less” program available in our clinic. This six-week program includes weekly therapeutic Shiatsu sessions to reduce the effects and address the causes of stress, to get you living well. The program also includes improvements to your diet and lifestyle from an oriental medicine perspective to enhance your overall life quality. You will also receive a consultation to ensure your body is being supported with the right supplements and bush flower essences. There is more information about the program at the end of this article so read on and stress-less knowing your answer is a phone call away.
What is ‘Stress’ and what are the positive and negative effects?
According to a World Health Organisation Global Burden of Disease Survey “stress related disorders will be the second leading cause of disabilities by 2020”. In Australia, the results of a 2014 study into stress and wellbeing showed that more than 7 out of 10 Australians report stress having an impact on their health. Stress and related disorders impair physical and mental functioning, lead to lost work days and impairment at work, and create a higher use of medical care.
The word stress itself has quite a negative meaning these days. The catch phrase “I’m stressed” is acceptably used but perhaps with little understanding of what it means. Stress, when managed well, contributes to a healthy lifestyle. When we exercise we put our respiratory, cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems under stress. We breathe more rapidly, our heart beats faster and overtime our resilience builds so that we feel physically stronger. By studying we put ourselves under mental stress. This develops new ways of thinking, new tools and skills to apply, assists us to grow intellectually and develops mental resilience. Relationships can pose challenges that cause emotional unease. By positively dealing with the feelings that arise we develop emotional flexibility and resilience.
These general examples are common daily stresses that physiologically cause a temporary activation of our normal stress response – an increased release of cortisol (the anti-stress, anti-inflammation hormone) and catacholemines (adrenaline, nor-adrenaline and dopamine) that are part of the fight-flight-freeze response. These hormones prepare the body for physical activity; your heart beats faster and stronger, blood pressure rises, more blood is sent to the brain and muscles, the liver is told to release sugar stores for energy and the airways widen for increased breathing.
In paleo times this response was great as it was needed to fight or run from any life threatening situation. However, in our modern life the major stresses that trigger our fight-flight response are financial and family issues, mental and personal health issues and rather than being released physically the hormones build-up tension in the body and mind. This accumulation begins to overload or overwhelm the body and further pressure can exceed your perceived ability to cope and be in control. The biological system designed to protect us is now a contributing factor in many stress related conditions such as cancer, heart disease, mental illness and other disabling diseases.
Prior to these serious illnesses arising stress impacts heart rate, memory, breathing and muscle function. Alternatively, if these systems are not functioning effectively the stress is more internally generated. Suppression of emotions, self-inflicted mental pressure and spiritual strain can also internally generate stress.
Broadly we can look at stress as falling into four patterns with each having a set of related symptoms:
– Anxiety: Fidgeting, panic attacks, feeling edgy or high strung, restless or overactive mind, tendency to weight loss with stress, loss of appetite with stress.
– Anxiety and Exhaustion: severe fatigue in the afternoon/evening, flushed or hot sweating in afternoon/evening, excessive thirst or a constant dry throat, restless mind, tendency to perfectionism, waking at 3-4am, poor short term memory, talking fast, prone to nervousness and depression.
– Exhaustion: fatigue and lethargy, hypothyroidism, poor stamina or tires easily, gives up easily and has difficulty completing projects, passive coping style, chronic aches and pains, difficulty loosing weight, low muscles mass, a pale or puffy appearance to the skin, cold hands or feet, losing hair, low libido/infertility/impotence, increased appetite when depressed, prone to chronic low grade depression.
– Insomnia: increased blood pressure, increased cortisol in the evening, increased insulin levels, increased appetite, poor physical performance.
These are general classifications so not all symptoms will be experienced, 2-3 is enough to show that stress is having an impact and that you are in need of support and intervention to move forward and return to a healthy lifestyle.
We are born with a certain ability to cope with stress. In order to maintain and grow this ability we need to eat well, breathe well, exercise well and relax well. If we assume that we start with a 100% ability to manage stress by adulthood most people run at 50% of their potential. Sedentary lifestyles, lack of exercise, poor eating habits, overwork, emotional distress, shock and environmental factors all deplete this.
At 50% we become more susceptible to colds and flu etc. If we don’t take time out to rest and relax we put our body under more stress and deplete our ability to cope even further and with other contributing factors our coping potential drops to 30% at which point more serious illnesses can develop due to a compromised immune system.
When our coping ability drops below critical level our state of mind changes. We can become depressed, detached, cannot sleep, indulge in compulsive and addictive behaviours have greater levels of fear and attempts to feel more in control may often make the body more toxic.
Returning to a Healthy Lifestyle – The Relaxation Response and Shiatsu
Healthy lifestyle behaviours help to reduce stress and include exercising regularly, eating healthily and getting adequate rest and relaxation. The body’s relaxation response is the opposite of the stress response. It turns off fight/flight mode and brings the body’s biochemistry back to pre-stress levels.
The relaxation response is best stimulated by progressive relaxation techniques such as therapeutic body work like Shiatsu.
In the 2014 stress and well being survey the main relaxation technique used was watching TV. Similar to listening to music or reading a book, watching TV is a distraction activity and although useful does not induce true relaxation. Distraction activities do not cause the brain to switch to the alpha type brain waves that indicate the body is biochemically and physiologically relaxed. Progressive relaxation techniques like Shiatsu do induce alpha type brain waves. It also more rapidly initiates relaxed breathing and muscle relaxation and so produces a calming effect to the nervous system.
Therapeutic touch/body work is essential for healthy human development and is helpful in stress related conditions. A cross European study on the effectiveness of Shiatsu followed 633 participants for 6 months. At the end 86% of patients perceived that symptoms related to stress and tension were greatly reduced from having Shiatsu. Overall health, confidence about health and posture had improved. Up to 80% of patients reported having made healthy lifestyle changes and almost 35% had made reductions in using conventional medicine and medication. Participants reported an increase in the amount of rest and relaxation time, an increase in exercise, improvement in body/mind awareness, increased levels of confidence and resolve, a more positive experience of their social life, improved diet and ability to stay grounded.
Regular Shiatsu takes account of both internal and external processes and how a person interacts with their environment. This then establishes a clear process for managing change and re-establishing a healthy lifestyle, relaxing the nervous system without side effects and returning the biochemistry to pre-stress levels.
By re-experiencing a state of relaxation it makes it much easier for the body to remember how to return to a relaxed state after stressors have passed. Shiatsu develops better breathing habits which assist in the letting go process and the gentle pressure and stretching reduces anxiety and lifts mood. If the stressors are not going to go away the Shiatsu treatment promotes clarity of thought and creativity in decision making which is important during times of stress. Guidance can be given on what can realistically be changed and what strategies can be implemented to better manage the stress.
Where there is internal stress occurring from deep emotional causes like grief or depression Shiatsu provides a safe space to be deeply listened to. Shiatsu therapists listen to understand, accept where a client is at that moment and create a sense of connectedness and an opportunity for peacefulness and calm. Shiatsu also offers a different perspective on illness and as well as relieving symptoms it looks to treat the cause creating overall long-term benefit.
The Balance Six Week Stress–Less program – Enhancing Your Life Quality
This Stress-Less program is six weekly hands-on Shiatsu treatments designed to reduce the effects of stress, address the causes, make improvements to your diet and lifestyle from an oriental medicine perspective that will enhance your overall life quality. Prior to commencing we need to measure where you are at and which of the four broad stress patterns you might currently be in. To measure we utilise a detailed Mood and Stress Questionnaire.
Week 1 – Let’s Stress-Less – 30 minutes doing a thorough assessment of your current health and a 60 minute Shiatsu to reduce stress and symptoms. At this appointment we’ll also book in a 20 minute consultation to discuss the results of your Questionnaire and supplements.
Week 2 – Reduce Effects and Address the Cause – at this treatment we continue to reduce effects and treat deeper into the cause of your stress.
Week 3 – Moving out of Overwhelm – Shiatsu plus discussion on making some healthy lifestyle changes around diet – let’s put some good stuff in before we look at what might need to be taken out through a food diary.
Week 4 – Living Well – You’re improving, you’re sleeping better, aches and pains are gone, your outlook is more positive and there is less fatigue and more vitality. Your body is returning to pre-stress levels.
Week 5 – Healthy Lifestyle – By now you’re gaining more confidence in yourself and your health. There is a shift in mood and space to look at lifestyle and behavioural changes to manage stress.
Week 6 – Life Quality Enhanced – after six weeks of regular care you’re physically and emotionally much better, you have a renewed vigour for life and are starting to look at longer term life experiences or changes. At this appointment we’ll book a follow-up consultation to check your supplemental support and discuss a program to maintain the fantastic changes you’ve made.
Not sure you’re stressed? Complete our stress assessment questionnaire. To book into the Stress-Less program call Balance Complementary Medicine on 9585 6635.