How Massage Can Reduce Stress and Anxiety

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In today’s world, everyone experiences different stressors: environmental stress, family stress, work stress, deadlines, rush hour, etc. When you have anxiety, it feels like your brain is rapid firing with thoughts. You might experience an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion and tension. Small everyday stressors can turn into chronic stress, which can affect you physically. ]

Research suggests that chronic stress contributes to high blood pressure, promotes the formation of artery-clogging deposits, and causes brain changes that may contribute to anxiety, depression and addiction. Anxiety causes the release of the hormone cortisol, which activates the fight or flight response. Your heart begins to beat faster, you start to breathe quicker, and your muscles tense up. Until the brain perceives the stressors are gone, it will continue to release cortisol, keeping the body on high alert, in order to react appropriately to the perceived danger.

How massage can help

The body’s autonomic nervous system is comprised of two parts: the sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight response) and the parasympathetic nervous system (the relax and slow down response). To manage our everyday stressors, we need to learn how to activate the parasympathetic nervous system for our health and wellbeing. One of the best ways to activate this response is to get a massage.

Part of being a human involves the necessity for healthy touch. Your skin is the largest organ in the body and healthy touch helps create endorphins in the brain. During a massage, even the light touch of a Swedish technique will bring about relaxation, endorphin promotion and less stress and anxiety. This goes back to when you were a child when your parents held you and gave you that secure and comforting feeling.

Just like for infants, especially in an ICU environment, it is so necessary that they experience touch so that they can thrive. Even in adulthood, we still need healthy touch to fully thrive in our lives. Creating this safe environment where the perceived danger and stressors are gone helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. The environment of massage alone helps to create this safe space: darkened lights, soft music, candles, aromatherapy, cozy blankets, etc. The dimming of the lights is visual sensory deprivation. Just like when you turn off the lights for sleep, this signals your brain to slow down. This creates a physical relaxing and calming response in the body to lower stress and anxiety.

To a book a massage at Ochsner Fitness Center, call (504) 733-1600.

Massage helps to transition the body from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic system. As a result, and benefit of this response, massage also reduces the body’s blood pressure. When your blood pressure comes down, your anxiety also comes down further with it. This also reduces the chance of experiencing a pressure or tension headache.

Massage is an opportunity for you to give yourself permission to unwind, let go, release, and relax. Once you start to unwind and let go, the relaxation sets in and your stress and anxiety reduces. The physical touch of massage allows for your mind to feel free.

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