Mental Wellness and Massage
January is Mental Wellness Month. Did you know that massage therapy can have a significant impact on your mental health? We all worry about things in our life from time to time. But if constant worry becomes a chronic condition that interferes with your health, happiness and life, it’s time to do something about it. Help is on the way – with massage therapy!
Generalized Anxiety Disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 10 million Americans suffer from GAD. Symptoms range from mild worry about everyday concerns to crippling panic about imagined catastrophic events. Other symptoms of anxiety may include: shortness of breath, insomnia, chronic fatigue, muscular tension, irritability and inability to cope. GAD can lead to physical illness, as stress and insomnia lower immune resistance, making one susceptible to illness.
SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder – affects many people during the colder, darker winter months. The U.S. National Library of Medicine notes that “some people experience a serious mood change when the seasons change. They may sleep too much, have little energy, and may also feel depressed. Though symptoms can be severe, they usually clear up.” Massage affects brain chemistry in such a way that depression symptoms diminish and are replaced with improved mood and a feeling of well-being.
Depression. Another psychological condition that can negatively impact physical health, depression may exhibit these symptoms: headaches; insomnia; muscle tension focused in one region, such as the jaw or neck; lymphatic congestion due to lack of activity; digestive problems; tender points; hyperventilation; and cold, clammy skin, particularly on the extremities.
How can massage help with anxiety and depression? There is significant evidence that massage therapy is effective in the management of GAD and depression. Massage is one of the best antidotes for stress, because it:
– Stimulates the production of endorphins (“feel good” hormones), while simultaneously reducing cortisol levels (stress hormone).
– Calms the nervous system, induces relaxation and promotes a feeling of well-being.
– Relieves pain and increases awareness of muscle tension.
– Regulates the breath and heartbeat to the rate that occurs in sleep.
– Induces mental alertness, improves concentration and promotes restful sleep.
While massage therapy may not be a cure for anxiety and depression, it can offer relief from symptoms, and can be a crucial component in an effective treatment that integrates medication, bodywork, counseling, exercise and nutrition.