These days, you won‟t find anyone in the medical community or anywhere else that thinks of stress as a benign by-product of life. Stress shows up in all different shapes and sizes from many different directions and it affects everyone differently. Basically, stress refers to the way your body responds to an emotional or physical demand. In modern society, people look for any way to help reduce the effects of stress without affecting performance or lifestyle too much. One way that helps put a dent in the negative effects of stress is massage therapy.
Common Causes of Stress Even though stress and its effects differ for everyone, there are some common causes that are the origin for many people. These include: Health – health issues can add a boatload of stress to your daily life, especially if you suffer from a chronic or potentially fatal illness like cancer, heart disease or diabetes. Relationships – marital problems, issues with friends or issues with your kids can place a lot of stress on your shoulders. And if the issues were with someone you‟d normally turn to for unloading stress, it may be even worse.
Common Causes of Stress(con‟t) Life Changes – Losing a parent, spouse, child or anyone else close to you can cause lasting stress. Even changes that are perceived as positive such as moving to a new city, starting a new job or moving in with someone can bring stress. Unexpressed Emotions – If you regularly hold in emotions or just can‟t seem to express them, stress levels can escalate. Job Issues – Being in an unhappy work environment is a definite cause of stress, especially when you consider how much time you spend there.
Common Causes of Stress(con‟t) Financial Problems – Money has a way of causing stress like nothing else. Heavy debt or the inability to make ends meet can cause a major backload in the stress department. Unemployment – Not having a job can cause stress for financial reasons, and for self-esteem and self-confidence reasons. Social Status – If you feel lonely or discriminated against because of your age, race or gender, you may also feel high levels of stress. Post-Traumatic Stress – Virtually any traumatic event can lead to a lifetime of stress if it isn‟t dealt with. These may include sexual assault, car accident, natural disaster or living through a war.
Significance of Stress The reason that stress is so significant is because it has a negative effect on your brain. Your brain releases chemical messengers called neurotransmitters when it feels the effects of stress. One of the neurotransmitters that is released is called cortisol, which is commonly referred to as the „stress hormone.‟ When cortisol is released, it can affect several different systems within your body. Your heart rate may increase, immune system may weaken and you might gain weight.
The Role of Massage While there are many different lifestyle changes you can make to help relieve stress levels, massage therapy is one that most people wouldn‟t consider. The “International Journal of Neuroscience” published an article in 2005 that reported massage has the ability to reduce cortisol levels by up to 30 percent. Massage also increases levels of neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. All three of these hormones help produce a sense of calm and a general sense of well being. With the decrease of the negative hormone cortisol and increases in the „feel good‟ hormones, it‟s no wonder that massage has been shown to take stress levels down a few notches.
The Role of Massage (con‟t) And so, massage therapy doesn‟t just relax your muscles to relieve stress. There is actually science going on inside your body as your muscles and rubbed and kneaded. Of course, massage will decrease the muscle tension associated with high levels of stress and improve oxygen flow, but there is much more going on than meets the eye. Some of the other ways that massage therapy helps with stress relief include: Reducing your blood pressure and heart rate. These two elements are more a by-product or symptom of stress, but by lowering them anxiety levels will naturally be lowered, too. The human touch element. Sometimes, just the feeling of human touch on your body is enough to take a bite out of stress. When someone, even a massage therapist, takes the time to work on your muscles, it creates a sense of acceptance and connection that may have contributed to your stress in the first place.