With World Mental Health Day coming up on October 10th I wanted to concentrate this blog on something close to my heart, both as a Massage Therapist and on a personal level. I will share with you my experiences and also share some information on how massage can help decrease the symptoms of mental health conditions.
Stress, anxiety and depression
These are words we use and hear almost everyday. But for some people however, It's more than just words.
UK mental health charity YOUNG MINDS says 4 in every 100 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year and that people under the age of 35 are particularly likely to suffer from anxiety. This shows most of us will experience some form of mental health issues throughout our lives, from the daily feelings of stress and anxiety to severe depression which can lead to more life changing problems.
For me, Growing up I have felt and seen first hand how mental health can have a major impact on peoples lives. I saw the adults in my life struggle with this but also my friends (especially into my teenage years) and what made it hard for me was that I couldn't physically help them and that I wasn't educated enough to completely understand what they were going through and why? The more I thought about this, the more I realised that a lot of the time these feelings cannot be avoided. It can be down to unlucky circumstances, family problems, loved ones passing away, bullying, heartbreak and the list goes on!
I have personally felt the effects of mild Mental Health problems In my teenage years and now at the age of 25, luckily for me these were short term. I struggled when my parents separated when I was 13, seeing their relationship after this put alot of stress onto my brothers and I. I struggled when I was being severely bullied in high school. I struggled with my first broken heart. I couldn't change any of that, it was just life, so I just got on with it. As I got older my stress was coming from other situations like money, jobs, relationships etc. But I always felt that I had it less severe than other people so I didn't show how much I was struggling because I didn't feel it was severe enough to need any treatment.
Treatments can vary, medication, counselling/coaching and many will do nothing like me, seeing it as temporary and that it will get better with time. It is well known that certain tools can help with stress, anxiety and mild depression, exercise and diet being two primary ones. One treatment that is often forgotten, is massage. Massage is often viewed as a luxury treat, something for a special occasion on a spa day, but regular Deep Tissue massage gives you so much more. Massage is used to treat a range of conditions including, you guessed it... Stress, anxiety and depression!
Now lets get down to the Massage
Touch Research Institute demonstrated that 30 minutes of daily massage therapy to hospitalised depressed youths over 5 days produced an improvement in mood and behavior.
Dozens of studies also revealed how massage can help to fight Mental Health conditions by lowering cortisol levels (Cortisol is the body's response to stress), and a 60min massage lowers it by as much as 50%! At the same time, it can also increase the levels of serotonin and dopamine, (both neurotransmitters that help stabilize your mood).
Massage is a safe place for individuals to relax and refocus providing you with a nurturing safe place to rest physically and emotionally. It can boost confidence, self-image and self-worth. If you have Mental Health conditions, massage probably won’t 'cure' your condition, But it could help release the physical symptoms that come with it. When your muscles become tender or tight, it can cause pain and restrict movement. Raynor Massage releases this, It also increases circulation and promotes deep relaxation.
Taking time for massage is as important for people dealing with Mental Health conditions as it is for people dealing with sports injuries, arthritis and migraines.
I think it is important for me as a Massage Therapist to understand Mental Health in order to treat my clients in the best way I can. It’s also important to me for another reason, I currently experience short moments of anxiety myself... I find giving a massage one of the best ways to overcome this for me as I am concentrating so much on what I am doing for my client that I tend to forget about the feelings my anxiety gives me. If me as the Massage therapist finds it relaxing, imagine what it can do for my clients!
Is massage a miracle cure for mental health conditions? NO! BUT it can be used as a treatment, rather than a luxury. Everyone needs to take more time for themselves, Don’t feel guilty about getting a massage that can help relieve symptoms! It will benefit us all, especially if it means you can enjoy time with the people who mean the most to you and also make you feel more equipped to deal with life.
Mental Health conditions can be very serious and massage should not be used as a replacement for medical treatments if it is needed. However, one of the many advantages of massage is how easy it is to access it, you dont need a prescription and you won't need to wait weeks or months for an appointment. You do not need to be embarrassed and do not need to reveal details which you would prefer to keep private, professional massage therapists respect client confidentiality.
To support World Mental Health Day on the 10th October, I will be donating 10% of all massages in October to Young Minds Charity. If you would like to donate yourself, click the link and follow the steps https://youngminds.org.uk/donate.