FFC Oak Park spa manager Jason VonGerichten shares the effects of stress on the body and stress management tips, including strategies like massage for stress relief, among others. Check out the research and tips below!

When discussing the stress response, I would often tell my students that their bodies are like the Starship Enterprise.

Stay with me.

When the Enterprise was in a battle and they were taking some hits, Captain Kirk would inevitably say:

“Scotty, put. all. power. to. the. forward. shields!”

And Scotty would unplug the microwave (or whatever) in order to divert all extra power to their forward shields so they could get that final photon torpedo into the Klingons.

Our bodies do something similar.

Effects of Stress On The Body

When we’re faced with stressful conditions our sympathetic nervous system – the “fight or flight” response – is activated, and all power is diverted away from any unnecessary functions. Due to the effects of stress, blood flow is diverted away from our digestive system so we can get more oxygen to the muscles needed to run, many maintenance hormones and mucus production stop secreting, our immune system shuts down, and adrenaline and cortisol are dumped into the bloodstream to give us an extra boost of energy and strength.

And all of this is great… if we are indeed faced with a physical threat. But how often are we actually facing off with a bear in the woods? What do we usually get stressed about?

Office politics. Income taxes. Mortgage rates. Personal relationships.

Can we defend ourselves against these emotional things with a physical response?

We cannot. And in fact, we end up damaging our bodies from this response, because we don’t feel the effects of stress about the next election for five minutes, we feel it every day for the next two years, and our physical bodies have yet to find a pre-programmed response to this type of emotional stressor.

So, we divert blood flow from our digestive system and we get constipated or diuretic. We stop secreting growth hormone and we don’t repair damaged tissue as quickly. Less mucus in our stomachs means there’s no protection from stomach acid (hello ulcers!). We get sick easier without an immune system functioning, and a constant drip of adrenaline and cortisol means damage to our circulatory system and higher levels of glucose in the blood. You can stress yourself into type 2 diabetes!

So what do we do?

It’s easy to tell someone to just relax to combat the effects of stress, but unfortunately, it’s not always that simple. In fact, I don’t know if you know this, but telling somebody who is upset to calm down often has the opposite effect, and all of that person’s non-calmness then gets directed at the person offering advice.

Luckily, our bodies have two built-in systems we can manipulate to activate our parasympathetic nervous system – our “rest and digest” functions.

One of those systems? Breathing. You do not have to get in touch with the divine. You don’t even have to meditate. Just breathe, and breathe deeply. By activating your diaphragm, that big muscle under your lungs, your body gets the signal that you are in a restive state, even if you’re not, and then the rest of the body follows suit. It’s been said you can add years to your life by just breathing deeply a few minutes every day.

Massage for Stress Relief

Massage is the second thing we can do. Our bodies are built to be social creatures, and in the age of online communications it’s more important than ever to find ways to incorporate healthy, healing touch into our lives. Massage for stress relief is a great approach. Aside from all the benefits to your musculature, a simple sense of touch begins the release of dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin in your brain. Those are all, in this case, feel-good neurotransmitters, mood elevators, and stress relievers.

Study after study has shown that children who are consistently given loving touch from their parents grow up to be stronger and less sickly, and elderly people whose partners have passed are less healthy because of the lack of loving touch.

Do yourself a favor. Live long and prosper by breathing deeply and getting a regular massage for stress relief.

Post written by FFC Oak Park spa manager Jason VonGerichten.

Hey, did you know FFC offers massage? Set phasers to deep tissue! Use your communicator to give us a call and book an appointment. Have more questions for Jason or want to set up a complimentary consultation? Email him at jvongerichten@ffc.com!

Jason VonGerichten is the spa manager at FFC In Oak Park. He is a husband, massage therapist, pug enthusiast, and his first book, Welcome to Uranus, is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Google Play.