The Body’s Response to Stress
By now, everyone has heard of the body’s fight or flight response. This is a normal response to STRESS. The body releases stress hormones to get itself ready to deal with the perceived threat. These hormones energize the body, elevate the heart rate and TIGHTEN THE MUSCLES, in addition to several other physical (pain in the neck), emotional and psychological changes.
When the body is in balance, it responds appropriately. As soon as the danger passes, the body returns to its normal state. If you have an anxiety disorder, however, your body is not in balance. You are persistently anxious and your nervous system becomes overly stimulated. One of the many symptoms is chronic MUSCLE TENSION, which leads to aches, pains and mobility issues.
It Can’t be Stress
As someone battling with an anxiety disorder and panic attacks since my teenage years, I suffered with these aches and pains for a very long time. I had no idea I had an anxiety disorder or that I had been experiencing panic attacks. In high school I was a cheerleader and in college, I was on the dance team. I worked out a lot. I never associated these aches, pains and headaches with stress or anxiety. In fact, I never realized I even had stress! I figured it was regular soreness from the active lifestyle I had at that time.
Maybe I Need a New Mattress!
Like many other people, I blamed my old mattress or my frumpy pillow for my stiff neck. I changed my mattress a couple of times and bought new pillows, but the aches, pains and headaches, never left! So many people complain of needing a better mattress, or a firmer pillow because they have pain in the neck/shoulder area, or back. I always tell them it’s stress and anxiety, but they never believe me!
My A-ha Moment!
It wasn’t until later on in life, when my anxiety disorder became unmanageable, that I started asking questions about certain symptoms. After a LONG journey, I was finally diagnosed with a General Anxiety Disorder, a Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia. I began treatment with medication under the care of a wonderful psychiatrist. I had bigger problems at that time, than neck pain and muscle tension, but as the medication began to work for my MAJOR symptoms, I realized there was one side effect that I truly welcomed!
The Neck Pain and Tension Were Gone!
At first I noticed the obvious changes. I no longer felt like I was going to die and I could breathe normally. My heart was not racing and I did not feel nauseous. The shaking hands were also gone. I was perfectly content at this point, but then after some time, I realized little things that I had just learned to live with, were also improving. For example, my back no longer felt like it had to “crack” every morning. The pain and tightness in the back of my neck had lessened significantly, which reduced the headaches caused by that tension. I had a larger range of motion, able to turn all the way to the left and right. It was anxiety and stress all along!
Now That You Know, What Can You Do?
Well, if you have an anxiety disorder, suffer from panic attacks and are afraid to leave the house, GO TO A PSYCHIATRIST, or at the very least, a Psychologist. If you have these aches and pains and your anxiety isn’t dictating your decisions in life, there are several things you can do.
YOGA, YOGA, YOGA
If you have never tried it and are intimidated by it, do it at home. That is how I started. There are many videos on You Tube for Beginners. My favorite one for beginners is Yoga by Adrienne.
Not quite ready for yoga? No problem! When you wake up in the morning, sit up nice and tall in bed and do some light stretching. Focus on the neck and shoulders. There are many videos on this as well. Just do a quick search if you are not sure where to begin.
This is actually my number one remedy, but most of us don’t have a masseuse at our beck and call. If you can afford it, get a massage as often as possible. Tell the therapist to focus on the tension in your neck, back and scalp. If you have anxiety over getting a massage, take something that calms you a few minutes beforehand. For me it was .25mg of Xanax. Now, I do not need anything at all. I just look forward to the massage whenever I can get one.
I hope this post gives you an A-Ha moment as well! Before spending thousands of dollars on a new mattress or pillow, try some stress reducing hacks first and see if that does the trick!