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Have you ever gotten butterflies in your stomach? I sure have. But how? We have a brain-gut connection called enteric or intestinal nervous system. This causes the butterflies but also has many different affects on the body. It also “disturbs the natural rhythmic contractions that move through your gut” (Bergquist). The body does strange things. So that feeling of butterflies, the sweating, nervousness, shaking, all comes from the same place that will push that stress and anxiety that you are feeling into your gut which can cause things like IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome).
I know I have been in situations where I have been so stressed out I felt sick to my stomach, kind of like going on a first date and getting butterflies, where you are so nervous you’re sick to your stomach. This is how stress affects your body. You’re never really think about stress affecting your physical body, only it plays a huge role in how your body handles stress. Which is why activities that counteract the stress hormones are so important.
What are some way to counteract those stress hormones? You ask. Physical activity is something that will help your body in responding to stress. I use in now daily with this daily workout. It helps more than you think. It gives me more energy, and honestly makes me feel so much better about my body. I also have never been able to cut back on caffeine, but now I can because I don’t need that artificial energy. My back has not hurt near as much as it normally does too. Physical activity reduces the level of cortisol, which is the stress hormone (Harvard Health Publishing). Pain from stress has had such a huge impact on my ability to handle my stress and anxiety. I end up taking some kind of pain medication like Aleve. I get terrible headaches, which I thought my body was lacking caffeine; I get terrible backaches too. I have soon found out that it is from stress.
Physical activity is great, but is that it to solving stress? The answer is no. Stress has many forms, so physical activity is not the only answer. Have you ever had muscles that tense up when you start stressing? My neck and back tense up really bad and I catch myself trying to ‘rub out’ the pain. Jane E. Brody in “Alternatives to Drugs for treating Pain” talks about how, once you realize how your body responds to stress, you can handle it. Once you realize the muscles that are tensing up, you can respond to that by relaxing your body in the areas you feel pain. To be honest, this has made a huge impact on my body. I have realized where it hurts and tried relaxing it. My back has been a huge part of indicating how stressed out I am, and currently, with the physical activity and realization of my sore back, my back has not hurt for about two weeks. This is a huge feat for myself, and I am very proud.
These are not the cures to stress, or even muscle tension. These also take a lot of practice, but with dedication and persistence you can use these small tools to help you deal with that stress. We all have stress and it will always be a part of our lives, but if we can help our bodies get rid of the symptoms we might be able just brush stress off of our shoulders.
Brody E Jane (September 11th, 2017) Alternatives to Drugs for Drugs for Treating Pain. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/11/well/alternatives-to-drugs-for-treating-pain.html
(February 2011) Exercising to Relax. From https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relaxBergquist
Bergquist, Sharon Horesh (October, 22 2015) How stress affects your body - Sharon Horesh Bergquist