The effects of change reach into every crevice of life putting people more and more under pressure. Human biological evolution is lagging behind developments in technology and lifestyle. Physiological and psychological stress emerges as a result of a growing deficit between daily demands and coping resources. Today it is virtually impossible to avoid stress. Many try but they find that the avoidance strategies frequently generate more stress rather than reducing it. There are two types of stress that people have to deal with.
Eustress, which is positive stress, and distress, which is negative stress. For the purposes of this paper I’m going to neglect eustress and focus on the damaging effects of distress. Negative stress is the stress of losing, failing, overworking, and not coping. Distress affects people in a negative often harmful manner. We all experience distress from time to time. It is a normal, unavoidable part of life. Stress results from failure to adequately cope with stressors.
Stressors could be loud noise, uncomfortable air-conditioning, debts, ringing telephones, broken relationships, unrealistic dead lines, discouragement, fear, pain, an unruly walk jog class, and thousands of other things that we come across in a normal day. It is impossible to avoid stressors. The only totally stress free state is death! Stressors will always be there because we live in an imperfect and unpredictable world. A hazardous pattern develops when we fail to recognize the signals that the body sends seeking recovery actions.
The continuing stress build up eventually leads to stress overload and physical or psychological breakdown results. We need to assist our bodies to cope with stress because our natural biological stress-adjustments are not ideally suited to the demands of modern living. We need to develop special skills to deal with special stressors. There are several different ways to assist our bodies with dealing with today’s stressors. Everyday people use rest flotation, visualization and imagery techniques, yoga, time management strategies, oiging, and several other methods too rid their bodies of stress.
I am going to focus on three techniques that are a little more popular then the ones I mentioned above. Massage, meditation, and simply having fun are easy and readily available to everyone. We see people everyday using these methods at home, in the work place, and even in public. They are very effective ways to relax. Massage affects the body as a whole. It is known to increase the circulation of blood and flow of lymph. The direct mechanical effect of rhythmically applied manual pressure and movement used in massage can dramatically increase the rate of blood flow.
Also the stimulation of nerve receptors causes the blood vessels to dilate, which also facilitates blood flow. Massage has a definite psychological effect. Since massage animates the tactile sense, the body’s primary sense, it brings people into the here and away from tension generated by constant preoccupation with problems. Also, loosening of muscle tension or armoring–the physical counterpart of how we defend and protect our selves from psychological pain–can lead to freeing of repressed emotions. Users of massage therapy as a healing tool quickly realize that they have found a form of drugless therapy.
Headaches, insomnia, digestive disorders, arthritis, asthma, minor aches and pains are some of the problems that can respond to massage therapy. It can even have an excellent effect on nervous people who have been dependent on their pharmacy for rest and relaxation”( Greene,1997). Most of us have dabbled in meditation by participating in conscious relaxation. Maybe during an exercise class or to manage pain or anxiety. We start by paying attention to our breathing. The practical effort to focus completely on our breathing takes our minds away from the mind clutter that constantly tries to invade our mind and eliminate feelings that will lead to a time of calm and relaxation”(Parsons,1997).
This form of meditation is known as the concentration, or “one pointed’, type of meditation. Another form of meditation is called mindfulness. In this meditation style you begin by utilizing one-pointed attention to cultivate calmness and stability, but then you move beyond that by introducing a wider scope to the observing, as well as an element of inquiry. When thoughts or feelings come up in your mind, you don’t ignore them or suppress them, nor do you analyze or judge their content.
Rather, you simply note any thoughts as they occur as best you can and observe them intentionally but nonjudgmental, moment by moment, as the events in the field of your awareness. This inclusive noting of thoughts that come and go in your mind can lead you to feel less caught up in them and give you a deeper perspective on your reaction to everyday stress and pressure”(Kabat-Zin,1993). The final form of stress management that we are going to look at is the lost art of having fun.
As adults, we need this ability to shift our awareness from rational and logical concerns to a level, which is freer and centered on the moment. People who can shift appropriately between the “there and then” to the “here and now” are good at reality testing and adapting to the demands of the world. They can draw on both their thought processes and their ability to take effective actions. We can’t really appreciate fun without the counterbalance of work and the responsibilities of living. And we can’t truly value our work until we incorporate fun into our lives. Pleasure guides us to better health.
When experiences are enjoyable, we want more of them. Our bodies tell us that sleep, reproduction, eating, companionship and exercise — to name just a few of our more common daily activities — are enjoyable. We can actually relieve stress and relax just by doing these activities. “Think about what children do when they play. They lose themselves in the pleasure of the moment. We have all observed children at play. They glow with pleasure — they shout, smile, and run around. They are so involved with what they are doing that they lose focus on everything else around them”(Life Esteem,1998).
You can almost consider it a form of meditation. While writing on this topic I couldn’t help to notice how little I do to relieve stress in my own life. I thought about the times I was happy and relaxed, then I thought about times of stress and discomfort. Although stress full periods are unavoidable, I noticed that I was most at ease when I was involved in a form of activity that was totally irrelevant to the stressors that where causing problems. I felt as if I had more energy to continue, and actually ignored any of the negative aspects of the activity.