As our stress increases in our environment and our daily lives, so do mental health related symptoms such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress syndrome. These diagnoses lead patients to seek outside support through psychotherapy, counseling or alternative modalities. From my experience as a massage therapist, my clients come to me for physical and stress relief rehabilitation for their body. Many times the massage session is sufficient, but other times during the session the client begins to release deeper emotions, memories, patterns and thoughts which creates the need for greater support. When additional support is needed, the integration of mental health and alternative healing arts modalities should be considered.
Our body changes with stress, whether it is from the lack of movement, excessive movement, trauma or imbalance. Massage therapy, yoga, and alternative bodywork modalities assist not only in relaxation and alleviation of stress, but more importantly influencing circulation, releasing toxins from the body and supporting the body to find balance. Additionally, the biochemical effects of massage have also been known to produce beneficial levels of hormones and neurotransmitters in the human body. The Touch Research Institutes conducted a study on the stress-alleviating effects (evidenced by decreased cortisol) and the activating effects (evidenced by increased serotonin and dopamine) of massage on a variety of medical conditions and stressful experiences. It was their finding that “Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy.”
When the body is relieved of stress and inflammation by incorporating massage and alternative modalities into a healing regimen, the body is allowed to heal itself. The key factor is for us to create an environment to do what our body is innately designed to do. Finding alternative healing modalities to support mental and physical health is no longer a “luxury,” but an opportunity to heal.