I once knew a man who procrastinated on every job he did. Every time he submitted a proposal or a report, he delayed working on it until he had to stay awake all night to write. Then he always had to drive a mad dash to the airport to get his document on an airplane just hours before his submission deadline. He justified this by saying he did his best work under stress. I think he was kidding himself. I think he liked the cortisol hit he got from putting himself in those situations. He was hooked on the fight-or-flight reaction. But there’s no need to deliberately cause a fight-or-flight reaction in your body, and on balance, the effects of stress are more harmful than beneficial. I think my friend should have started his work earlier, made his submissions on time, and gotten an occasional massage for fighting stress.
Stress and the Immune System
Furthermore, the cortisol hit that my friend thought he was thriving on was probably ruining his health. In 2008 a psychologist and an immunologist reported on an array of experiments to the American Psychological Association. Assuming that people who care for chronically ill spouses or parents are laboring under a great deal of stress, they gave a group of these caregivers flu shots. They gave the same shots to a group who were not caregivers and measured the resulting antibodies in the blood of each group. The result: the bodies of only 38% of the caregivers produced adequate antibodies in response to the vaccine. Among the control group, 66% produced adequate levels. They got similar results in study after study of this population. In other words, stress undermines your immune system.
The Hazards of Cortisol
The release of cortisol into your bloodstream sets your system up for a fight-or-flight reaction. It’s good if you have a reason for fight or flight. But in most everyday situations, neither fight nor flight is the appropriate response, and according to WebMD, excess cortisol can lead to
- anxiety and depression
- heart disease
- memory and concentration problems
- problems with digestion
- weight gain
- muscle weakness
Don’t deceive yourself into thinking you are living well by embracing stress. Everybody encounters stress in life. The trick is to manage it. The list of stress management techniques is endless: meditation, nature walks, relaxation techniques, a flotation tank, working out. Or you can get a massage.
Massage for Fighting Stress
If you have ever had a session with a trained massage therapist, you don’t need scientific proof of the effectiveness of massage in stress management. But just in case you do… A 2005 review of research on massage therapy found that it actually creates biochemical changes in the body: “In studies in which cortisol was assayed either in saliva or in urine, significant decreases were noted in cortisol levels (averaging decreases 31%).” The reviewers also found average increases of 28% in serotonin and 31% in dopamine. They concluded that massage therapy is useful for “a variety of medical conditions and stressful experiences.”
You probably have more than enough cortisol in your life, even while you have not quite enough serotonin and dopamine. You can correct all those imbalances with a skilled massage. Book one at Peak Recovery & Health Center today.