How is Massage Therapy useful when recovering from an Anxiety Disorder? Guest Blog by Ashley Smith

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(image: Ashley Smith)

Massage therapy, which is often sought by people for relaxation, is not only offered by luxurious spas but it’s also becoming a mainstream treatment technique for boosting mental and physical health. Nowadays, healthcare professionals especially physical (physio) therapists are using this age-old and unique healing technique to relieve pain that stems from a wide range of physical and mental health issues.

Yes, massage therapy is not only essential for improving the mood and offering relaxation to those who live an utterly busy life where they have to deal with tight deadlines all the time, but it’s also beneficial for people struggling with conditions like stress, anxiety disorders, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder apart from musculoskeletal injuries and illnesses.

Yes, the mental health benefits of massage therapy are endless, so you shouldn’t hesitate to seek it. Divided into several sub-categories such as Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, sports massage, prenatal massage, and infant massage, etc., massage therapy is one of the most crucial techniques that make it easier for you to live a pain-free and fulfilling life.

If you talk specifically about anxiety disorders which include generalized anxiety disorder, phobias, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, separation anxiety disorder, and selective mutism, they can interrupt your life completely.

Characterised by common symptoms like sweating, trembling, sadness, restlessness, excessive worry, fatigue, insomnia, fear, and nausea, etc., an anxiety disorder makes it difficult for you to focus on both your personal and professional life. For example, if you are struggling with a panic disorder, you will keep on experiencing frequent episodes of intense anxiety and fear that prevent you from concentrating on your work. And when your fear reaches a peak, you encounter a panic attack.

Similarly, if you talk about Generalised Anxiety Disorder, you will keep on worrying about day-to-day activities.

According to The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), people who suffer from Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) experience excessive worry for a minimum of 6 months about various areas of their life like activities of daily living, interacting with people, and personal health, etc. And this fear makes it difficult for them to do good in these areas.

Experiencing anxiety is normal; the problem comes when you suffer from an anxiety disorder. Yes, there is a vast difference between experiencing anxiety and suffering from an anxiety disorder; the former is quite healthy for you, but the later is a mental illness. That’s true. Normal anxiety helps you prepare for future events and situations, whereas an anxiety disorder like panic disorder and social anxiety disorder, make it difficult for you to face those events.

The fear that stems from normal anxiety disappears soon; however, the worry that attacks you due to an anxiety disorder stays with you until you recover from your problem. And what’s concerning is it can  worsen with the passage of time in the absence of professional help.

Yes, seeking professional help is the only way to recover from this mental illness.

According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.” It further states that “Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.

So, here is how massage therapy can help you battle an anxiety disorder.

 

In Reducing Stress

The stress that stems from facing tough situations can lead to further health complications if you fail to take professional help for it at the right time. You should take corrective steps to minimise your stress levels if you can. Consulting a licensed physical (physio) therapist to seek massage therapy can bring tremendous change in your health.

I believe that since people struggling with an anxiety disorder also experience high-level of stress, they should seek massage therapy to address anxiety, alongside other methods.

When you are stressed out, your body releases a hormone called Cortisol, which affects several areas in your life such as public speaking, social interactions, performance at work, and happiness.

Since you always feel stressed out, you can’t experience happiness in your life. Therefore, to deal with the problems that you face in different areas of your life, it’s essential that you work on improving your mental health, and one of the best ways to start in this direction is to control your stress levels and promote relaxation by seeking massage therapy.

Your therapist might use Swedish massage to reduce your stress level. According to Gulf Shore Physical Therapy Center, “Swedish massage is more gentle and targets more superficial tissues, perfect for anyone looking to relax and relieve mental as well as physical stress. As the best-known type of bodywork performed today, one of the primary goals of the Swedish massage technique is to relax the entire body.

 

In Minimising Muscle Tension

Muscle tension and muscle pain are the symptoms of elevated stress level, and hence, people living with an anxiety disorder also experience them. Seeking massage therapy, wherein your massage therapist uses hand techniques to reduce muscle tension and pain, can have significant benefits for your mental health.

Since it offers relaxation, it not only helps in improving your performance at work but also allows you to spend quality time with your loved ones at home.

 

In Improving Sleep

Sleep problems are one of the most common signs of an anxiety disorder, and massage therapy is in our opinion, the best way to address it. Whether you stay awake the whole night because you find it difficult to fall asleep or you are someone who wakes up frequently from your sleep, massage therapy will deal with these issues by offering relaxation and addressing the problem of muscle tension and pain.

When you enjoy a good night’s sleep, you will wake up feeling fresh and energetic in the morning, which plays a crucial role in improving your entire day.

 

In Enhancing Your Emotional Well-Being

People with an anxiety disorder often struggle with their mental health and some have depression alongside it. Massage therapy can promote relaxation and boost wellbeing. Experts believe that it has several benefits for mental health, you shouldn’t underestimate its potential to improve your emotional well-being.

Since it reduces stress and anxiety, it eventually stabilises your mind which improves your emotional well-being.

 

In Reducing Chronic Pain

If you are also living with pain due to an injury or illness apart from an anxiety disorder, massage therapy can help reduce your pain. Since it helps in enhancing circulation, you will see a tremendous improvement in the reduction of pain after a massage therapy session.

It will also accelerate the natural healing process by supplying nutrients to injured tissues.

Massage therapy will also help in enhancing your mind-body connection, which is extremely useful for your overall well-being. It can be used alongside conventional therapies, to support relaxation and good mental health. Try it today.

 

This article was written by Ashley Smith, freelance writer in the USA

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How Baths, Saunas and Spas benefit mental health and relaxation: Guest post by Lori Longoria

Anything that takes care of your mental health and relaxation needs is something to give top priority in life. We are often overwhelmed by everything we have to do each day. There are deadlines at work, your family that needs attention and other commitments that can trigger stress. Therefore, it is important to be good to ourselves and do things that rejuvenate the mind and body often.

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(image: walkinshowers.org)


There are a lot of things you can do to relax the body and mind. You pick these things by looking at what makes you happy or brings you peace. These are things that help you defeat physical and mental fatigue. For some it is taking a walk, others love to run when they are stressed while others prefer to have a nice meal and a glass of wine. Whatever the case, everyone needs something they can do to help alleviate stress otherwise there is a risk of having a nervous breakdown.

Some good activities that promote mental health and relaxation are spa treatments, taking a bath or spending time in a sauna. These three options allow you to pamper your body and spend some quality time alone or with friends relaxing. Apart from the benefits they provide to your body, they are also excellent for mental rejuvenation and can help you improve your mental health.

What are the benefits of having a bath?

Soaking in a bathtub is a great way to treat your body. The sensation is entirely different from taking a shower. It is important to take a bath at least once a week. There are so many great things it does for your body.

–  Beat mental fatigue with a bath

Apart from cleansing and relaxing the body, a bath also helps relax the mind. It feels amazing to soak in the warm water and just let your mind go blank. Water has healing properties especially when it flows over your body, or you soak in it. As the water massages your tension away, it sends a feel-good message to the brain that causes you to let go of all anxiety. It also helps get rid of any mental stress that is caused by fatigue.

You can improve the mental benefits of your bath time by using essential oils, aromatic candles and lighting incense. There are essential oils that are great for mental relaxation such as lavender, ylang-ylang, and bergamot. Also, some aromatic candles made of citrus; rosemary and cinnamon are great for boosting your mood.

–  Clear migraines, anxiety, and depression

If you suffer from anxiety or depression and have problems with sleeping, then a warm bath is one of the solutions you need to explore. A soak in a nice, fragrant, warm bath will help you relax before you go to bed such that you will have no problem falling asleep.

If stress or anxiety is causing you to have a migraine, then you know how hard it is to go to sleep with a pounding head.

Taking a warm bath will help improve your circulation which is great for easing headaches. You can do it anytime to deal with tension headaches. All you need is to fill the bath with some warm water, pour in some relaxing bath oil and soak your tension away.

 

–  Baths for pain relief

If your body is in pain, then it will affect your mental state. For example when you are exhausted there are high chances that you will feel sad, stressed and in extreme cases depressed. However, when you take a relaxing bath it takes all the aches away and in many cases makes you feel like a new person. It means that your mind will  hopefully also respond well to you having a bath and washing all the fatigue away. So anytime you are feeling down consider taking a warm or cold bath to kick away the blues.

If you don’t feel able to do this, be kind to yourself.

Can time in a sauna help with depression?

Saunas are another way to pamper your body and improve your mood. It involves having a steam bath which helps you sweat out toxins. Apart from detoxing the body by opening the pores and promoting sweating, saunas can be good for your mind.

When you are in the sauna, it causes your blood circulation to improve which promotes sweating. The increase in blood circulation can invigorate you and help you feel refreshed so that if you are feeling tired or low, you come out feeling fresh and recharged. After a day of having a steam bath, you can be sure that you will sleep well.

Why do spas help with stress?

One place you can go to for a leisurely bath or time in the sauna is the spa. A spa is a great place to visit for mental health and relaxation. It’s created to make sure that your body and mind get pampered in all ways possible.

–  Great treatments for the body and mind

There are so many treatments to choose from in a spa such as massages, body scrubs, body wraps, aromatherapy, and others. It’s a great place to take someone dealing with fatigue and low mood and even chronic ailments- if they are able.  

–  Get away from all the pressure

One good reason that the spa is good for rest and rejuvenation, as well as mental relaxation. You get to take some time away from your regular life to go somewhere for  quality rest time. Most of these places are tucked away in quiet areas far away from the hassle and bustle of our daily lives.

Just the act of getting away from your work, family and other stressful commitments and going away to this place where you can rest can help to calm an anxious mind.

 

–  Expert therapists

The therapists in spas are trained to handle their clients in a way that will help them overcome stress or exhaustion. When giving a massage, they know just how to do it so that your fatigue goes away and your whole body gets relaxed. If you tell them you have a migraine or a tension headache, they know the pressure points in the body to manouvre so that you get relief.

Taking a bath, having a steam bath or visiting the sauna are great ways to pamper your body. However, the best thing about doing these things is the positive effect on your mental health. It’s important to invest in activities that promote mental health and relaxation often to avoid burnout.

The next time you feel stressed why not take a bath, visit a spa or spend time in the sauna to promote relaxation!

This post was written by Lori Longoria of walkinshowers.org

On Meditation for Relaxation and Healing.

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I write this blog post from a very healing place where a relative of mine lives- the Cotswolds, Gloucestershire in England. It is a place of nature, green fields, hills, farms, animals and I associate its beauty with rest and relaxation. (There are shops and cinemas here too though- I think I would miss that!). The Cotswolds are a great place for me to rest and recharge my batteries. I find that the pace of life is slower and quieter here and when I have been working hard and need a break, I visit here and come back rejuvenated.

So, this blog is about meditation, a form of relaxation and clarity of mind that I have found healing.

I discovered meditation a few years ago but didn’t really start doing it until about a year ago, when I downloaded a free app called Headspace. This allowed me to have 10 free sessions of 15 minute meditations. At the time, I was suffering from work anxiety and related panic attacks. I found that listening to a guided meditation, recorded so I could play it when lying on my bed before sleep,  very helpful and relaxing. It centred me and made me focus less on my anxious thoughts and worries about my career and illness. I just had to breathe and relax for that minute, whatever else was happening outside of it.

Meditation is a guided visualisation, focusing on the breath and slowing down breathing for relaxation and clarity, through inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly. It also teaches you how to relax muscles in your body, if you choose a deep muscle relaxation meditation. The person guiding you may tell you to breathe in deeply then out slowly, clench or unclench muscles and focus on the breath and the present mindfully, in order to relax you and sharpen the senses.

Meditation is not about falling asleep, although I often do it before I go to sleep. It is about centring yourself in your present reality, clearing your mind and worries through focusing on deep breathing and /or guided visualisations or affirmations. This eventually relaxes your subconscious and keeps you grounded in the present, linked to mindfulness.

I recently listened to a fantastic meditation which included positive life affirmations ‘You can do it’, ‘You are strong and confident’, whilst breathing in and out. This was by the amazing practitioner Holly Matthews, at the Bossing It Academy. I listened to this twice and did the exercises the night before a job interview. It really works on the subconscious level and helps you feel strong and confident!

I first was introduced to meditation as a healing therapy through regular Day unit relaxation sessions when I came out of hospital. We were taken through a guided visualisation of a relaxed place eg a beach or a starry night and followed our breathing and relaxation of muscles. I then bought CDs of relaxation music to listen to at home. When I was a teenager, I had previously listened to similar relaxation music and I find it can be incredibly healing if suffering from anxiety disorders in particulat as it focuses you and permits relaxation.

Meditation is an ancient Eastern art, practised by Buddhists and others in Asia, which has come to us in the West. It is so unbelievably powerful at managing stress and anxiety and I would thoroughly recommend doing it, with a recording of  professional guiding you through the process or listening to relaxation music. There are even meditation classes out there you can take as well as music on Youtube and other websites!

So remember to breathe, ground yourself in your present, listen to the sounds around you but bring it back to your breathing and your current reality. I have found meditation helps heal me and I hope it helps you too.