The importance of the “Recovery Time”

26 Feb 2014 22:06 | Armelle Loghmanian

 The importance of the “Recovery Time”
- The illusion of humans who think there will not be any consequences when they try to do more than what is physically possible -

Interview by Alessandra Zocca


Tom Meyers

Stress Coach for Body & Mind

Tom, I was invited to one of your conferences and I learned that you are a regular speaker about stress at RadioX Brussels. Is stress so diffused in our society that you talk about it every week on the radio? (1)

One out four employees suffers from work stress and 75% to 90% of all illnesses are related to stress.

I think those two figures (2) alone tell how important it is to put health back on everyone’s agenda.
At RadioX, where I present the weekly feature ‘Health Matters’: this program is a good medium for giving the message that we have to take stress more seriously. On ‘Health Matters’ I share insights on three fundamental questions:
     • What is stress?
     • Why has stress become a nuisance?
     • What can you do about stress?

Stress is an autonomic response triggered so we can adapt to our changing environment and it’s essential for our survival. However, stress itself is not really the problem, but when this biological response is switched-on all the time it leads to wear and tear on the body.
Thus our seeming inability to relax, take time out, do nothing without feeling guilty about it, to reset the stress response and activate the relaxation, recuperation and regeneration response, that is the real underlying health problem that leads to disease i.e. cardiovascular disease, immune deficiencies, muscular problems, digestive problems, insomnia, diabetes and even death.

Could you please provide us with a brief definition of stress and explain to our readership how they can spot symptoms of stress? What do they look like?

Stress is the bodies autonomic response that protects you from harmful effects and so it is essential. Each time the stress response is activated, the body will adjust itself according to the demand (fight and flight (3), which is a biological response to acute stress) and when the stressor (4) is over, it will adapt itself again to the new environmental demands (relaxation, recuperation & regeneration). This dynamic, balancing act of our body is called “allostasis” (5).
When that balancing act is altered due to demands being greater than the body’s ability to cope or when too many stressors follow one another too quickly without a break, then the body goes into “allostatic load” (5). This means, for example, that when the danger or challenge is over, the body continues to function in the fight and flight mode and keeps on releasing adrenaline and cortisol leading to problems and eventually to diseases.

Stress symptoms could be classified in 4 categories:
a. Physical Symptoms – These are: aches and pains that are there seemingly without reason and that don’t go away - for example neck, back or shoulder pain which you woke up with one morning and which you think will go away, but you realize that weeks later you still have it This also includes frequent colds, diarrhea or constipation, loss of sex drive, chest pains, heart palpitations.

b. Cognitive symptoms – They are: memory problems, inability to concentrate, reduced creativity and seeing the negative in every situation.

c. Emotional symptoms – They include: moodiness, irritability, feeling overwhelmed, anxiety or depression and having a short temper.

d. Behavioral symptoms – They are: over-eating or eating too little, insomnia or sleeping more, social isolation, procrastination, pacing, nail biting and overindulging in alcohol or cigarettes.

Is there a variation in stress patterns due to different causes? I mean does work-related stress have different symptoms from stress caused by private problems? What are the main causes of stress?

That is really hard to say, the body reacts in each instance in the same way, so I don’t think there is a variation due to different causes. There is a person-to-person difference as everyone responds in a very distinctive manner and these differences are shaped by age, gender, genetics, experience and habits.
The main causes of stress are taking on too much personal, social and work pressure. In a culture where doing nothing is seen as a something strange, stress is the outcome.

I can illustrate this with an example straight from my practice: I had a client who needed some help with accumulated tension in the neck and shoulders. On her second visit she told me straight away that she didn’t have the time to practice the breathing exercises I suggested to her so that she could help herself.
So I asked her if she had colleagues who smoke. She had, so I asked her “why don’t you go out with them to take some fresh air a couple of times a day?” Her answer baffled me: “Oh no, I can’t do that, what would they think of me doing nothing?” And at the same time she realized she would feel guilty for taking a couple of minutes from her work for the sake of her health.

Based on your experience and expertise is the stress syndrome more usual in certain categories such as women vs. men, young vs. old people, thin or over-weight people, etc.? How about different nationalities and religions – for example are Australians more relaxed than the Japanese? Do Buddhists get stressed about anything – or are these stereotypes a myth?

Stress can happen to everyone. However, there are cultures that are less prone to it.
A lot, actually, depends on the person’s environment, mindset and way of living. A very active business person who practices daily relaxation exercises, does a bit of low impact sport, has a good team around him/her, has social support at home and has a good work life balance will probably not be affected.
A practicing Buddhist who has no social support and whose environment is constantly challenging him/her, probably will feel the effects of stress building up.

I was quite impressed at your presentation when you talked about the “recovery time” and the mental persuasion of humans who think there will not be any consequences when they try to do more than what is physically possible.
Has this society lost the lesson from the Seneca about the balance between otium (leisure time) and negotium (business)” or the one by Bertrand Russell “In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays”: is idleness no longer affordable in our society?

We’ve lost our connection with nature and with time. These days it is possible to be online 24/7 as time is not defined by the sun and the moon cycle anymore but by technology.
My presentations are about bringing our awareness back to the fundamentals of how your body works, is this what your body needs and what health entails.

Stress is regulated by our body’s autonomic nervous system. That system has two branches:
• One that is active when we are in action mode and that instigates the fight and flight response
• The other branch which stimulates relaxation, recuperation and regeneration. The latter is also responsible for your digestion and healing.
When our body is continuously challenged and thus is always in a fight and flight mode, then the other healing branch is inhibited and disease becomes a logical consequence.
I do say ‘body”, as people might think they are relaxed, for example, when they are lying on their sofa and watching a horror movie, but each time they twitch at a horror scene, their stress response is activated.

Another problem we have is that we’ve become so intelligent that it is making us ill. In our brilliant mind we can come up with 100 things to do and we set out to do them, but who says our body can cope with this? It’s like imagining running a marathon: we can easily imagine doing that, but if we are untrained and start running, then we will get into trouble. With our fast paced life and instant access to information we’ve started to “copy and paste” what we can imagine into our body... it’s like running a commodore computer with the latest mac software.

Do you suffer from stress yourself? Is that a reason why you became interested in stress? Or have you discovered the secret of a stress-free life?

Stress still affects me and that is lucky because stress is part of life. However I've learned to handle it, so it doesn't become a health hazard. It doesn't mean that it doesn't get under my skin sometimes.

My interest in stress didn't come from the personal experience of being stressed but rather from the feedback my patients have given after their treatment for non-trauma related neck, shoulder or back ache. For an osteopath, the expected feedback is that patients are cured of the aches that caused them to visit me. However, what was unexpected and surprising was that they also reported cognitive and behavioral changes, for example they state:
• “Since your treatment... I notice that I can focus and concentrate better.”
• “Since your treatment I'm less anxious and worry less. Before your treatment I had lots of decisions to make but didn't know what and the day after your treatment I knew exactly what I had to do or choose.”
• “I have the same amount of stressors but since your treatment I can cope better and realize it's a moment I've got to go through. Before your treatment for months I haven't found the time for my morning meditation session and the day after coming to you I’ve started again”.
So patients who received a physical treatment started to have significant improvement in cognitive and behavioral aspects of life. It is important to note also that my patients reported that they had never experienced this with other osteopaths and related it to my work. If only one patient tells you something like this you think “ok”, but when more and more patients tell you this, one has to start asking why.
So I started to investigate what the link was between the body and the mind and what I was doing differently. That investigation started seven years ago and from the beginning it led me to research the stress response.
Last year I enrolled at the University of Dresden for my Bachelors and Masters in the Science of Osteopathy where I'm conducting a clinical study to put into evidence the effect of the “Reaset approach” (6) I've developed on the autonomous nervous system (the system affected by stress) anxiety and muscular pain.

The Reaset Approach is a physical approach based on osteopathic principles that helps the body return to ease by regulating the autonomous nervous system and by unwinding the accumulated tension in the body. It helps the body to heal itself better and most people not only feel better physically but also psychologically.

I hear that you support companies in helping employees in managing stress: could you please tell us more about this phenomenon trend and which type of support you provide?

The first step to managing stress is to understand what stress is, why it has become a nuisance and what you can do about it. In my presentations I try to answer these three questions.
I see my workshops as the backbone to health management in companies. We have a good idea what causes stress: long hours, pressure, deadlines, evaluations, but few people know:
• How the body is involved in stress
• How the body responses to stress
• How it can alter thought processes, creativity, memory
• How the body can make people short tempered, depressed or
• How stress can lead people to a burnout.
If people don't know this, then they can't make the right decisions either. For example, they're living in a work culture where doing nothing is not an option, they must be busy, all the time. If they don't, many employees feel guilty or get stigmatized for doing nothing, while a break now and then is essential for health promoting behavior.
The pressure upon employees is not going to decrease. Computers will work faster and faster and external demands will increase. It has done so for years and will not stop in the near future: but how to deal with that? How do we adapt? The first step in that process is information. When you get a new toy, you need to read the instructions first before you can use it. Well I’m there to teach you how to know your body.

You are an Osteopath: what is the link between osteopathy and stress healing? How are bones involved in stress syndromes?

The general mistake that people make is to consider that osteopathy is only about bones. The name probably has something to do with that. Also from a historical perspective osteopaths themselves have been more focused on the bones, joints, ligaments and muscles especially here in Belgium as most osteopaths start their training as a physiotherapist (7).

The psychological and cognitive aspect of health has however always been part of osteopathy as Andrew Taylor Still (1828 - 1917) - the father of osteopathy (8) - treated people with psychological ailments with success. Many psychological problems stem from an imbalance in neuro-hormonal regulation and through touch you can help the body to heal better.
Imagine your child is in distress. What works to calm him/her down: Talk to it or holding him/her in your arms for a while?

What inspired you to enter the profession of osteopathy?

Tom Meyers at work

That’s a very interesting and long story, but in short when I was 29 I had travelled the world, worked in England in hotels and had worked on board the cruise ship Queen Elizabeth II for two years and decided to open a deli in Mechelen.
I got depressed as I discovered I wasn’t cut out for it. I ended up with a great coach who helped me find myself. I felt there must be more to life and she helped me to see what more there was. She gave me homework with specific questions that lead to the discovery of untrained talents.
Suddenly I discovered that there was more that life could give me as I was a researcher, a writer, a communicator and a therapist or at least that I had the innate ability to be those, if I decided to develop these talents. So I did.
It all started with workshops in kinesiology which for me was like coming home. After a year of kinesiology courses I wanted more and that’s when osteopathy came to the forefront. Last year I wrote to my coach. “Who would have thought I would ever do my BSc and MSc in osteopathy?” and she wrote back one word “Me”... She never told me that years ago, but apparently she had perceived this potential in me. It might sound presumptuous but her boldness is what I always admired and so far she’s always been right.

Tom, what are the dreams that have not come true yet in your life? Do you have “a dream” you would like to share?

Like many people, writing a book is one of my dreams. I already have a small eBook “Reaset: The return of Ease” that you can download from my website. But I’d like to add chapters to that and make it a book for the public, a sort of inspirational cook book but then for health matters.
Another dream is of course gaining my Master degree and the ultimate dream is a Doctorate.
I want to continue doing research and travelling the world giving workshops and presentations about the discoveries that come from this research. I just want to keep doing what I like doing.

What is the Réseau Biloba you belong to?

Réseau Biloba is a network of professional masseurs and therapists that support each other with professional queries, but is also a guarantor of quality. Every member is qualified and adheres to an ethics charter and, before he or she is accepted, they have to go through a selection phase. The first phase regards the qualifications and if they are acknowledged, then someone from the network will come and visit the candidate’s practice and test their skills. In this way the network assures quality.

From a client’s perspective, knowing that your masseur or therapist is a member of the Réseau Biloba, means a reassurance that he/she is a professional.
There is still the personal aspect (the chemistry) that needs to click when you go to a therapists, but at least you know they are trained properly and selected by this network.

Short Biography

Tom Meyers, Stress Coach for Body & Mind, was born in Antwerp, Belgium (1970). He speaks English, Dutch, French and German fluently.
He was initially trained as a chef and worked as a waiter and sommelier in various establishments in France, England and on the cruise ship Queen Elizabeth II between 1990 and 1998. In this 8 year period he also travelled extensively around the world before returning to Belgium at the end of 1998.
From 1999 till 2001 he had a small deli in Mechelen.

To pay for his osteopathy studies that started in 2002 he worked as an office clerk in various companies, until he opened his health practice Osteo and Co in Woluwe in 2007.

From his early days working as an osteopath he has been intrigued by and has researched the effects of the body on the mind. These studies lead to Tom’s enrollment at the Dresden International University in 2013. Now he is writing his two theses - on the effect of osteopathy on the autonomic nervous system and anxiety levels – for his Bachelors and Masters Degrees in the Science of Osteopathy.

He likes to see himself as a contributor of thought for a more joyful and healthier way of living.

Contact Details
Tom Meyers
Stress Coach for Body & Mind

Tel: 0472 399 779

Av. H. Pauwels 7
1200 Brussels


Radio X:

(1) RadioX – Listen to Health Matters every Monday 7h35, 9h35 and 16.35 on
(2) European Agency for Safety and Health at work (EU-OSHA): Brun, A., Milczarek, M., (2007). Forecast on Emerging Psychosocial Risks Related to Occupational Safety and health. (PDF) Luxembourg office for Official Publications of the European Communities
The American Institute of stress
Stress op de werkvloer: 11 opvallende cijfers

(3) Fight & Flight - The fight-or-flight response (also called the fight, flight, freeze, hyper-arousal, or the acute stress response) is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival. It was first described by Walter Bradford Cannon.

(4) Stressor – internal or external stimulus that activates the stress response.

(5) Allostasis and Allostatic Load - Beckie, T. M. (2012). A systematic review of allostatic load, health, and health disparities. Biological research for nursing (Vol. 14, pp. 311–46).

(6) ‘Reaset Approach’ is the name coined by Tom Meyers for the approach he developed. Reaset comes from bringing together the words ‘reset’ and ‘ease’.
Reset is used in the sense of bringing a system to its normal condition (Merriam-Webster). Ease refers to freedom from pain or trouble, comfort of body or mind (Merriam-Webster) and being comfortable and free from stress (Wiktionary).
Approach is used as meaning ‘a way of dealing with’ (Oxford) and chosen instead of technique to address the underlying notion that it is based on a dynamic principle and not a fixed modality.

(7) Physiotherapy specialises in the rehabilitation of acute and chronic pain and often use a variety of exercises or use tools such as ultrasound or infra red to facilitate change in an injured area.
Osteopathy is solely manual therapy and holistic in nature. The osteopath doesn’t treat a symptom, but the body as a whole unit that is suffering an ailment, and must be treated in an integrated manner to return to good balance and function.

Disclaimer -     
 Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Réseau Biloba, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software