Stress Changes You

Recently, I posted a photo on my Instagram feed about my hair - yes, that's what I am bringing up today but give me a few seconds to explain and things will become clear.

Up until about a decade ago, I had fairly straight hair. But something happened to me, my body, that caused some changes and I ended up with curly hair as a result.

What did this? Well, a severe health issue with some prolonged stress.

Ten years ago, I was overly scheduled, taking care of others and their needs, ignoring my own and not allowing for breaks or any self-care. I had been like this for years, always putting other's needs in front of my own until I contracted endocarditis (heart infection) from a case of strep throat. Until diagnosis, my illness was a mystery because all I had were very high fevers, for weeks. Once determined what was causing the fevers, the damage to my heart had been done.

Long story short, I ended up needing open heart surgery for a double valve replacement with something called The Ross Procedure, an intense and long surgery.

The entire health issue took months from first onset to final recovery, tons of medications, and several hospitalizations. I even endured a mini stroke. In that time, I also was under extreme mental stress as I was fearful of dying.

Luckily, I had a great team of surgeons and medical professionals to fix my heart so I made a full recovery. However, shortly after my surgery, I noticed the texture in my hair changed. And stayed that way.

Now what does this have to do with massage? Well, it's about stress and the hormones your body releases. When someone is under extreme and often prolonged stress, cortisol and adrenaline - the stress hormones - are released which can cause inflammation and other damaging results to your body. 

Have you ever noticed when you are under stress that something changes about you? Unexplained weight loss or gain, changes in skin texture, mood swings, high blood pressure, etc... these are just some of the results of stress and the chemical effects it has on our minds and bodies.

As a massage therapist, I try to help people to relax and induce the parasympathetic nervous system to take over which helps deactivate the stress hormones. This helps regulate the chemical imbalances. However, if these imbalances go unchecked or linger too long, changes can occur in the body.

Case in point, the texture of my hair. Now it may seem innocuous, my hair, but it is always a reminder to take care of myself especially when life becomes too hectic. Also, I will also admit that after my illness, I slipped into a deep depression with bouts of extreme anxiety. But I will save that story for another post.

So, take some time to find moments of relaxation - go for a walk, read a good book, talk to a friend, book a massage or just breathe deeply for a few minutes. All this will help combat the effects of stress and keep you balanced.