It’s finals week! Even for instructors it’s stressful. Being stressed is a natural thing, in fact it’s what protected from our enemies – our “fight or flight” reaction. My problem is that I don’t do either. I just sit at my computer and keep plugging away, or worse, my “flight” is to cookie jar for a treat that I so deserve. A larger issue with stress is that we go from one stressful situation to another and another until we now have chronic stress.
The impact of chronic stress is pretty scary. Did you know that chronic stress can eat holes in your brain? That’s pretty scary. According to a Yale University study stress causes your brain to shrink. Chronic stress leads to many other health issues like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Plus it often leads us to other destructive habits including overeating, alcohol abuse, smoking, and the need to just “veg”. Unfortunately the chronic stress leads us away from one sure-fire way to get rid of stress – exercise.
How do we de-stress besides exercising – take breaks. Flora Wuellner is a pastor who counsels pastors. Believe it or not she says that pastors suffer from chronic stress more often than other professions due to their serving the constant needs of others. This led her to prescribe three levels of “Sabbath” rests.
She says a Sabbath means resting from our normal activities. Further, she suggests that
we should do something we love to have true rest. And, she suggests three types of breaks:
We should take an hourly break from our activities. They should be momentary breaks, such as, looking at a picture you love, stretching and breathing deeply, listening to a song you love, or perhaps mentally going to the mountains.
Finally, we should spend one day each week doing what Wuellner calls, “relaxing, joyous, humanizing activities.” These could include, going fishing, playing golf without keeping score, spending the day walking around a city lake, sitting and watching what everyone else is doing around you. She cautions us that whatever we do should not be done because we have to, it should be done because we really want to enjoy the activity.
I called on MSB Lakeville’s Massage Chair, Karen Montanez, to talk about massage and other ways to relax and de-stress. Here’s our interview.
Craig: How did you get interested in massage?
Karen: After my first husband died, I realized life was too short to be doing something for work that did not make my heart sing. I’ve always been interested in medically related things and in alternative medicine, and I wanted to do something that was physically active and also something I could do to help people. Massage fit the bill, so I quit my corporate job after 27 years and went to massage school.
Craig: How does massage help reduce stress?
Karen: Massage helps the body’s autonomic nervous system move from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic state, or from “fight or flight” to “rest and repair” mode. It helps to reduce pain, anxiety, and depression and lowers blood pressure.
Karen: Meditate. Take walks or get any kind of exercise. Practice deep diaphragmatic breathing. Surround yourself with beauty. Do something that you love to do, that is fun. Eat right and get enough sleep.
Craig: Is there any way we can get in tune with our bodies to know when stress is building up?
Karen: Massage can help with this. It helps to increase body awareness. Any kind of exercise also helps you to get more in touch with your body.
Craig: I’ve heard that stretching is very important for someone my age – why is that?
Karen: As we age, we tend to lose flexibility, stretching helps to maintain and restore flexibility in joints and muscles.
Craig: Is there a specific stretching routine I should follow?
Karen: Yoga is great. A commonly available book that has lots of great stretches including daily routines for maintaining flexibility is “Stretching” by Bob Anderson.
Craig: Any other hints or advice for us?
Karen: Live. Love. Laugh. Perform a random act of kindness. And get massages!
Sounds like good advice – thanks Karen!!
Our group all decided that what we needed to do was practice a day of rest this past week. People did everything from fishing with their kids to floating in the pool. Mine was a
day with my wife Holly. It started with a trip to the St. Paul’s Farmers’ Market. Here’s fresh and local food we bought. Also included were chair massages! I got the bikes out from the deep recesses our garage and got the cleaned up, pumped the tires, and we went for a ride. I’m riding my bike to school when I can.