Release of Chronic Stress with Massage
With the Holiday Season upon us, it cannot be emphasized too much how stress can impact your everyday wellbeing. A consistent sense of feeling pressured and overwhelmed over a long period of time can result in aches, pains, chronic disease, insomnia, weakness, less socialization and scattered thinking to mention a few side effects.
What Is Stress?
Stress is the body’s reaction to harmful situations whether they’re real or perceived. When you feel threatened, a chemical reaction known as “fight or flight” or ‘stress response’ occurs in your body that allows you to act to avoid harm or prevent injury. During stress response, your body prepares for action. Your heart and breathing rate increases, muscles tighten and blood pressure rises.
Stress affects us all and in fact, our bodies are designed to handle stress in small doses. But, when we struggle with chronic stress, it can wear us down and make us sick both mentally and physically and can affect emotions, behaviors, ability to think and physical health. When stress is experienced, no part of the body and mind is immune to its effects.
Symptoms of Chronic Stress
- Low energy.
- Gastro-intestinal disturbances – stomachaches, diarrhea, constipation or nausea.
- Aches, pains, and tense muscles.
- Chest pain and rapid heartbeat.
- Frequent colds and infections.
- Loss of sexual desire and/or ability.
- Nervousness, tremors, ringing in the ears, cold or sweaty hands and feet
- Dry moutn and difficulty swallowing
- Clenched jaw and grinding teeth
- Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody
- Feeling overwhelmed, out of control or grasping to take control
- Having difficulty relaxing and being in mental turmoil
- Struggling with low self-esteem, loneliness, and a sense of worthlessness
- Avoiding others
- Constant worrying
- Racing thoughts
- Forgetfulness and disorganization
- Inability to focus
- Poor judgment
- Being pessimistic
- Changes in appetite – overeating or decreased desire for food
- Procrastinating and avoiding responsibilities
- Increased use of drugs, alcohol and smoking
- Exhibiting more nervous behaviors, such as nail biting, fidgeting or restlessness
Consequences of Long-Term Stress
- Mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety
- Cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure
- Obesity and other eating disorders
- Menstrual problems
- Sexual dysfunction
- Skin and hair problems such as rashes, acne, psoriasis, eczema, and hair loss
- Gastrointestinal problems including gastritis, ulcerative colitis, and irritable colon
Efficacy of Massage Therapy in Stress Relief
Massage therapy can play a significant role in reducing stress on both the physical and psychological levels. Studies have shown that trigger point therapy significantly decreases heart rate and lowers blood pressure. Massage therapy has been known to lower oxygen consumption, cortisol levels after just 10 – 15 minutes of treatment. Positive changes in psychological states have also been measured by physiological testing following massage.
Such techniques as deep tissue and Swedish massage can indirectly boost the immune system because these techniques encourage the body’s production of dopamine, endorphins and serotonin that are hormones vital to the release stress and the promotion of relaxation. When the body lets go of stress, the immune system is strengthened and is able to increase the activity of natural disease killer cells that give us improved preventative capabilities against disease. It should be noted that regular massage will not only improve this feedback loop of immunity but it can also play a significant role in breaking the chronic stress cycle which is especially significant in today’s overwhelming world.
It is pretty much a ‘given’ that stress is a part of life. It is unavoidable but you have options in how you manage it and that is the most important thing to be aware of. In order to prevent being overwhelmed by stress and suffering the negative physical and mental health consequences, it is vital that you recognise your stress symptoms and then take steps to manage the condition in order to support your best, healthy self. Massage therapy is a simple and effective tool you can use to help you better handle the inevitable episodes of stress in your life.
To your long-term health and wellbeing