2020 proved to be a year that tested many of us in several different ways. Whether it was health related, work or school related, lack of social interactions, our normal routines changing drastically, the list goes on and on. One mindset we are working towards is to keep peaceful and calm thoughts and reactions top of mind in all situations or circumstances we may encounter on a daily basis. Specifically, in ALL circumstances choose PEACE. Why? Because fear and stress have a ton of negative physiological impact and effects on your body. When everything seems to be swirling out of control, STOP, BREATHE, REFOCUS, and CHOOSE PEACE.
Fear actually can weaken our immune system and cause cardiovascular damage, gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome, and decreased fertility. In fact, fear is very important to address because it can negatively impact both physical and mental health, contributing to cardiovascular disease, immune dysfunction, chronic illness, depression, and anxiety. It can lead to accelerated aging and even premature death. Stress is not much better as we all know. 75% to 90% of all doctor's office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints. Stress can play a part in problems such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety. Studies have actually found stress can be attributed to several health problems. Stress seems to worsen or increase the risk of conditions like obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, depression, gastrointestinal problems, and asthma.
Now after reading the negative effects fear and stress can trigger, please take a moment to stop, breathe, refocus, and choose peace while you continue to read. There are several ways to help work through our fear and life stressors. One of the easiest is to practice self care. Self-care means taking care of yourself so that you can be healthy, you can be well, you can do your job, you can help and care for others, and you can do all the things you need to and want to accomplish in a day. There are four key dimensions to self care – your emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritual health. As we touch on each dimension, we also share how massage can address each aspect of self care in a positive manner.
Physical self-care involves ensuring an overall healthy lifestyle that includes eating healthy, drinking lots of water, and getting plenty of exercise. Therapeutic massage can also have a profound effect on your physical well being. Massage has been shown to reduce muscle tension, improve circulation, stimulate the lymphatic system, reduce stress hormones, encourage relaxation, increase joint mobility and flexibility, improve skin tone, and improve recovery of soft tissue injuries.
Emotional self-care might include setting clear boundaries on your time and energy. Engage emotional boundaries within helping relationships, surrounding yourself with positive people and affirmative and inspiring messages. Address any issues or problems so that they don’t build up. Give and receive love, kindness, and support. Spend time with people you care about and who care about you. Oftentimes a therapeutic massage can actually help release negative emotions. The explanation for emotional release is that because massage may access the soft tissues of the body deeply, it can unlock emotional energy locked in those tissues. To understand how emotion can be accessed through the tissue, you will first need to be familiar with body memory, and that is a topic for another time.
Psychological self-care activities might include personal and professional development. Give attention to things that are in your control (your sphere of influence). Take time for personal reflection. Notice your inner experiences, thoughts, and feelings. Cultivate self-awareness through things such as journalling, getting feedback from others, meditation, coaching/counselling, and consultation or supervision – places where you have the opportunity to grow, learn, and reflect. Massage therapy has been known to lower stress, decrease anxiety, and reduce irritability. Along with increasing brain serotonin and dopamine, the combination of these effects lead to a happier, calmer individual.
Spiritual self-care might include prayer or meditation. You may want to visualize, practice gratitude, spend time in nature, and be aware of the non-material aspects of your life. Consider attending a church of your choice. Identify what is meaningful to you in your work and life. Practice mindfulness and being present in the moment. Massage can be a part of your grounding and mind clearing meditation. Engaging your sense of touch through massage gives you a wonderful opportunity to ground down. Feel the earth beneath you and bring that connection into the rest of your day. Though it may be easy enough to fall asleep during a relaxing massage, utilize the time to anchor yourself in the moment instead. Focus intently on calming your body and thoughts therefore allowing your mind to clear of anything else. For those who struggle a bit with clearing the mind during meditation, massage can be a great option to give you something to focus on.
Invest in yourself because you matter. You know what is best for you – give yourself permission to take time to fill your own cup so that you can make a difference from a place of vitality, well-being, and health. Your self-care benefits you and others too – it is a win-win!
So one last time: STOP, BREATHE, REFOCUS , and CHOOSE PEACE.