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Can Work Be Relaxing?
|Chiropractic Care and Stress Reduction
Stress is an unavoidable part of life. Fortunately, the human body is well-designed to cope with stress, but sometimes these stress-coping mechanisms can go awry. We have primitive built-in mechanisms to fight or flight in response to danger, but when the perceived dangers are chronic daily struggles, worries and other internal stressors, the fight or flight mechanism remains continually engaged. That is one reason why a brisk walk or short run can make a person feel so much better. It's not just because endorphins are released, but also because exercise helps to reset the fight or flight mechanism and thereby lowers the person's stress level.
Although it is impossible to avoid all forms of stress, it is wise to minimize internal stress as much as possible. Chiropractic can help by reducing or eliminating extra sources of stress in our bodies. Improving spinal joint mobility can significantly reduce the physiologic stress and metabolic toxins in the muscles, ligaments and tendons that support the joints. When physiologic stress is not properly addressed, it leads to mental stress which then leads to even more muscle tension and pain. It becomes a vicious cycle.
By adjusting the spine and thereby reducing physiologic stress, chiropractic care helps the body work more efficiently and effectively. Breaking the chronic stress cycle results in increased health, happiness and a greater sense of well-being.
If you ask the next person you see "Is your work relaxing?", you would probably receive a snicker or an incredulous stare. For most people, work involves a good deal of stress. If you're in retail or customer service, there is an endless stream of customers with problems that needed to be handled yesterday. For medical occupations is more and more patients and paperwork with less and less people to treat them. Workplace politics can add another layer of stress to the normal daily stress of the work you're supposed to be doing. If you work for yourself, there's the ongoing stress of lining up the next contract or client, even while we're dealing with the pressures involved in fulfilling the demands of the current project. It goes on and on.
If you work at a computer there are additional physiological stresses. Our bodies were not designed for prolonged sitting or for staring a computer screen for hours at a time. The highly complex and highly delicate structures of our forearms, wrists, and hands were not meant to be used for repetitive motions like typing on a keyboard or using a mouse all day. Anyone can type for 15 minutes - that's not a problem. But typing for most of the day, day after day, week after week - that's definitely a problem.
These are some common work scenarios, that no one would likely describe as relaxing. But this is the reality of life in the twenty-first century. How can we turn what might be thought of as "lemons" into lemonade? Are there tactics we can employ in an overall strategy of causing our lives to be healthy, meaningful, and satisfying, as well as relaxing and fun?
The answer is a resounding "yes". But there is effort involved. We need to be creative and willing to take action on our own behalf. First, it's important to acknowledge the conundrum each of us faces every day. We are required to work to obtain food, shelter, and clothing for ourselves and our families. But the work that we're doing may not be our first choice. Or the second choice. Or sometimes even the third. Still, there it is. We need to work. This is where the creativity comes in.
Our work environment and/or our work itself may never be relaxing. However, we can actively choose to be relaxed. This is an ongoing process which occurs in the moment. For example, you can affirm "I am relaxed. My work is fulfilling and satisfying." And then, pretty soon, something happens to which you respond with tension. As soon as you come back to yourself and remember that you want to be creating a relaxing environment, you reaffirm your intention to be relaxed. This is very much like Zen or other mindfulness practices which focus on centering. In Zen, the student is reminded to pay attention and to not take anything personally.
These powerful reminders can help us greatly in our intention to have our work be relaxing.1,2,3 The key is to take on the concept of practice. We are practicing centering. We are practicing self-awareness. We are practicing relaxing. And as we practice these things, our overall experience is one of being centered, relaxed, and self-aware, regardless of all the things that are going on around us.
1Chiesa A, Malinowski P: Mindfulness-based approaches: are they all the same? J Clin Psychol 67(4):404:424, 2011
2Zeidan F, et al: Brain mechanisms supporting the modulation of pain by mindfulness meditation. J Neurosci 31(14):5540-5548, 2011
3Ledesma D, Kumano H: Mindfulness-based stress reduction and cancer: a meta-analysis. Psychooncology 18(6):571-579, 2009
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