Let’s face it, stress is a part of life. We hit the ground running in the morning and most of us don’t stop until we pass out again at night, exhausted from the bustle of the day. The question is, how do we manage the stressful situations in our lives and create a state of balance and well being?
First off, its important to know how chronic stress affects us. Cortisol, a.k.a the “stress hormone,” is secreted in higher levels when the body enters fight or flight mode. And it is a darn good thing, because if you were out in the wilderness and happened upon a lion or some other life-threatening situation, cortisol helps you to get the heck out of there!
Then, as nature intended, once you are far away from the threat and feeling safe again, the body relaxes and your hormones levels return to their normal state. All is well.
However, most of us live far from what nature intended. In our current high-stress culture, we often don’t give ourselves a chance to relax and recalibrate to a normal level of functioning. Many of us live in a state of chronic stress. We may not be constantly facing physically life-threatening events, but the modern-day stress that we deal with still produces higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream — which leads to a slew of negative effects on the body. A whole host of health problems can result.
So what does this have to do with massage?
Relaxation is key.
The body needs time to relax – to return to a normal state of functioning, where heart rate, blood pressure, digestive functioning and hormonal levels even out. The body needs to relax regularly. For most of us, relaxation needs to be planned and arranged for, or else it won’t happen.
Oxytocin, the “love hormone”
Oxytocin counters the effects of cortisol in the body, therefore reducing stress. According to Dr. Kerstin Uvnäs Moberg, author of The Oxytocin Factor, massage is one of the best ways to increase oxytocin levels in the body. The skin is full of many millions of nerve receptors that are directly linked to the nervous system. When the skin is massaged it causes stimulation and release of beneficial chemicals in the brain, including oxytocin.
So there you have it. Massage increases oxytocin, which decreases stress. And nearly every disease is aggravated by stress. So treating yourself to a massage promotes health and healing in all aspects of your body and life.
But don’t believe me. Take the time out of your busy and stressful life and try it for yourself.