How Massage Can Help Ground Your Anxiety – NAMI CCNS – Chicagoland Mental Health
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How Massage Can Help Ground Your Anxiety

Anne Marie Schlekeway was a mentor, teacher and leader.  When you stepped into the room with her, you knew you were in the presence of greatness.  She maintained a work-life that left little time for rest or physical fitness.  That all changed quickly.  At the age of 38, she was diagnosed with ALS and her perspective on life quickly changed.

Anne Marie Schlekeway had aspirations of opening her own leadership enrichment company and soon after her diagnosis, she launched her company.  I was hired by her to build her website and as a result, got to know her much better.  As she lost her voice to ALS, it didn’t stop her from delivering her message.  Her teachings often included taking care of yourself and your body.
Anne Marie taught,

“If you owned a million-dollar race horse and treated it the way you treat yourself, would you expect to win races?  Take care of yourself the way you would a million-dollar race horse.”

Homework in her courses included having participants schedule one “pampering” session per week.  I chose to have a massage every week.  Massage is a great remedy for anxiety.   Anxiety can cause an elevated heart rate, body tension and irritation.  Living with chronic anxiety is a struggle.  Massage can help anxiety sufferers to feel better and experience fewer symptoms.

What Does Massage Do?

If you experience anxiety, you likely have more cortisol running through your system than other people do (1). Cortisol is not intrinsically bad, but if your body remains in fight-or-flight mode because of the cortisol streaming through your body, you will begin to feel anxious and exhausted.

Massage helps to lower cortisol levels (2). Just a one-hour massage can bring cortisol levels down by over a quarter, and regular massage can have long-lasting positive effects for those who struggle with anxiety and depression. The physical touch involved with massage can help relax you, and you’ll release the tension that has been working to keep you anxious.

According to Chirp, people who regularly experience stress and anxiety are more likely to experience myofascial pain and tight, stiff muscles. A massage helps to release this tension. An experienced massage therapist will know how to release myofascial pain with just enough pressure to the right parts of the body.

The Art of Acupressure

We all have areas of our body that help relieve anxiety when pressure is applied to them. A massage therapist who knows you suffer from anxiety can focus on using acupressure on you to help relieve stress and tension. This is a very effective way to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety.

According to Fine Balance Acupuncture, it is possible to use acupressure on yourself, but it’s best to receive help from an experienced massage therapist or acupuncturist for maximum benefit. Don’t look at it as a luxury. Instead, view acupressure and massage as necessities of self-care if you suffer from anxiety.

The Power of Human Touch

Don’t ever underestimate human touch as a way to alleviate anxiety symptoms. One of the reasons massage is so effective is that it combines acupressure and myofascial release therapy with the power of human touch.

You can’t live a healthy life without human touch, so even a hug or another person simply holding your hand when you feel anxious can help ground you and bring you back down to a calm place. Find a massage therapist you are comfortable with and allow them to help you. There is no need to be self-conscious about being touched.

Connecting the Mind and Body

According to Spire, anxiety can make your mind and body feel disconnected. It’s hard to remember that your mind and body work together, and you need both to help you recover from an anxiety attack. Massage helps you focus on being in the moment, and that allows you to calm your mind as a massage therapist works the tension from your body.

This helps your body and mind reconnect, and that will help you be mindful of what is going on within you. You will be able to notice anxiety symptoms before they escalate, and you can identify the thoughts that accompany those symptoms.

You can obviously see all the benefits of massage on anxiety and why you need to schedule your massage today!  In the spirit of the late Anne Marie Schlekeway, it’s time to treat yourself like a million-dollar racehorse!

Sources:
(1) Psychosomatic Medicine: May 2010 – Volume 72 – Issue 4 – p 340-347
(2) TIFFANY FIELD, MARIA HERNANDEZ-REIF, MIGUEL DIEGO, SAUL SCHANBERG & CYNTHIA KUHN (2005)CORTISOL DECREASES AND SEROTONIN AND DOPAMINE INCREASE FOLLOWING MASSAGE THERAPY, International Journal of Neuroscience, 115:10, 1397-1413, DOI: 10.1080/00207450590956459


In Park Ridge,IL approximately 2700 households experience anxiety, depression or other mental health concerns. The #1 reason residents do not receive counseling when needed is because they do not know where to go. If you have a mental illness, you’ll find help here.  If you are a veteran and would like free massage in the Chicago area, visit Body Works for Vets and schedule your free massage!


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