Often, we think of massage as being a luxury, something we treat ourselves to from time to time. However, research shows that remedial massage has many therapeutic benefits, including helping us to reduce our stress and anxiety levels.
It goes without saying that the last few months have been stressful in one way or another for most people. Many of us are dealing with situations that we are completely foreign to us, some of which are quite daunting and frightening.
When we get stressed or feel anxious, our bodies produce hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol and noradrenaline. These are triggered when the body moves into the fight-or-flight response, which at its peak, can lead to uncomfortable physical symptoms including shortness of breath, accelerated heart rate, excessive sweating and even chest pain.
While we won’t necessarily exhibit these types of acute fight-or-flight responses, it is likely, given what’s going on in the macro environment, as well as personal challenges, that most people are generally feeling more stressed than normal.
Remedial massage can help to combat the stress reaction by eliciting the relaxation response. The relaxation response encourages the body to produce endorphins which lower adrenaline and cortisol levels, reduce tension, lower the heart rate and makes people feel calmer in general.
Reducing these stress hormones not only makes us feel better but has other benefits including promoting better immunity and allowing a clearer state of mental alertness.
In many cultures, massage is used to treat chronic stress and anxiety and there is consistent anecdotal evidence which confirms regular massage therapy can reduce the severity of anxiety and reduce overall stress levels. So, the feel-good factor goes much further than just ‘feeling good’, it actually allows the body to re-set itself and reduces the stress chemicals that are so much a part of our everyday lives.
If having a massage just isn’t an option for you, there are other helpful strategies for inducing the relaxation response which you can do yourself at home. Meditation is an incredible reliever of stress as it calms both the body and mind while building resilience at the same time. Different breathing exercises, such as belly breathing, can also help the body to relax and the mind to focus. Yoga encompasses numerous techniques to relax and stabilise both the body and mind and some gentle poses can be a powerful tool to help with stress. Most of these tools require commitment and dedication and could certainly be beneficial when incorporated into your daily routine.
It’s really important that we try and manage our stress, with whatever tools we have available, as spending prolonged periods of time in the fight-or-flight response isn’t beneficial for our overall well-being. Remedial massage is a great way to help with this and can form part of your overall well-being routine.
Source: Australian Traditional Medicine Society