How Massage Can Help Manage Stress

Stress in life is unavoidable. Massage therapy can be a useful habit to promote relaxation and help treat the symptoms of stress.

As humans, we all face stress. Whether you’re moving to a new part of town or are drowning in a swamp of to-do lists, stress is unavoidable. Chronic stress can negatively affect your body. Luckily, there are natural ways you can support your body towards rest and recovery for optimal wellness and health.

How Stress Affects
Your Body

The way your body responds to stress is based on your ancient instincts. Back when humans were hunter-gatherers, a person’s stress response would kick-in whenever a dangerous situation arose. Being chased by a wild beast or pinned under a fallen tree would cause stress, and that stress-response was critical to survival. This stress response is a part of everyone’s physiological bodies.

The Nervous System

These types of reactions are ruled by your nervous system pathways. One nervous system pathway is responsible for a state of high functioning during stressful situations. It is called the sympathetic nervous system. The other pathway is responsible for a state of relaxation and rest, which is called the parasympathetic nervous system.

During stressful situations, your sympathetic system activates a few physiological responses:

  • Elevated heart rate
  • Slowed digestion
  • Stop urine output
  • Start sweating
  • Increased alertness (1)

Alternatively, in a state of calm relaxation, your parasympathic system allows for the following changes in the body:

  • Decreased heartrate
  • Active digestion
  • Stimulates saliva flow
  • Slowed breathing
  • Activates the bladder (2)


Modern Sources of Stress

Ideally, your primary state will be one of calm relaxation, and the body responds to stress only when faced with a threat. In today’s modern world, the triggers perceived as a threat are much more common.

Examples of stress in the modern world include:

    • Emotional Stress:
      • Grief (the loss of a loved one, moving, coping with illness)
      • Relationships (relational strain, regret, rejection, uncertainty)
      • Work (overwhelming to-do lists, responsibilities, unrealistic expectations, financial strain)
      • Physical Stress:
        • Toxins (in food, water, skin care products, fragrance, fumes, radiation)
        • Heavy Exercise (muscle tears, metabolic waste)
        • Heavy Digestion (breaking down food, eliminating wastes)
        • Foreign Invaders (bacteria, viruses, parasites)

      Stress and Disease

      All of these are normal causes of stress to the body. However, when they begin to compound and overload the body, there is no chance for the body to benefit from the physiological benefits of the resting parasympathic state.

      If the stressful state continues for too long, your body may fall behind in restoration and regeneration. Some professionals have even theorized that prolonged stress may be a cause of the onset of disease (Suggested reading: When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress, by Gabor Maté).

      The Massage Treatment as a Healing Space

      Helping clients with relaxation is a key focus in my massage therapy practice. I believe that the body can do its best healing work when the sympathetic systems of the body take a back seat and the parasympathetic system is encouraged to do its healing work.


      6 Ways Our Massage Approach Helps with Stress:

      • It’s Your Time. When you enter the treatment space, remind yourself that you have nowhere else to be for that time. Any stress that you’re experiencing exists only outside of the door.
      • “Rest & Digest.” It’s suggested that you come to your massage appointment well-hydrated and with a light stomach so that your body can focus on healing.
      • Activates the Brain. Physical touch increases levels of dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters that help regulate your mood and relieve stress and anxiety.
      • Nourishes Your Body. To reduce chemical exposure on the skin, I use only organic sheets, hypoallergenic laundry detergent, and nourishing lotion.
      • Increases Circulation. Should you be recovering from heavy exercise, Swedish massage techniques help clear metabolic waste and bring fresh nutrition to the tissue by increasing blood and lymphatic circulation.
      • It’s Your Space. Should you need to grieve or process a situation, be assured that the treatment space is a safe space to process and experience your emotions.
      • Enjoy the Setting. The lighting is warm and soft, and healing music helps lower the heart-rate and encourage a state of relaxation.

      Creating Lasting Change

      Stress in life is unavoidable, but there are things that we can do to help manage it. Making changes in your environment, practising self-kindness, and employing habits of self-care can help make a lasting change.

      Investing in regular relaxation massages can be a fantastic tool to help support the parasympathetic nervous system and develop a habit of relaxation in both body and mind.

      If you would like to experience the relaxing power of massage therapy, book a treatment today.

      Book Your Next Appointment with Us

      It’s time to enjoy the healing space of relaxation and therapeutic massage therapy. Carissa’s slow flowing, rhythmic strokes will increase circulation and decrease pain, while supporting the body’s natural healing processes. Book easily online today.

      Contact Us

      Le Soleil Health & Wholeness, Ltd.

      Roots on Whyte Community Building
      #201, 8135 – 102 St NW
      Edmonton, AB T6E 4A4
      Call (780) 414-1466