Stress happens to all of us throughout our lives. Retirement does not mean that life is now stress-free, as many PVE residents know. What many do not know is that the stress response is a well-documented reaction in the body.
Recently, researchers have gained new understanding of the relaxation response, the body’s natural antidote to stress. Many may think that watching TV or reading a book is relaxing. But when we look at what happens to the body during these activities, we see those activities do not generate the true relaxation response that provides for recovery from stress.
What does that mean?
When we are stressed, the brain generates chemicals in the body that are intended to help us gear up to meet and deal with that stress. This is fine for once-in-a-while stress, but it can have very negative effects on our health and well-being if stress is chronic, as it is for most people in these challenging times. This means that stress chemicals stay in the body and continue to affect us in an ongoing way.
Stress chemistry in the body is designed to redirect blood flow to those areas of the body that may be needed to fight or flee. That means that other body processes– such as digestion– suffer because digestion is not of primary importance to a stressed system. This is why ulcers are associated with stress, for instance. This can also mean that indigestion, constipation, GERD and a host of other GI ills are very much tied to our stress levels.
Stress chemistry also directly affects our pulmonary (lung) function and our cardiovascular (heart) system, as the increase in blood flow to these systems on a chronic basis does not allow for recovery from the increased demands that stress puts on them.
Virtually every physical, mental or emotional condition we have is negatively affected by the addition of chronic stress.
The good news is that there are very simple, easily learned techniques for switching on the relaxation chemistry in the body that neutralizes those stress chemicals. Participants in PVE’s weekly Guided Relaxation class report better sleep, lower blood pressure, less stomach distress and other benefits leading to greater well-being. Some students have been coming for over 10 years to the class, but we welcome newcomers as well.
The class explores a variety of easy and fun tools for releasing stress. Not all tools or techniques will appeal to everyone, but the goal is for each participant to gain a range of options that will work for them in a variety of stressful situations.