More people are struggling with the debilitating effects of stress than ever before, The World Health Organization (WHO) has called stress, the health epidemic of the 21st century.  Imogen Little, founder of stress therapy business Heal and Now is a craniosacral therapist helping people to overcome stress and burnout. With April being Stress Awareness Month, below, she discusses the effects of chronic stress, how to manage it and more importantly prevent disease with Craniosacral Therapy.

What is Chronic Stress?
Chronic stress occurs when you experience stress over a long period of time. It’s a very common experience for many people and can be caused by a wide range of factors from work-related stress and financial demands to relationship problems and ongoing health issues. 

When we experience chronic stress, our bodies are stuck in a constant state of heightened psychological or physiological arousal meaning the body is simply caught up in a perpetual state of fight or flight.

This, in time, will take a significant toll on physical and mental health.   

How does it manifest?
Stress manifests in the human body in countless ways. People often associate stress with headaches and migraines, perhaps muscle tension in the neck and shoulders. They may also be familiar with stress causing high blood pressure. 

They may not, however, be aware of the other physiological manifestations of stress of which there are many. 

Respiratory issues such as asthma, intestinal problems including IBS, tinnitus, chronic fatigue, unexplained pain, skin conditions including eczema, are all examples of how stress can manifest. 

The stress hormone cortisol is responsible for suppressing the immune system which can lead to further illnesses and infections including auto immune diseases such as diabetes, MS and Lupus.

The implications of chronic stress on psychological health are hugely significant and can range from mood swings and irritability to anxiety, panic attacks and depression. Longer term often leading to total burnout. 

What is CST and how does it manage stress?
Craniosacral Therapy (CST) is a very gentle holistic, touch therapy which works directly with the structures of the central nervous system to alleviate pain and dysfunction, often brought on by ongoing stress and trauma. 

It rebalances the central nervous system by switching the body out of fight or flight, otherwise known as the sympathetic nervous system, and into ‘rest and recovery’ the parasympathetic nervous system, which is where the body can heal. 

As well as alleviating physical tensions and providing people with much-needed physical touch which is sadly lacking in many people’s lives, CST will enhance the body-mind connection.

This will clear space to enable you to be more present and in turn less reactive to stressful situations, making you more able to manage day-to-day stress and overwhelm.  

Other ways to manage chronic stress   

Set limits: Limit yourself to tasks and obligations that you can handle and make sure you’re asking for help and support where you need to both at home and at work. 

Breathe: Breathing or breathwork is one of the most powerful tools for restoring your body in times of stress. Deep breathing regulates the heart and improves the oxygenation of blood, therefore releasing tension from the body. 

Do regular exercise: Exercise reduces inflammation and helps immune cells to regenerate making your body stronger and more resilient to the effects of stress on the body.  It also supports mental health by stimulating the production of endorphins, increasing focus and positive thinking. 

Practice mindfulness: Daily meditation practices, bringing awareness to how you feel in your body and being fully present in the moment are all examples of mindfulness, the key is to find whatever resonates or works for you. It’s different for everyone.

words by Imogen Little