A Few Thoughts on Stress:
As New Yorkers, we need to have a stress-management routine. We no longer have 1970s New York type stress of junkies, muggings, switchblades, pimps, and dog-crap—but we still have stress. The subways are more crowded than ever. We still need stress relief.
Americans tend to bottle up their anger. We live in a culture that says that anger and irritaton are bad emotions, which is like saying the color red is a bad color. This is an enormous factor in heart disease. In counseling, some therapists use the "Wiffle-bat & pillow" technique. When asked about how, say, catching their wife cheating makes them feel, many men tend to squelch their emotions and feign stoicism. When the therapist suggests they think about what transpired, and then hit the pillow with the bat and yell—they immediately turn into berserkers, and the toxic emotions drain out.
Negative-ion generating emotions need to be eliminated from the body; otherwise they cause emotional constipation—stress builds up in the physical body, usually in the form of neck and lower back pain. These two areas of back pain are so prevalent that they've worked their way into our language - things are either a "Pain in the ass," or a "Pain in the neck."
Stress also registers as tension-headaches, "chronic" migraines, stomachaches, TMJ (jaw-muscle pain from night-time teeth-grinding). it may further express itself as something that feels like arthritic twinges in your shoulder and elbow joints. Acne breakouts. Hair-loss. Stress also comes in the form of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, a highly uncomfortable back-&-forth of diarrhea/constipation. Your sleep will get disturbed - you'll wake up at 3:00 am, toss & turn for hours and then start getting drowsy 10 minutes before you have to wake up at 7:00, and be exhausted all day.
I espouse the philosophy of Dr. John E. Sarno's "Healing Back Pain," which maintains that the body is a perfect machine, but does not function ideally in today's stress-ridden world. Stress is behind hundreds of aches and pains. Anyone remembering the 60s remembers ulcers. Everybody had ulcers, nobody ever talked about back pain—ulcers were a sign of the times. Then we learned to cut down on stomach-lining irritants like alcohol & cigarettes, and stress had to register itself somewhere else. Now everyone has "incurable" lower back pain.
Lifting heavy weights and hitting focus pads are very good substitutes for the bat-and-pillow routine. Better, in fact. Because in addition to draining stress, you also lose weight. :-)