Massage Therapy for stress reduction!
I thought that since my last post was about tension headaches, I should follow it up with one about stress and how massage therapy can be effective in reducing your anxiety levels!
Now I know that for some of you it’s just about exam time and that can be bloody stressful in itself, but even just day-to-day life can cause a lot of anxiety, no matter what it is you are doing.
Most commonly described as ‘a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances,’ stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand and can be caused by both good and bad experiences. When people feel stressed by something going on around them, their bodies react by releasing chemicals into the bloodstream. These chemicals give people more energy and strength, which can be good in certain situations where the body needs to react quickly, but can also be a bad thing if the stress is in response to something emotional and there is no outlet for this extra energy.
Many different things can cause stress — from physical to emotional.
Some of the most common sources of stress are:
Survival Stress – You may have heard of the phrase “fight or flight” before. This is a common response to danger in all people and animals. When you are afraid that someone or something may physically hurt you, your body naturally responds with a burst of energy so that you will be better able to survive the situation (fight) or escape it all together (flight). This is survival stress.
Internal Stress – Have you ever caught yourself worrying about things you can do nothing about, or worrying for no reason at all? This is what is known as internal stress and is one of the most important kinds of stress to understand and manage. Simply put, internal stress is when people make themselves stressed. This often happens when we worry about things we can’t control or put ourselves in situations we know will cause us stress.
Environmental Stress – This is a response to things around you that cause stress, such as noise, crowds, and pressure from work or family. Identifying these environmental stresses and learning to avoid or deal with them will help lower your overall stress levels.
Fatigue and Overwork – This kind of stress builds up over a long time and can take a hard toll on your body. It can be caused by working too much or too hard at your job(s), school, or home. It can also be caused by not knowing how to manage your time well or how to take time out for rest and relaxation. This can be one of the hardest kinds of stress to avoid because many people feel this is out of their control.
Stress can affect both your body and your mind. People under large amounts of stress can become tired, sick, and unable to concentrate or think clearly. Sometimes, in severe situations, they even suffer mental breakdowns.
Short-term stress, often occurring in quick ‘bursts’ in reaction to something in your environment, can affect the body in many ways. Some examples include:
– faster heartbeat and breathing
– increased sweat production
– cold hands, feet or skin
– feeling sick to your stomach or experiencing ‘butterflies’
– tight muscles/making you feel tense
– dry mouth
– frequent bathroom trips
– increased muscle spasms, headaches, fatigue and shortness of breath
– interfering with judgement/perception causing bad decision making
– difficult situations are seen as threatening
– significant reduction in enjoyment
– difficulty concentrating
– feeling anxious, frustrated or mad
– feeling rejected, unable to laugh, afraid of free time, unable to work
Long-term stress, or stress that is occurring over long periods of time, can have an even greater effect on your body and mind.
– change in appetite (either eating more or less)
– change in sleep habits (either sleeping too much or not enough)
– significant increase in ‘nervous’ behaviour (twitching, fiddling, talking too much, nail biting, teeth grinding, pacing, etc)
– lower immune system (cold and flus are caught more often and harder to shake)
– constantly feeling tired and worn out
– worrying and feeling anxious (this can sometimes lead to an anxiety disorder/panic attacks)
– feeling out of control, overwhelmed, confused, and/or unable to make decisions
– experiencing more frequent mood swings such as depression, frustration, anger, helplessness, irritability, defensiveness, irrationality, overreaction, or impatience and restlessness
– increase in dependence on food, cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs
– neglecting important things in life
Massage Therapy and Stress
It is widely known that massage can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, relax your muscles and increase the production of endorphins, which is your body’s natural “feel good” chemical. Serotonin and dopamine are also released throughout massage, and the result is a feeling of calm relaxation that makes chronic, as well as acute or short-term stress, much easier to overcome.
Stress relief is usually one of the first benefits that come to mind when one thinks of massage therapy and it’s also a key component for anyone trying to achieve a healthier lifestyle. Clinical studies show that even a single 1.5 hour session can significantly lower your heart rate, cortisol levels and insulin levels — all of which explain why massage therapy and stress go hand-in-hand.
The benefits of massage for stress relief include, but are not limited to the following:
– Triggers the body’s relaxation response: Heart rate decelerates, breathing rate slows and muscles relax
– Lowers blood pressure: Whilst high blood pressure is not directly linked to stress, there are certain behaviours (poor eating habits, inactivity, smoking, high sodium diet, high alcohol intake, etc) that accompany stress and thus elevate blood pressure. Massage can be used as a treatment for this by activating pressure points that are linked to the regulation of blood pressure.
– Reduces muscular tension – Headaches, jaw pain, shoulder and neck tension are all common symptoms of stress. Massage helps break up lactic acid and other points of discomfort that are symptomatic of stress.
Stay safe and warm and as de-stressed as possible!