I often talk with my clients about how stress affects their body, and they’re often surprised by much of what I have to say. So here are the 5 facts that surprise folks the most:
Stress makes you stupid – Stress suppresses activity in the area of your brain responsible for rational thought, concentration, & short term memory. The more stress you have, the more this area is suppressed. This is why you “get stupid” in really stressful situations. If you’ve ever had a brain wreck during a run in with your boss, on a first date, or in the aftermath of a car accident you know what I’m talking about.
Stress makes you dumb – When you’re stressed, the body diverts blood away from the language center of brain thereby making it difficult to convey your thoughts. It can also affect your grammar, enunciation, and pronunciation. Where does the blood get diverted to? It goes to your arms and legs to make it easier for you to fight or flee.
Stress turns brain fog into brain smog – If you have a condition, such as fibromyalgia, that’s known for it’s “brain fog” or if you experience “hormone brain” as a result of PMS or perimenopause, you know the frustration of the first two points all too well. If you pay attention you’ll notice that, in most circumstances, as your stress increases, so does your brain fog. Reducing your stressors and increasing your stress management skills will help. Everyone’s different, of course, so the way your reduce or manage your stress will be unique to you.
Stress can make you a no-neck – The fight or flight response is designed to help keep us alive when faced with a physical threat. Unfortunately, all of our stressors trigger this response despite the fact that very few of our modern day stressors are physical threats that we can either fight or run away from. Check out the front of your neck. Notice how it’s all soft and squishy there? Can you feel a strong pulse where the blood’s flowing to your brain through the carotid arteries? Can you feel your windpipe, protected by just a few rings of cartilage? For all the important stuff located there, the front of the neck is very vulnerable. When you’re stressed, the body’s prime directive of staying alive kicks in. This causes your neck muscles to raise your shoulders and bring your head down and forward. It also causes your chest muscles to bring your shoulders forward, in an effort to protect the front of the neck.
Stress makes you a tight *ss – If the body’s prime directive is to stay alive, it’s second might be to keep the species alive by protecting your reproductive organs. In 11+ years of doing massage, I’ve noticed a pattern of hip pain (and sometimes low back and thigh pain as well) in clients who haven’t injured themselves but have family, job, or money stress. When they work on becoming mindful of their response to stress, they notice that they clench their “cheeks” (and sometimes thighs as well) when stressed about work, money, and family issues. I know you’ve wanted ‘buns of steel’ ever since you saw the ad for those videos back in the ’80s, but let me assure you, this is NOT the way to go about getting them.