04/16/2012 06:10 am ET Updated Jun 16, 2012

Is Stress a Choice?

Would you like to have some simple, easy-to-learn (and free!) techniques at your fingertips to relieve stress? Read on...

Over 2,000 years ago, Plato pointed out that "The part can never be well unless the whole is well," and Western health care practitioners have been rediscovering that fact ever since.

Our health colors our entire life. Our activities, both at work and play, every relationship, the amounts and kinds of food we eat, our emotional state and even our personalities impact how well we feel.

When you had a headache, you took it with you everywhere. It became the center of your whole life. If you felt sad or a part of you was ailing, all of you suffered. When you felt wonderful, your exuberance and joy were reflected in your experience of life.

Life's Tapestry

Health is the tapestry through which all the threads of our lives are intimately woven. Pull one loose and you risk unraveling or weakening the whole.

One of the fundamental influences on how we experience life is stress. We "see" it everywhere, but it's not really "out there." Stress is the internal response we experience to external changes and challenges, whether real or imagined -- a deadline at work, an upcoming dinner with the in-laws, relationship issues or just our imaginations running wild.

We experience stress when we lose faith in our ability to cope, whether with the world in general or with specific people and situations. At some point in a busy day this feeling of helplessness can strike any of us and we feel "stressed out."

The Adrenaline Rush

Our stress response is a signal that our body and all its major systems have been activated. This classic fight-or-flight reaction is not just in our heads. It's an automatic response that reverberates throughout our entire bodies. Adrenaline is released, our heart rate quickens, breathing becomes shallower, blood vessels on the skin surface contract, blood pressure rises, digestion and intestinal processes shut down, muscles tense up, the stomach tightens.

None of these conditions are meant to persist for very long. The body couldn't stand it. They are short-term responses to immediate dangers. Yet we live in a society that is constantly presenting us with stressful situations. Some are very specific, such as traffic jams, and some are rather vague, generalized feelings of being at the mercy of other individuals and forces beyond our control.

Unless we take conscious action, our stress response stays permanently turned on, even at low levels. Such extreme mobilization can only be maintained for so long before our minds and bodies show signs of exhaustion.

Over a period of time, adrenal stimulation with no discharge of energy will deplete vitamins and minerals from the system, including those essential to the functioning of the immune system like vitamins B and C. Elevated adrenal activity can also cause a buildup of fatty substances on blood vessel walls, and damage the functioning of the digestive system.

Vis Mediatrix Naturae

The antidote to the state of alert generated by the stress response is relaxation. Only a relaxed and balanced mind and body can thrive. The vis mediatrix naturae -- the healing power of nature -- operates at its best only when the body allows it, through rest, relaxation, and the gentle, natural flow of energy.

The remarkable thing about knowing how to relax is that you have more control over your life. You gain tremendous confidence with the knowledge that you can cope with stress and stressful situations. Instead of reacting, you find yourself responding to people and situations from a place of calm and centeredness. Things that used to bother you lose their power.

Reflexology is a non-invasive, natural method that soothes thousands of nerves and stimulates reflex areas on the feet, hands, ears and face to activate the healing powers of the mind and body through profound relaxation. Reflexology provides a faithful, ongoing source of inner strength and well-being.

Reflexology is both a method for helping you feel better now, and for enhancing your everyday life by keeping you at the peak of your energies and creativity. Used as a preventative measure for maintaining a well-balanced mind and body, reflexology can help you ward off illness and fatigue and maintain an optimal state of health and well-being. Whatever you do, you'll do it with more enthusiasm, joy, focus and energy.

Who's the Boss?

The true nature of stress is that it starts within each of us. And since it does, we can do something about it. Choose to start taking back control of your life right now. Make reflexology a part of your action plan. Experience a natural, powerful way to enhance the quality of your relationships, your health and your life.

Would you like to have some simple, easy-to-learn (and free!) techniques at your fingertips to relieve stress? Click here for a free foot chart and some great stress-erasing techniques you can use at home and anywhere else you happen to be.
 - Laura Norman

For more on reflexology, click here.

For more on stress, click here.

Flickr photo by LynneSaurFlickr