While the above statement is something that a lot of people strive for, not everyone is aware of their thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Enter stress. What can this do to our bodies and why does it have the effects that it does? What does stress feel like to us? We have all had a bad day at the office or at home - this can lead to tight neck muscles, tight shoulders, headaches, drawing ourselves into our body, lower back pain, an upset stomach - there are so many things we can feel because of the stress in our bodies. Some of us are better at feeling than others, and that's okay, but when we do notice, whether it's right away or somewhere down the line, what do we do about it? Massage. Yes, I said massage.
Why, Isn't that just a luxury and a pampering thing to do when we get a gift certificate from a friend or family member? Nope. Not at all. Yes, there are times when we need that feeling of luxury but in times of stress, massage is therapy for your body.
What is it about massage that makes it therapeutic or a way to deal with stress? When we stress, cortisol is released and it can send our body into a fight or flight response. This response, if severe enough, can pull all the blood from our extremities and pull it into the core - an adaptation of survival. Not every amount of stress is going to be this extreme of a response, but there are other minor factors that can happen as well. Our blood pressure can rise, and if consistently put under stress, it can cause a long lasting increase in heart rate, elevated levels of stress hormones and continuous high blood pressure. This won't be a good thing for your heart over a long period of time.
The body's muscles respond to stress as well. we tend to 'hold on' to tension or guard our body in times of stress. If we don't let this out, or deal with it in some way, this constant tension and stress on the muscles of the body can lead to misalignments, poor posture, pain, chronic pain, headaches, migraines and injuries. Massage can help with blood flow, so your muscles don't get 'stuck' in a guarded or tense position. It can also slow your your blood pressure down, so you're able to relax and let go of the tension. It can help ease the pain of stress as well - migraines being a big example. I've had clients who have tried many methods to get rid of their migraines and massage has helped them more than anything. It really is amazing the things we can do for a body with massage.
"With massage, we can allow ourselves to take time out of a day and just be. Be still. Be quiet. Be taken care of. Be loved. Be happy. Whatever type of 'be' needs to happen for you, it can with a massage. Across the board, people don't take enough time out for themselves on a regular basis. Massage is a way to do this. As therapists, we can address the tightness that may be going on, we can listen to you recount a crappy day, we can help you become quiet and still - whatever it is you need. We can address your body's muscles sometimes as well as your mind with a massage.
Humans have an instinct to the comfort of touch - a great way to make us feel better. Something as simple as a hug can help, or a hand on your shoulder showing you that someone recognizes you needed that little boost of a touch. Massage, again, can help us with all of these things. Some people may need a more therapeutic, deep tissue massage while the next person may need to relax and have soothing, calming work done. Whatever the case, there is a massage for every body out there - we just have to take the steps to start the process of healing and taking away our stress. The first step is often the hardest and the most fearful, but once you take it, massage will be a part of your life and you won't know what to do without it.
Just taking time out for ourselves to deal with our stress is a step in the right direction. I have been practicing massage therapy for almost 13 years. Not only do I love what I do, but getting massages myself is very important to my health and well being. IF I wasn't getting massages on a regular basis, there really is NO way I would be able to practice as long as I have thus far. I am amazed at what therapists find in my body that I didn't even know was there!!! Sometimes there is a bit of pain with my massages, but that isn't true for all of them, or for every person that gets on a massage table. Trust me, massage is good stuff. It's as much therapeutic as it is a luxury, but bottom line, it's a great thing to do for you and your body.
by, Cheryl Harris