Having lived most of my life in Wyoming which is known for its high winds, I’ve seen the strength and beauty of the trees that thrive here where winds regularly reach hurricane force.
They adapt to the wind as they grow, bending a little with each storm and then rising back up stronger than before. Their strength and resilience keep them from breaking under the winds here which sometimes are so strong they can flip semi trucks and derail trains.
Like the trees, we too can be resilient so we can weather the storms of life and not break under the stress.
Most of us have probably felt a little stressed at times during the events of the last few months. The uncertainties that we’re all dealing with are the types of stressors that can rock us to our core.
If you’ve been feeling the pressure, you’re not alone. According to a survey report on May 27, one third of all Americans say their mental health has suffered due to the coronavirus situation.
And even though feeling stressed is a perfectly normal response in times like these, it’s important to not stay in a state of chronic stress. Because that can take a toll on our health and our quality of life.
Reducing our stress can improve our resilience which helps us adapt and cope, giving us the ability to remain productive and optimistic during times of uncertainty and change.
Resilience is all about being able to overcome the unexpected and not just survive but thrive. If we have resilience, we can see the problems we’re facing in a positive light and remain hopeful that tomorrow will be better than today.
Resilience empowers us to find solutions to challenges that will move us forward and even create a future that is happy and fulfilling for ourselves, our families, and our community.
Chronic stress can wipe out our resilience, though. This is because when stressful things happen to us, our bodies are wired to go into a pre-programmed biological stress response.
This stress response is actually a good thing. Short term. It’s what gives us a burst of adrenaline, energy, and speed to help us get away from an immediate threat or danger.
In our modern world, though, our stress can go on for months. This means our bodies stay in that ramped up stress response which can lead to vital functions just burning out.
Think of it like driving your car with the gas pedal to the floor every single day. How long can you do that before parts of the engine just burn up?
The same thing happens to the body. It can’t function on overdrive forever. It needs to come down out of that stress mode and rest and repair.
Some of the signs that we might be stressed
- Feelings of numbness, disbelief, anxiety, or fear.
- Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones.
- Changes in appetite, eating patterns, energy, and activity levels.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Changes in sleep patterns, difficulty sleeping, or nightmares and upsetting thoughts and images.
- Physical reactions such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes.
- Worsening of chronic health problems or mental health problems.
- Anger or short-temper.
- Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.
I’m sure most of us can recognize some of these in ourselves over the last few months. And we certainly deserve to be kind to ourselves about that because this is a perfectly normal response to what we’re all going through with anxiety and disrupted routines.
But we want to take control of how we respond to this situation as best as we can. Because ongoing, long term chronic stress can cause or make worse some of these next conditions listed below, according to sources like the Mayo Clinic, Medical News Today, and WebMD.
Some of the health problems that can be the result of long-term, chronic stress
- Autoimmune diseases
- Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, and stroke
- Digestive problems
- Eating disorders
- Gastrointestinal disorders such as GERD, gastritis, ulcerative colitis, and Irritable colon
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Insomnia and sleep problems
- Immune system weakness
- Memory and cognitive impairment
- Menstrual problems
- Mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD
- Respiratory infections
- Sexual dysfunction
- Skin irritation
- Skin and hair problems, such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema, and permanent hair loss
Even though the circumstances of recent times are something we’ve never experienced before, adversity is an unavoidable part of life. Strengthening our resilience can help use get through difficult times and even be stronger than ever.
Tragic events or loss don’t have to overcome us and drain our health and our resolve. We can get back up and continue on with our lives.
It doesn’t mean we won’t feel the negative impact of what’s going on. It just means we can cope and adapt. We’re able to regulate our emotions and keep a sense of optimism that helps us stay confident and focused on our purpose.
Resilience can help us have a feeling of control and to believe that we are the architects of our lives, that we design our future with the choices we make today.
The health benefits of resilience have long been recognized in medicine. According to Harvard Health,
“Coping with stress in a positive way is known as resilience, and it has many health benefits. It’s associated with longevity, lower rates of depression, and greater satisfaction with life. There’s a sense of control, and it helps people feel more positive in general… Likewise, a lack of resilience means that you may not handle stress well in difficult situations. Chronic stress is associated with harmful health consequences such as high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, insomnia, heartburn, indigestion, and heart disease. “
We may not feel very resilient at times right now, but we can increase our resilience by doing things that reduce stress and create better physical and mental well-being. We can do what we can to help the body rest, repair, and rebalance.
Reflexology to the rescue!
Reflexology is a holistic therapy which addresses the needs of your entire body, treating it as a whole with everything interrelated. Every single part of the body has a reflex on the hands and feet – every organ, gland, muscle, joint, skin, brain, everything.
Because the body is naturally resilient – when it’s not chronically stressed – it’s constantly adapting to emotional, mental, and physical challenges. All the body’s systems work together to harmonize and balance, creating subtle adjustments needed for good health.
A skilled reflexologist uses specific pressure techniques to join in that silent dialogue within your body. Reflexology sends a message from the hands and feet to the whole body telling it to relax and do its natural repair work.
Reflexology works with the subtle energy flows in your body, too, helping energy to go where it’s needed most for healing. So your whole system benefits during the session.
Whether done in response to a health challenge such as stress or just as preventative care, reflexology supports wellness, balance, comfort, and healing.
The benefits of reflexology for stress relief, better health, and well-being are widely recognized. (Research on reflexology’s benefits for many specific conditions can be found here.)
According to WebMD:
“Reflexology may help you feel less stressed, more relaxed, and more energized. But the benefits might go deeper if you have certain health issues. Some people with medical conditions find that they feel less pain and discomfort if they have less stress, and reflexology may help with that. Researchers reviewed 17 studies of the psychological benefits of the therapy and found that it boosted feelings of well-being and made it easier for people to manage their conditions.”
And the Mayo Clinic says,
“Several studies indicate that reflexology may reduce pain and psychological symptoms, such as stress and anxiety, and enhance relaxation and sleep. Given that reflexology is also low risk, it can be a reasonable option if you’re seeking relaxation and stress relief.”
Prioritizing our own needs right now can be difficult. Self care can easily slip to the bottom of the list. But taking care of ourselves isn’t a luxury. Our immune system and our mood are counting on this from us like never before.
We have so much competing for our time, energy, and attention right now. To be resilient, we need to create space to recharge and decompress.
Reflexology is the best for relaxing. Just sit back in the reclining zero gravity chair and enjoy. Because the hands and feet are easily accessible, there’s nothing to remove except your socks and shoes. The warm towels and rocks, aromatherapy, and peaceful ambiance add to the relaxation experience.
I hope you’ll treat yourself to a session and take a well-deserved break from the stress.
Love and hugs,
“Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.” – Bruce Lee
(If you don’t live close enough to me to come to my office for a reflexology session, you can find a National Board Certified Reflexologist near you through the American Reflexology Certification Board’s website.)