Anxiety is a common but very serious modern day disorder, and can affect sufferers lives on a daily basis. Massage is not a replacement for medication or psychological treatment, however it can be a very effective coping device. Here are our top ways in which massage can benefit those with anxiety…
1. Reduces feelings of anxiety and improves mood
The psychological symptoms of generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) are often the most difficult to cope with as they not only affect your behaviour but the way you think about things. Massage is a great way to help stabilise and uplift those struggling with the illness. As well as giving you time out to relax and focus on your own well being, the strong pressure of the strokes used by the therapist during sessions will increase your body’s production of feel-good hormones serotonin and dopamine, and lower your levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Holistic massage therapy in particular is very beneficial for its all encompassing approach, offering physical, psychological and emotional benefits to the client.
2. Lowers blood pressure
Anxiety doesn’t necessarily cause long-term high blood pressure but it does cause dramatic, temporary spikes in blood pressure during episodes. If these spikes occur on a daily basis they can damage your blood vessels, heart and kidneys. Massage is extremely effective at reducing both your diastolic (the pressure in-between heart beats) and systolic (the pressure when the heart beats) pressure as well as keeping your stress hormone levels under control. Stress can often lead to unhealthy behaviours such as smoking, overeating and not exercising – all of which raise the risk of high blood pressure.
3. Diminished muscle tension
A common physical symptom of anxiety disorder is muscle tension which sufferers often carry in their shoulders, back and neck. Coupled with the psychological effects of anxiety, aching muscles are definitely not going to improve your mood! A massage therapist can specifically target tensed areas during a session, loosening up the muscles to offer you relief and discourage your body from holding tension there in the future.
4. Improves sleep cycle
Insomnia and fatigue are both common occurrences in anxiety sufferers and poor sleep can have a detrimental effect on your health. Massage is great at helping to improve your sleep pattern as it increases your levels of serotonin and melatonin – both of which are essential for regulating your sleep cycle. Plus, the cumulative effect of reduced muscle tension, lower blood pressure and improved mood help slow down your system allowing you to fall asleep faster and enjoy a better quality sleep.
5. Encourages deeper and more efficient breathing
Shortness of breath is one of the physical symptoms of anxiety and can often lead to panic attacks. Massage is very effective at training the body to relax and breathe more efficiently. Breathing deeply during a session is essential for helping you to reap the full benefits of a massage but stimulating specific muscles on your upper torso can also improve general breathing. By lengthening and relaxing the accessory respiratory muscles on the front and back of the upper body through massage, your breathing capacity and function can be improved. Deep breathing during massage also helps teach anxiety sufferers how to reach a more meditative state of mind – a useful coping tool when experiencing intense feelings of dread and restlessness.