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Bridge to Health Blog
Bridge to Health Blog

Stress! What is it doing to your body?

Written by Mathieu Rossano   Posted in:Stress management   November 16, 2016

Stress! What is it doing to your body?
“Stress” is a bit of a dirty word these days.  Yet if defined as “a state of physical, mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances”, one might argue that stress can have a positive impact on our lives: the athlete striving for that world record might not clinch it without the pressure to train obsessively, and focus and perform on the big day.  Similarly, if you are late and rushing for a train, you possibly wouldn’t catch it without that surplus of adrenaline and mental focus!

But where stress rightly deserves a bad name is in its relentless, negative and punitive form.  If you are reading this at work, look no further than around you for perfect examples of this: that neighbour of yours, perched on the front of his chair, leaning forwards, hunched over his screen in a best attempt to juggle the endless conflicts of professional deadlines, forgetting about the need to drink water, the right time for a snack or lunch away from the desk, the need to get up and exercise – now you are staring at stress as the killer!

The trouble is that we have in effect lost the plot: initially designed as hunters-gatherers with the odd (arguably positive) stress of running out of the way of a charging sabre-toothed tiger, we have deemed it smart, over the last 250 years, to grow far richer than ever before by sitting immobile, and attending to a limited set of tasks all day long – it’s working for our wallets, but not for our bodies!
Let us draw from this portrait of “modern (wo)man at work” the sorry short-list of what is happening to our poor bodies, initially designed for a very different purpose:
  • Legs folded under a chair hindering blood circulation beneath the knee, with shortened muscles rendered vulnerable to a sudden burst of effort – running to catch that bus, turning up and playing your weekly five-a-side football without really warming up…
  • Pelvis squashed in the depths of the chair, compressing and cutting blood supply to our reproductive organs, irritating bladders, prostates and the lower part of our digestive tract;
  • Digestive tract and abdomen squashed by a hunched ribcage, fighting to coax enough blood supply to serve the demands of digestion and absorption, and struggling to allow “peristalsis” - the rhythmic movement of the digestive system processing digesting foods;
  • Diaphragm, heart and lungs all fighting the pressure put on them by the protracted posture and “hunched ribcage” to breathe deeply and pump blood supply around the body; and
  • Neck overextended and compressed, resulting in poor blood supply to the brain – can you relate to that dozing, light-headed, headachy feeling after a few hours at work?
That’s quite an attractive picture emerging isn’t it? Particularly if you consider that in a day where you might drive to and from work, you may be spending up to 10 waking hours in this debilitating position.

At Bridge to Health, we are not deluded enough as to think we can revolutionise the workplace so that it can’t cause this damage – although we do view the advent of the standing desk and technology encouraging “mobile work” with great favour. Rather we strive to use our unique mix of clinical skills to help our clients manage and improve physical and mental health working around the constraints of modern office ergonomics, by…
  • Providing periodic osteopathic, acupuncture and/or massage treatment aimed at countering the postural biases described above, minimising body tissue strain and encouraging better muscle tone and health;
  • Providing exercise advice in the workplace – click here to be taken to our exercise videos (password: flex) – and at home - click here to be taken to our exercise videos (with password: flex) – to improve the body’s passive resilience to the effects of sitting at a desk all day;
  • Providing nutritional advice that assess the physiological impact of stress and suggests appropriate strategies to nourish the body; minimises tiredness, dehydration and variations of energy levels throughout the day, and maintains higher concentration levels;
  • Providing counselling and lifestyle advice to improve the ability to field and manage manifestations of stress at work, and a greater “psychological immunity” to its effects; and
  • Providing corporate workshops on effective holistic approaches to stress management in the workplace.
If you feel we might be able to help you personally, or you and your colleagues collectively, why not contact us on 020 3757 6544 or 01895 2000 50, or email us at help@bridgetohealth.co.uk?

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