Stress, and why you need a Massage
Stress is something that all of us face at one time or another, to varying degrees. Some of us are able to cope with it well, and others completely fall apart. It’s something that no one can say for sure how it will affect another human being, and therefore stress, and the experience of it, is unique to us and to each situation we face that causes it. The only common thread is that we will all experience it.
For a short period of time, stress can actually be beneficial to us. When it’s not prolonged, nor severe, it can sometimes offer a boost of focus and productivity. Prolonged stress however, especially high stress, is really bad for a living creature for multiple reasons. The stress response releases a specific hormone in addition to adrenaline, called cortisol, which is commonly nick-named “The Stress Hormone”. Over-exposure to this hormone caused by chronic stress can put you at an increased risk for:
- Digestive Issues
- Heart Disease
- Sleep Problems (too much or too little)
- Weight Gain
- Memory/Concentration Impairment
- TMJ Syndrome/Grinding of Teeth
These of course aren’t the only risks, but a small sample that shows just how harmful it can be for too long a time. Stress is such an issue in our society, that it has become a pathology.
Originally, stress was typically fight-or-flight. Our ancestors probably faced more stress than we did just trying to survive daily, however it can also be surmised that because they had a simpler life style, the stress may not have effected them then as it does to us now; with our busy life styles, intense work environments, child rearing, etc. Most importantly though, it seems many of us have lost touch with how to relax.
Another thing to consider about chronic stress is how it affects the immune system. For those with autoimmune diseases, they’ll likely tell you that stress causes their particular autoimmune disease to flare up, in whatever manner that it does. People who are under chronic stress are more prone to illness, because the body’s immune system isn’t at 100% after a while. So on top of what’s listed above, you’re more susceptible to whatever illness(es) happens to be going around at the time. It’s bad enough that according to the American Institute of Stress states in 2017, the cost to employers for stress-related health care and missed work was $300 billion. Billion. That’s a lot of zeros! The same statistics state that 48% of people felt that stress had a negative impact on their personal and professional lives, and 54% said it caused them to fight with friends and family. None of this sounds good to me, does it sound good to you?
Despite all of the negativity from stress, learning to manage it can be simpler than you think. Many start with finding a hobby, or a peaceful activity like yoga, meditation, walks among nature, etc. There’s really no wrong way to do it, so long as the activity helps you to relax. Which brings us to massage.
It’s proven that massage helps to alleviate the presence of stress in the body. While it’s difficult to do an actual scientific study on it, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that provides the information we need to know. When you receive a massage, it helps to relax the body and mind all at once. We see a decreased heart rate, improved digestion, improved mood, less muscle soreness and tension, it can ease headaches and localized pain, help boost the immune system temporarily, and more. In essence, it works to remove the stress from your body, and because of the increased lymphatic action (this is what deals with your immune system inside your body) it also helps to rid you of cortisol faster.
Massage is also extremely safe for most people. In some cases massage might not be for you, and either you or your potential LMT will want to check with your doctor before receiving bodywork. Finding the right LMT can be difficult, but once you do the effects are addictive and amazing. Massage truly can help to reduce stress, which in turn can help you to be a happier, healthier human being. Many associate getting a massage as a luxury spa treatment, but the reality of it is: massage is for everyone. Everyone deserves to be more relaxed, happier, and healthier. The longer/more frequent the massage, the more benefit you stand to gain; but even just a quick half-hour session once a month is going to help. Just think, if it helps you use less sick days at work and feel better, wouldn’t it be worth it to try? What do you really have to lose?
Disclaimer: Please note, massage is a great compliment for almost any medically-necessary routine (meds, exercises, etc), but it should not be used in lieu of a Doctor’s orders. If you think massage might be able to replace something your doctor has prescribed or recommended, it is necessary to discuss it with them to make sure you stay as safe and healthy as possible.
- Psychology Today on Massage Therapy, Stress, and Anxiety
- American Institute of Stress Signs and Symptoms
- American Institute of Stress Statistics and Effects on Daily Life
- American Institute of Stress Research
- Mayo Clinic Stress Information and Management
- Mayo Clinic on Chronic Stress
- Medicine Net Information on TMJ and Stress