I recently discovered what I thought to be an act of kindness towards myself, was nothing more than a distraction, and I was actually increasing my stress levels – inadvertently causing myself more harm than good.
I thought that watching a movie – regardless of the content – would be a good thing. It would take my mind off work and the worries of the day. It never occurred to me I could actually be adding to the stress load I was already carrying.
As it happens our brain cannot distinguish between watching a violent television program and being physically assaulted. A threat is a threat, regardless of where it comes from – imagined or real.
Understanding this, explains why I become so anxious – tense up and scream – when “enjoying” a horror movie.
As soon as I feel scared, the fight or flight response kicks in.
When we feel threatened, hormones are released and chemical reactions take place leaving us with one or more of the following symptoms:
– an inability to concentrate and focus,
– an inability to hear, listen and follow instructions,
– loss of short-term memory,
– a decrease in saliva production and dry mouth,
– a decreased ability to digest food,
– a loss of peripheral vision,
– a decrease in immune response,
– an increase in the ability of our blood to clot,
– an increase in the startle response,
– a shortness of breath (shallow chest breathing) and sweaty palms.
The fear response created by watching a horror movie is absolutely no different than the fear response created when we are asked to physically face a phobia – public speaking, heights, snakes/bugs/animals, blood/needles or flying. The fight or flight response is triggered.
In the office, the fight or flight response can be triggered when we are called into the boss’ office, witness bullying or when we are facing a project deadline.
At home, the fight or flight response can be the result of financial burdens, looking after a sick friend or loved one, or finding the time to meet our family obligations.
Why is this information so important?
The body is only capable of healing itself when it is relaxed.
Anything that stresses or causes tension within the body, including some forms of exercise, can be counter productive and interfere with our natural healing ability.
In fact, stress is cumulative and if we are not proactively trying to decrease our stress levels through relaxation we are in jeopardy of creating are own chronic health issues.
Relaxation is often a hard commodity to come by in our hectic world but, we owe it to ourselves and our health to invest in some quality relaxation time.
Suggestions include – Yoga, Meditation or Tai Chi. These practices relax the body and allow the release of emotional tension which creates a place – a space – for self-healing to begin.
If you may be looking for a bit of pampering, perhaps a session with a holistic practitioner who can provide Reflexology, Reiki or Therapeutic Touch may be just what the body needs to reduce accumulated stress.
Relax – Release – Renew!