Massage and stress

Massage to help manage stress, Brighton and Hove

I once overheard a conversation on a train where someone was recommending massage to a friend as she was so stressed, the friends response was how can a massage take away my stress. Very true it can't but it can help manage what you may be experiencing. Many different things can cause stress, physical such as fear of something dangerous to emotional such as worry over your family or job.

A single episode of such as a job interview generally doesn't cause problems and mild stress can actually be beneficial as it can spur you into action. Chronic stress is the response to emotional pressure suffered for a prolonged period of time. It can affect how you feel emotionally, mentally and physically and also how you behave. Feelings such as being overwhelmed, irritable, anxious, fearful or lacking in self-esteem may be experienced. The effects mentally could be racing thoughts, constant worrying, difficulty concentrating or making decisions. Physical effects can include headaches, muscle tension or pain, dizziness, sleep problems, feeling tired all the time and eating too much or too little. When we are stressed the fight or flight (and sometimes freeze) response is activated. Your adrenal glands, located on top of your kidneys release a surge of hormones including adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, regulates some body functions that aren't crucial in the moment including digestion and growth. Once the stressful situation has passed, hormone levels return to normal. As adrenaline and cortisol levels drop, your heart rate and blood pressure return to baseline levels, and other systems of the body resume their regular activities. If you constantly feel under attack, that fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on leading to chronic stress. The subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones can disrupt almost all your body's processes with effects on physical and mental health. See the effects of stress here.

So massage can’t take away the stress but it can be one of the ways you can help manage it. It’s been shown that levels of stress hormones decrease and that there are beneficial effects to blood pressure, heart rate, and inflammation. Abdominal massage can help if your digestion is a little sluggish and uncomfortable, it’s also really relaxing. Reflexology and foot massage are great ways to feel grounded if your mind is overloaded and can also help with immune responses and fatigue. The cheating way if you can’t massage your own feet or make it to an appointment is using a tennis ball to roll under your feet.

Try a short self-massage…it works I just tried it while writing this!

  1. Sit comfortably with your back supported against the back of the chair, feet firmly on the ground and hands and arms open and relaxed. Take a couple of deep breaths before starting.
  2. With a deep breath in, raise the shoulders towards the ears and hold them raised for a few seconds. Then slowly breathe out and drop the shoulders. Repeat several times.
  3. Place your left hand on your right shoulder. Squeeze gently and then release. Repeat down the right arm to the elbow. Repeat several times. Place your right hand on your left shoulder and repeat the exercise.
  4. Place the fingers or thumbs of both hands at the base of your skull; apply slow circular pressures down from the base of the skull to the base of the neck. This feels great for tension headaches too.
  5. Close your eyes, place the fingers of both hands on each side of the temples and slowly massage in circular motion. Give you jaw muscles some attention to loosen any tension held there.
  6. Rub your hands and place them over your eyes and take a few deep breaths.

Other ways to help manage stress include mindfulness techniques, yoga or finding an exercise you enjoy. With any new activity build up slowly and do consult your GP if you haven't exercised for some time and you have any health concerns. Music, art, nature and gardening are great stress relievers and if time is short taking even a 10 minute break alone turning off your television and phone can work wonders.

Feel free to have a chat with me to see how any of the treatment I offer can help. If you are worried about your health both physically and mentally, please seek professional advice.

Read more articles on my blog page