top of page

Fight/Flight or Rest and Digest

How Dealing With Everyday Stressors Affect Our Bodies and the Solution

Stress sucks. Everyone knows this.

Stress is a natural, yet uncomfortable reaction to life experiences. Everyone experiences stress at one point in their lives. Anything from everyday responsibilities, war, health, and/or loss of a loved one can create stress for an individual. In the short term, stress can be beneficial. It is designed to help us react to potentially threatening situations and then aid us in learning to deal with and learn from the experience. Moderate and short-lived stress can improve alertness and performance and boost our memory. It’s a survival mechanism at its most basic, but a great threat to our mental and physical health when experienced for a prolonged period.

Mentally, stress can…

  • Kill brain cells

  • Reduce the size of the brain and prefrontal cortex

  • Affect memory and cognition

  • Increase the risk of mental health problems such as anxiety and depression

  • Increase the risk of substance abuse

  • Disrupt sleep

  • Much more

Not only does stress do a number on our mental and emotional health, it greatly affects our physical body.

Those who suffer from chronic stress are prone to…

  • Muscle tension

  • complications with mobility

  • Headaches

  • Digestive issues, heartburn, and stomachaches

  • Low sex drive

  • Weakened immune system

  • High blood pressure

  • Fertility issues

  • More

Stress Affects the Physical Body Greatly. Massage and Bodywork Can Fix That.

How Stress Affects the Muscular System:

Just like how the other parts of our body, muscles are built to protect themselves. They tense up to prevent injury while enduring stress. Then, they tend to release again once you have relaxed. When you are consistently stressed out, the muscles rarely get a chance to relax. These tight muscles cause body pain, headaches, and can limit mobility/flexibility.

How Massage and Bodywork Can Help:

Massage therapy reduces painful contractions, spasms, and tense muscles by relaxing the muscle tissue. A 2014 study involving 59 participants found that deep tissue massage helped to reduce pain in people with chronic low back pain. The authors likened its effects to those of Ibuprofen/Advil.

How Stress Affects the Immune System:

When we are stressed out, the immune system’s ability to fight off antigens is reduced. When our immune system becomes less effective, it makes us more susceptible to disease and infections. “Psychologists in the field of "psychoneuroimmunology" have shown that your state of mind affects one's state of health.” -APA

How Massage and Bodywork Can Help:

As previously mentioned, those who experience high levels of stress tend to get sick more frequently than others. Clinical studies have indicated that regular massage can naturally increase the immune system's cytotoxic capacity and decrease the number of T-cells, which improves the functioning of the immune system. In one study by Gail Ironson, M.D., HIV-positive men were given 45-minute massages five days a week, for a month. They showed an increase in serotonin and an increase in cells that are viewed as the first line of defense in the immune system. That’s amazing!

How Stress Affects the Digestive System:

According to Healthline, “short-term stress can cause you to lose your appetite and your digestion to slow down. Long-term stress can trigger gastrointestinal (GI) issues, like constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, or an upset stomach. Chronic stress over extended periods may lead to more serious issues, like irritable bowel syndrome and other GI disorders.”

How Massage and Bodywork Can Help:

Massage releases tension in the abdominal muscles and intestinal muscles. This helps in reducing bloating, gas, cramps, constipation, and relieving indigestion. It also improves digestion by stimulating peristalsis, releasing digestive enzymes, and assisting with waste elimination.

How Stress Affects the Central Nervous System:

When you feel anxious and stressed, your brain floods your nervous system with hormones and chemicals designed to help you respond to a “threat.” The most common stress hormones are adrenaline and cortisol, which can wreak havoc in high doses. These compounds can increase the frequency of headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and much more.

How Massage and Bodywork Can Help:

Massage therapy and bodywork can be the answer to regaining the balance of our nervous system. Our nervous system is a very complex system that is made up of our brain, spinal cord, neurons, and all of the stimulation that goes through it. Massage can stimulate and soothe the nerves depending on the pressure, stroke, and length of a session due to its calming effect on the entire body. Massage supports increased communication through touch and pressure that awakens receptors and underlying tissue. It directly affects the tension in any muscles or joints and can shift the reactivity of the nerve receptors in those areas.

The Bottom Line

Stress can be beneficial in small doses. But, when you’re dealing with moderate to severe stress consistently, it takes a huge toll on your overall health. Massage is extremely beneficial in preventing and reversing the harmful effects of stress.

If you’re interested in learning more on how to care for your physical health, you can visit

Take back control of your mental, physical, and emotional health and book an appointment with me, click here, click here


bottom of page