In my practice as a massage therapist I often hear my clients say: “It’s so nice to treat myself to a massage.”, “Massage is a nice treat for me.” and “I’ve been so busy, I decided to reward myself.” This can be somehow frustrating. As although massage is of itself an amazing experience and certainly feels like a treat or a reward, for most of us massage is not something we need to earn or deserve, it is absolute necessity for maintaining health and well being.
Many people still perceive massage as something that rich housewives do to pass the time or last ditch effort to get rid off the growing pain in the …(you fill in the blank). The rich housewives might be onto something though, because once you start feeling the pain, you have already let it go too far.
Human bodies have not evolved yet to cope with the changes that occurred in the last 100 years in our lifestyles and environment. Our bodies are not meant to sit at a desk 8 hours straight without moving with a short break half way through, if we are lucky. Our bodies are not meant to then be squeezed on the public transport or drive in traffic for hours.
They are not meant to follow it up with heavy dinner (nor alcohol) and sit some more on the sofa before going to lie on a soft bed often without appropriate support for their backs and necks. Neither did they evolve to cope with the amount of information, stress and pollution we are exposed to nowadays.
Diet heavy in sugars, wheat, animal products and additives, lacking fresh fruit and vegetables and adding something deep fried for good measure is negatively affecting our metabolism, our digestive, circulatory and immune systems, putting lots of pressure on our bodies.
Lack of exercise, cause weakening of our core muscles (those that supposed to hold us up without causing back ache), poor circulation and slow lymphatic movement. You have to start running or do high intensitiy workouts - Exercise could be something as simple as going for a walk or doing stretching exercises, like yoga.
You can easily google the benefits of exercise and healthy diet or even better try it out yourself, don’t just take my word for it. Even small adjustments to diet (more greens) and light exercise (gentle stretching and walking) can make a lot of difference to your health and general well being. Our bodies are meant to move and run on the right fuel. Even your car’s battery will be flat if you don’t drive it for long enough and you will not get far if you fill the petrol tank with milk. You might need to take time to figure out if your body is running on ‘petrol’ or ‘diesel’ so to speak. Every body is different.
Diet and exercise is something we have an influence on to lesser or greater degree. We can make choices about what to have for lunch and to take the stairs instead of the lift. Stress, however, is mostly out of our control.
Stress, is now often described as the number one killer in modern society. This can be misleading. Stress itself doesn’t usually cause direct death, unless it comes in a form of major shock and you already have a weakened body. It’s what it does to the body’s systems long term when not managed, that is the problem.
Well, you can either remove yourself from the stressful situation/environment (impossible these days, unless you move into a temple in deep Himalayas) or you can counteract the effects stress has on your body (now, here I can help).
There are many, but I will name only the most important ones (it’s an article, not a book).
When you are in a stressful situation, that you cannot fight or run away from, like a looming deadline at work, you feel an emotion and think a thought of fear (Oh no, I am not going to make it on time!), the brain registers the emotion first and responds to it immediately as it would if you were scared of a tiger.
The longer you are building up these tensions, the longer they take to break down.
We are very good at ignoring our bodies’ signals to tell us something is not right.
It starts by gentle whispers – little niggling irritations. We ignore it.
So it gets louder – a bit of pain or ache. We still ignore it or take a painkiller.
NOW IT SCREAMS– shooting sharp pain that takes our breath away. We get a little worried, but most of us just take stronger pain killer and hope that’s the end of it.
Our bodies have no choice now, they stop us in our tracks – you are not going anywhere, you are not moving until you pay attention and resolve the problem.
Now, what if I told you there is an effective way of maintaing your body in such condition that you rarely get even that whisper and definitely no pain unless you overdo it with the exercise part. You probably guessed it already. Yep. Exercise, diet and massage. That’s the best prevention of stress related tensions that most of us carry around due to our busy lifestyles.
How often you need a massage and what length should your treatment be depends on many variables and so it is best to speak to a therapist, who can assess your individual situation and recommend a tailored treatment plan just for you.
So when you think you cannot afford to get a massage, think again. You cannot afford not to.
Please note that this article is based on my understanding of what I had learned about the body, it’s physiology and anatomy, my own experience as well as observation of the hundreds of clients I had the honour to work with.
Do not accept anything in this article as the holy truth, test it and question it. Find out for yourself how effective massage, exercise and reasonable diet can be in combating stress and its effects on our well being.
If you’d like to learn how to deal with the stress itself more effectively, I recommend you have a look at mindfulness approach to life and perhaps meditation. But more about that next time.
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