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Stressed or Anxious? Here’s How Professional Stretching Can Help

by Lindsey McFadden

Senior woman stressed with her hand holding her head

A tough day at work or a contentious family reunion, either scenario can be challenging for you mentally. Furthermore, prolonged subjection to stress or anxiety leads to a bevy of complications. However, you can go back to normalcy quickly by knowing how professional stretching can treat your overloaded nerves. That’s right, stretch away your stress and anxiety. 

What is Stress?  

When your body experiences adverse physical, emotional, or intellectual stimuli, also known as stressors, it causes a stressful situation. How your body reacts to a given stressor is a stress response synonymous with fight or flight. However, how your body deals with stress is equally important to understand. 

Your body deals with stress through communications between the amygdala and hypothalamus. The amygdala is Greek for almonds, as it takes after the almond in shape. This nut-shaped structure is located just anterior to the hippocampus, meaning in the medial temporal lobe. While small, this has a significant role it plays.  

Our amygdala wears several hats. As a part of the limbic system, its most bare-bones function is to analyzes and respond to them, but from an emotional standpoint. Ever wonder why your memories are ripe with raw emotion and invoke the same feelings you felt before? Your amygdala is the reason for this phenomenon.  

The second hat it wears is emotional regulation. Fear, aggression, joy, and sorrow are all triggered from your amygdala upon a given stressor. These very same emotions you feel at the time of the event create an emotionally charged bookmark in your unconscious mind and are called upon when a similar stressor crops up.  

Humans’ hypothalamus is on the underbelly of our brain, toward the brainstem. Sandwiched between the thalamus and the pituitary gland, this attaches via a stalk-like appendage. Think of the hypothalamus as the critical command center of the brain, as it controls the autonomic nervous system, which regulates:  

  • Breathing 
  • Sexual arousal  
  • Blood pressure 
  • Digestion  

Your Body’s Response 

Stress. It’s simultaneously yin and yang, and it’s with us throughout every day, through the good and bad. So many things can affect you at a given moment, be it physical or psychological; it can happen to anyone. With our daily bombardment of information, conversation, and the rigors of work, your body has been subject to stress the entire day. 

A stress response is a carefully coordinated yet instantaneous release of hormonal shifts and physiological responses. Under healthy situations, a minor stressor triggers a little reactionary measure to counteract it. Under undesirable circumstances, your body may react drastically to traffic jams or a differing opinion, as it would for a physical altercation or mental abuse. 

Long-Term Symptoms 

For those that have a hard time dealing with the everyday pressures of life, the day-to-day becomes exhausting and grueling. As mentioned earlier, your amygdala has the recollection of an elephant, accessing seemingly ancient memories with ease. If your amygdala repeatedly overreacts to minor stressors, this can lead to significant problems, falling under one of four categories. 

Physical Symptoms:  

Emotional Symptoms:  

  • Easily agitated 
  • Feeling like you’re losing control 
  • Increasingly anti-social tendencies 
  • Low self-esteem

Cognitive Symptoms: 

  • Racing thoughts
  • Forgetfulness  
  • Decreased concentration 
  • Heightened pessimism 

Behavioral Symptoms: 

  • Overeating or undereating 
  • Alcohol and/or drug abuse and nicotine dependency 
  • Heart attacks 
  • Hypertension

Man stressed on his deck with both hands covering his face from

What is Anxiety? 

Anxiety and stress share a lot in common, and both are widespread issues that affect the population on a global scale. While nearly 1/3 of united states citizens experience extreme stress at a given moment, and while under 20% of the population seeks treatment for anxiety, less than half ever seek guidance, researchers claim. 

However, despite its effects on the far-flung corners of the globe, anxiety is normal and is something we often experience. Moving, a looming test, a first date, these are moments where we break out in panic and maybe fear. However, incessant anxiousness can affect your body in the same manner as stress. Here are the four major effects of anxiety.  

Stress Hormone Flooding  

Deep down, we all have our inner peace, or zen, if you will. However, anxiety overproduces and saturates the brain in cortisol and adrenaline, signifying danger is imminent. This puts your body into ready mode, which is when your senses sharpen and reflexes quicken. These block your ability to calm yourself while simultaneously stressing the body. 

Hyperactive Mind 

Over time, prolonged anxiety and stress will enlarge your amygdala. The larger it becomes, the more hyper-sensitive it becomes. In this state, being extremely disagreeable, it sends more false alarms than actual panic alarms. This perpetuates the unedge feeling, shedding light on why certain people may feel under attack in an otherwise ordinary event.   

Irrational Thinking 

As you experience stress, the signals sent from your amygdala travel to your prefrontal cortex (PFC) for analysis. Once analysis is complete, usually in a fraction of a section, you enact the carefully calculated response. Typically, the response that ensues is rational and appropriate, such as smiling when you hear good news. 

Adverse outcomes happen when the communication between the amygdala and PFC weakens. Since the amygdala cries wolf far too often, its otherwise rational input goes unheard, and the PFC makes its decision. This response is typically over-the-top and viewed as erratic and irrational. An example is screaming hysterically at traffic.  

Dwelling on Negative Memories 

A prominent problem in anxious people is their elevated pessimism. This is a direct result of the shrinkage in the hippocampus, which is your brain’s data storage bank. In here, your brain stores memories like a computer does with files. When this section of your brain shrinks, you begin to lose some of your memories. 

However, memory loss isn’t random. No, anxiety manipulates the discarding process. Ever notice how it’s easier to remember a negative moment than a happy memory? If yes, you are living through a symptom of long-term anxiousness. Overbearing anxiety processes your bad memories as “good” ones, replacing them with memories of shame, fear, and misery.  

Anxiety: Disorders and Symptoms

Creating a list of related symptoms is a tall order, as anxiety is an umbrella term for a litany of mental disorders. Every form of disorder which falls under the term anxiety stems from fear. A commonly under-discussed fact is that fear is a motivator, even more so than monetary gains. Disorders may appear as:  

  • Phobias 
  • Panic  
  • Social panic 
  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) 
  • OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) 
  • Generalized anxiety disorder

Despite these far-ranging effects, there are general signs to pay attention to, eight in total. Some of these may occur independent from the presence of stress, making it essential to seek help if you believe you need it. Here are the most common symptoms associated with all the aforementioned conditions:  

  • Excessive worrying/irrational fears 
  • Easily aggravated/increased irritability 
  • Restlessness/lack of sleep 
  • Fatigue 
  • Lack of concentration
  • Muscle tension
  • Panic attacks
  • Avoiding friends, family, or people in general

Stretch Zone practitioner doing leg assisted stretch on female customer

 How Does Stretching Help Relieve Stress and Anxiety? 

Stress and anxiety proliferate chaos throughout our bodies, something which stretching can tame. Did you know that stretching properly can undo most mental and physical complications that stress and anxiety can cause? Stretching can help relieve tight muscles, release pleasure hormones, and even help to calm your mind.  

Blood Circulation  

A proper daily stretching routine can not only help you gain pliability but can also lead to a healthier heart. Whereas anxiety and stress constrict arteries to prevent blood flow, stretching promotes healthy flow and appropriately dilated arteries and vessels. This, in turn, will improve your overall health, starting with your heart and mind. 

Whereas professional stretching improves your heart functionality, blood is crucial for a well-oiled mind. Blood is the conduit in which oxygen and nutrients travel as well as how CO2 vacates parts of your system. Think of this similar to olden trade routes that utilized rivers, as there is little difference. 

Pain Relief 

Mental and physical stressors cause physical pain and discomfort. This often resonates as muscle soreness and joint pain. Muscle tension itself is a form of stress. When coupled with mental stress, anxiety is all the more debilitating. However, stretching is known to act as an analgesic, making it a no-brainer here. 

Pain relief centers around healthy blood flow. Therefore, stretching is the most obvious and natural remedy that you can happen across. Most people who report stress and anxiety also complain of lower back, hip, and neck pain. As it turns out, several stretches can prove beneficial, which we’ll get to soon.   

Take a Deep Breath 

This saying isn’t uttered because it’s ear candy. Instead, it’s because it holds water and is precisely what your body needs. In fear-laden moments or seconds before the altercation, our bodies breath swallower than usual. While consciously taking a deep breath may seem unnatural, two full lungs of O2 stabilizes your heartbeat and normalizes your blood pressure.   

Stretching has a profound, indirect effect on our breathing. As you stretch, your brain floods with chemicals associated with a feel-good sensation, which is positive feedback. Upon this feedback, stress and anxiety signals can be overwhelmed, leading to relief. This feel-good sensation will persist each time you stretch, incentivizing you to continue religiously. 

Slow it all Down  

Stress and anxiety aren’t products of living an isolated or uneventful life. It’s a part of daily interaction with other human beings. Taking a step back to slow the worlds’ progression can be incredibly therapeutic. Setting aside time each day, whether you stretch or not, can go a great way toward striking a healthy balance of stress and happiness.  

As you can see, sometimes the stretching benefits which help are merely a byproduct of passing the time in a docile manner. Instead of relaxing to a gut-wrenching flick or a violent videogame, separating yourself from outside stimuli is all you need to reset sometimes. Think about this the next time you sit down to watch a movie after a long, stressful shift. 

What’s Assisted Stretching? 

To start, it’s a safe way to tap into the benefits of stretching while ensuring the prevention of further complications. How? Stretching promotes pliability by extending the elasticity of our muscles, which makes them stronger. However, overdoing it can push them past their threshold, leading to long and weak muscles more prone to injury. 

Professional assisted stretching allows your muscles to shed their stiffness, inflexibility, tightness, lack of motion, and soreness. All of those complications stem from stress or anxiety. Why risk complicating your problems by inviting an additional physical stressor to cause pain and discomfort? 

Why You Should Contemplate Assisted Stretching  

Along with preventing potential harm, certified stretch practitioners understand your body far better than most people do. Many people may associate pain with stretching, yet the two naturally shouldn’t coexist. If you feel any pain level, you need to stop, as pushing through the pain is where the trouble lies. 

Our stretch practitioners have earned the trust of professional athletes such as Drew Brees. Brees is a future hall of fame Quarterback of the New Orleans Saints for those who aren’t aware. Even at 42 years of age, he’s out there competing and often beating younger players. While skill and experience are a large part of his success, so is his stretching regimen. 

Brees, much like other athletes, pro or otherwise, didn’t start in peak physical shape from birth. His training got him to where he is, and assisted stretching with Stretch Zone keeps him in top form. Through a gradual process over many sessions, your body’s pliability enhances along with range of motion and muscle endurance. 

By joining assisted stretching programs, you’re signing up for an overall wellness overhaul. With mental and physical benefits attached, stretching is sorely underutilized in many chronically affected by mental disorders. Remember, while stretching on your own isn’t recommended, we would rather see your stretch than sitting idle. Practice caution. 

Looking For Professional Stretching?  

We started 20 years ago when Jorden Gold (our founder) launched Stretch Zone. Since then, more athletes and professional teams have adopted our mentality, particularly the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Los Angeles Rams. Visit one of our locations to see why professional, assisted stretching can help you overcome the stress and racing thoughts you’ve been feeling.  

Group of Stretch Zone practitioners doing leg stretch on customers

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