You Seem Tense...: How Our Emotions Affect Our Body.
Last week on the blog we opened up the discussion of the hips (read that post here). I spoke briefly about the concept of holding onto emotional tension in the hips- this is a topic we have yet to broach here on the Sleekform blog and I feel it’s worthwhile to discuss.
As you know we talk a lot about tension. Like, a LOT. We focus mostly on tension, stiffness and injuries caused from sitting and poorly set up ergonomic workspace because… well, we sell chairs and that just makes sense.
I’ve said it before (and I’m sure I’ll say it a million more times) but our chairs are not a solution to your pain- they are a tool to help you live a more well rounded, ergonomic, healthy life. In order to really make an impact on lessening your ailments we are going to have to really look in wards at ourselves. Think of it like going to the gym. Starting a new workout regime is great but you won’t truly start reaping the benefits or seeing the results you want until you change your diet too. It’s an all hands on deck sort of situation.
What’s been drawing our attention lately are all of the things outside of our physical habits and “environmental stressors” that are affecting our posture, tension, and pain. We’ve got a good handle on the physical changes we need to make, but what’s so much more complex and subjective is the mental game tension can play. It can be so daunting to even attempt to dig into our past to get to the root of our tension.
Stress means different things to different people. What causes stress in one person may be of little concern to another, but that doesn’t make it any less valid or legitimate. Some people are better able to handle stress than others. Not all stress is bad. In small doses, stress can help you accomplish tasks and prevent you from getting hurt. For example: stress is what gets you to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting the car in front of you. That's a good thing.
Our bodies are designed to handle small doses of stress. But, we are not equipped to handle long-term, chronic stress without consequences.
Personally, I’m a big “stiff neck” girl. If I’ve got something important I need to prep for, or if I’m going through something particularly emotionally difficult, I’ll clench my jaw all night causing me to have a terrible sleep and then wake up with a stiff neck which is usually accompanied by a throbbing headache that lasts three days.
I’ve had gastritis and stomach ulcers. I’ve lost weight, gained weight, developed hormonal acne, missed months and months of menstrual cycles...all due to stress. For some reason it’s not until I wake up with that signature stiff neck do I begin to think “hmm… I wonder if maybe I’m stressed?” (I’m notoriously self unaware.)
The moral of the story is that stress can affect all aspects of our lives, including our emotions, behaviors, thinking ability, and physical health. No part of the body is immune. But, because people handle stress differently, symptoms of stress can vary. Symptoms can be vague and may be the same as those caused by medical conditions, so it is important to discuss them with your doctor. If you’re like me and never have a clue that something you’re feeling (mentally or physically) could actually be a symptom for a bigger issue (like stress) I’ve made you a handy dandy list of symptoms caused from stress and emotional tension.
Don’t freak out… but I’m about to spit some facts.
Symptoms Caused By Stressed.
Emotional symptoms of stress include:
- Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody
- Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control
- Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind
- Feeling bad about yourself (low self-esteem), lonely, worthless, and depressed
- Avoiding others
Physical symptoms of stress include:
- Low energy
- Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
- Aches, pains, and tense muscles
- Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
- Frequent colds and infections
- Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
- Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet
- Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing
- Clenched jaw and grinding teeth
Cognitive symptoms of stress include:
- Constant worrying
- Racing thoughts
- Forgetfulness and disorganization
- Inability to focus
- Poor judgment
- Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side
Behavioral symptoms of stress include:
- Changes in appetite -- either not eating or eating too much
- Procrastinating and avoiding responsibilities
- Increased use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes
- Exhibiting more nervous behaviors, such as nail biting, fidgeting, and pacing
Woof. It’s a lot. I know…. We’re almost there….
What Are the Consequences of Long-Term Stress?
A little stress every now and then is not something to be concerned about. Ongoing, chronic stress, however, can cause or exacerbate many serious health problems, including:
- Mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders
- Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, and stroke
- Obesity and other eating disorders
- Menstrual problems
- Loss of sexual desire in both men and women
- Acne, psoriasis, and eczema, and permanent hair loss
- Gastrointestinal problem gastritis, ulcerative colitis, and irritable colon
…..is this stressing you out?
Let’s Reign It In.
We aren’t trying to kid anyone! Stress is unavoidable and just like everything else in life it has its peaks and valleys.
There are of course plenty of resources out there for people struggling with major trauma and chronic mental illness. If you’re one of those people we urge you to seek out professional care. You are not alone, so why deal with it alone?
For the basic day to day stresses one of the best things we can do is acknowledge it. Saying “Hey! Yo!” to our anxiety and stress can take a surprising amount of power away from it. A key in dealing with the effect so it doesn’t end up making itself at home in your body is to not suppress and ignore the feelings when you’re having them.
When we suppress our feelings or emotions it can so easily start to make itself at home in our physical body. Our neck, shoulders and hips are some if it’s favorite places to snuggle in. When this happens there are plenty of ways to restore your body back to a less stressed version of itself.
We (obviously) recommend starting by treating yourself to a comfortable healthy chair (like this one!). Being productive, meeting your deadlines and checking things off your to-do list is a great way to make sure your stress levels are kept at a minimum and a good work set up is key in having a productive day.
We also love a good yoga class. Not only does yoga target a lot of the areas that are misused and abused from sitting all day but it’s also great for re-centering your mind (ICYMI- we have a whole post about yoga here) so it does double duty. When our minds are relaxed our bodies are relaxed. Let’s repeat that ten times and follow with a nice loud “OOOOMM”.
It would be silly to think our emotions and our bodies aren’t closely connected. Just think about your posture when you’re upset or depressed- you’re hunched over, probably burritoed in your favorite blanket watching My Girl for the 100th time and crying just as hard as you did the first time you watched it when you were 10. You’re physically embodying the tragedy losing Thomas J to his bee sting allergy. And this is FINE, you gotta let it out! What’s important is that on our good days we are paying attention to any remnants of those feelings that clung to our muscles and nestle into our joints.
What are some of your favourite ways for shaking off the blues? Hiking? Boxing? Painting? We want to hear about them! Let us know in the comments how you stay on top of your feelings and keep your body a peaceful zone.
And don’t forget to check out our shop! Maybe a new chair is just the thing you need to make yourself feel better! ;)