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Columbia, MD 21045


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Stress and Massage

July 7, 2014

Feeling stressed?  You most definitely are not alone; a recent press release by the American Psychological Association reveals some disturbing trends about Americans and stress.  In fact, according to the APA’s Stress in America survey, “high stress and ineffective coping mechanisms remain ingrained in American culture.”  Sadly, the impact of stress not limited to adults; teenagers are also experiencing it.  


Some quick numbers from the survey:  


  • 42% of the adults surveyed (that is almost half!) reported an increase in stress over the past five years 

  • 36% indicate their stress level over the past five years has stayed the same

  • 61% said acknowledged that stress management is extremely or very important  but only 35% say they are doing well with that

  • 44% of the adults surveyed stated that they either were not or weren’t sure they were doing enough to truly manage their stress

  • 19% indicated that they do nothing to actively manage their stress


Teens surveyed reported very similar stress levels to the adults but, frighteningly, a large portion of them indicated that they either didn’t know how or were unable to manage their stress.  


For most people, stress leaves them feeling irritable or just down right angry.  Others find themselves lacking interest, motivation or energy.  That was closely followed by feeling nervous, anxious, or overwhelmed and experiencing fatigue.  Not far behind that were those that felt depressed or sad.  Neglecting responsibilities and indigestion rounded up the pack.  


And what is stressing people out?  As you can guess, money was the front runner and it was followed closely by work and the economy.  While we at Massage Associates cannot change your financial or employment situation, we can play a key part in your stress management plan.  


Think about the last time you got a massage.  Did you notice how you felt afterwards?  Chances are you left feeling more relaxed and less stressed.  There are a number of reasons for that but one of the big ones is that massage actually causes chemical changes in your body.  


It’s a pretty good bet that you’ve heard about adrenaline and associate it with that burst of energy that comes from either eustress (“good” stress) or distress (“bad” stress) but adrenaline is only the first of the stress response chemicals our bodies release.  Following close behind are cortisols; they are the are natural steroids your body makes as a part of the stress response.  If you were being chased by lions, tigers and bears (oh my!), it is the cortisols that would help you maintain the energy needed to run like the dickens.  But if cortisols are helping us in a stress response, wouldn’t they be useful?  The answer is yes and no.  Yes, in the short term, cortisols are not only necessary but good.  But over a longer period of time consistently high amounts suppress the immune system and impact all other “secondary” activities like digestion, reproductive system functions, growth and development, and so on.  Organs will actually shrink as a result of persistant high levels of cortisols.  The Mayo Clinic discusses the body’s stress response and the effects of long-term stress in their article “Chronic Stress Puts Your Health at Risk”; its an article well worth the few minutes it takes to read.  


So where to does massage fit into this picture?  Massage can reduce cortisol levels by almost one third (PubMed).  There are a number of other physiological benefits that can be brought about by massage like reduction of muscle tension, engaging the “rest and digest” portion of your nervous system, and more.  Going beyond the physical impact, massage also provides you with compassionate, caring contact.  It’s a chance to take care of yourself.  All of these things can go a long way toward stress reduction.


In a society that seems to push us to go, go, GO and do, do, DO, taking care of ourselves is often relegated to a back burner.  The truth is we cannot take care of anyone else or acheive any of our goals unless we make our health and wellness a priority.  Remember that you and your teen have an incredible weapon in the war on stress because massage can play a key part in stress reduction.  Call us at (410) 997-1808 to schedule a relaxing Swedish massage!  Let us make you a priority...

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