You don’t need us to tell you that stress is an annoying, although sometimes necessary part of life. But did you know that nagging, draining feeling could also be harming your overall health?
Stress Side Effects
Stress originally developed as a survival tool, a fight-or-flight response that enabled us to react quickly in life-threatening situations. This is still its main function in our bodies today. When we’re stressed, our sympathetic nervous system produces large quantities of cortisol and adrenaline, to quicken our heart rate, muscular tension, and alertness so we can deal with our stressors.
The chronic stress we deal with in our modern world typically isn’t an immediate, life-threatening scenario. But our bodies continue to send out those chemical responses anyway, and they eventually take a toll. A bad toll. Prolonged stress has been linked to:
High blood pressure
Brain changes that may contribute to anxiety, depression, and addiction
Thankfully, we have (drumroll please…) massage! If there’s a bad side effect of stress, there’s almost certainly a matching benefit that comes with regular massage treatment. Multiple studies have shown measurable differences in cortisol (that “fun” stress hormone) levels before and after massage therapy. Other studies found that massages can cause a significant decrease in heart rate, as well as systolic and diastolic blood pressures. And to top it all off, massages relax your muscles, increase your circulation, and reduce stress-related pain.
The Best Massages for Stress Relief
When you’re looking for the right massage, you might feel overwhelmed by the options you have. There are four main massage modalities for stress relief, so we recommend starting with one of those:
In between massage sessions, you’re still going to experience stress. There’s just no two ways about that. So here are a few DIY massages you can do to provide yourself with some daily stress relief:
Eye-opener; relieves: tired eyes. Press your thumbs on the inside corners of your eyes, between your eyes and eyebrows. Press down until it feels good and rub in small circles, working slowly toward the outside of your eyes. Continue this motion down around your eye sockets until you reach the bridge of your nose.
Ball trick; relieves: sore feet. Without shoes, press your foot down on a tennis or golf ball. Roll the ball back and forth under your foot, applying firm pressure wherever it feels best.
Hand holder; relives: hands, arm tension. Massage your hands by clasping one hand between the thumb and index finger of the other, massaging in a circular motion. Be sure to pay close attention to your knuckles and the base of your hand. End your hand massage by gently pulling on each finger.
Drumroll; relieves: sore muscles. This is especially effective for sore leg or arm muscles. Form a fist with your hand and lightly “drum” your fist against the sore muscle. Vary the pressure and intensity to see what feels best.
Headache cure; relieves: headaches, neck tension. Press your fingertips firmly against your temples. Massage in a circular motion, and let your mouth drop open as you do so. Gradually massage in small circles toward the top of your head.
Shoulder squeeze; relieves: neck and shoulders. Curve your hands over your shoulders as you drop your head back. Slide your hands from shoulders to neck, squeezing as you go. Next, drop your head forward and press firmly against either side of your spine, massaging in circles.
Find a Massage Therapist Near You
Although DIY massages can be helpful, they don’t replace the benefits of therapeutic massage from a trained massage therapist. So be sure to treat yourself to a professional massage every now and again. And remember you can easily find a licensed therapist in your area at HealingRadius.com!
Kat Wiseman is a content writer for Span Enterprises in Rock Hill, SC. She has a B.A. in English-Creative Writing from Winthrop University and her RYT 200 from Yoga Alliance. When she's not writing or doing yoga, she enjoys Netflix marathons, mystery novels, and being at the beach.