Stress-induced illnesses now cause more
deaths and diseases than do infections in the industrialized world.
During the last twenty to thirty years a vast amount of research has
been undertaken looking at the relationship between the management of
stress, an umbrella term that includes anxiety, tension, frustration,
pressure, exhaustion, strain, panic, upset, nervousness, unhappiness,
pent-up anger and powerlessness.
The physical effects of stress involve
us in an unconscious response by our autonomic nervous system - the
so-called 'fight or flight' response which puts strain on our heart,
raises our blood pressure, exacerbates digestive problems through
excess stomach acid secretion, raises our cholesterol levels, thickens
our blood increasing the risk of blockages and heart attacks,
exacerbates bowel conditions such as colitis, lowers our immune
function making us more susceptible to infections, intensifies pain,
creates headaches and worsens sinus conditions, contributes to
inflammatory conditions of the joints and muscles, and hinders
recovery from major traumas such as operations, serious illness and
grief and loss.
Learning relaxation techniques will
provide positive steps towards improving or preventing any of the
above conditions and may even save your life. One of the best
ways of counteract stress is to learn correct breathing.
Breathing is something we do unconsciously twenty-four hours a day,
but it can also be altered consciously. Breathing is therefore
an important link between the conscious mind and the unconscious and
is the key to simple relaxation. Tuning into your breath at any
time of the day will give you an instant indication of your stress
levels. Take a deep breath and then force it out using the
diaphragm to empty the lungs. Repeat this four or five times and
then return to normal breathing. You will notice an instant
'Poor' breathers take shallow, quick
breaths using only the upper lungs and chest. It has been shown
that habitual hyperventilation (over-breathing) can bring an anxiety
attacks, heart palpitations, trembling, headaches and nausea.
Diaphragmatic breathing, expanding the lower lungs and belly, is one
of the easiest relaxation techniques to learn.
Massage is another beneficial and
readily available relaxation technique. Visiting a qualified
therapeutic masseur can improve overall circulation and lymphatic
drainage, relax muscle and joint tension and improve digestive
disorders and headaches.
Nervous tension can sometimes be a sign
of magnesium deficiency. Vertical nail ridges are a sign that
you are living two much on nervous energy. Calcium and magnesium
work together to maintain a healthy nervous system and may be
supplemented in the diet. The trace elements zinc and manganese
are excreted more rapidly when under stress, as are the water-based
vitamins B-group and C.
Besides relaxation, there are other
exercises that you can do, such as yoga and meditation, taichi and
qigong, which are also ways and techniques to combat stress.