What is Stress, Why do we Have it and What can we do about it?

By now we all know that stress is the single biggest health threat to contemporary man. Most of us know that it’s basically a primitive response to fear. You may have heard it described as the fight or flight response and heard the example of the primitive man who had to run to avoid saber-tooth tigers. All well and good, but when was the last time you saw a saber-tooth tiger? It’s been at least years for me.

Let’s think of stress in slightly more contemporary terms. It’s actually the physiological response to situations where we feel we have little or no control. Those situations can be anything from encountering the boss to dealing with teenage children to the dozens of decisions that have to be made for a vacation we’re looking forward to or a calendar it’s just overbooked with ‘got dos’ or the driver that cut us off in traffic.

OK, so what are we to do about this? Assuming that we are unable or unwilling to eliminate the cause of the stress, we need to consider ways to help us feel more in control. This doesn’t mean beating up on the boss or disowning the children or forgetting about the vacation. We can try much more pleasant alternatives such as doing things which only take a few minutes. Three to 5 really deep breaths will help bring things more into perspective. Getting out of the situation or away from the stressor and walking around the house, the building, or the block, outdoors if possible, is another solution. Inhaling an essential oil — think lavender — or a few minutes of meditation are great solutions too.

What if your stress level has already reached the point of manifesting as a stiff neck, sore shoulders, aching back or upset stomach? Time to do something a bit stronger. Before you buy another bottle of painkillers, how about trying something more holistic?

Holistic here refers to a therapy that treats the body as a single organism with multiple parts all interconnected. Modern medicine tends to think in terms of multiple unrelated parts. Reflexology is a holistic practice that uses treating the feet to release the effects of stress throughout the body. One session can take care of that stiff neck, those sore shoulders, aching back or upset stomach. It won’t solve the cause of your stress, but it will buy you time to figure out how to more effectively deal with the modern saber-toothed tigers in your life.