You're cruising along in your car when suddenly the person driving next to you swerves into your lane. Instinctively, your thoughts stop and you react instantly to avoid hitting your neighbor (probably texting while driving!).
You know the feeling that washes over you in that moment--heart pounding, pulse quickening, a tingling sensation erupting over your entire body as you begin to sweat?
We can call this a “Stress Response”, or “Fight or Flight”, and it’s been happening since cavemen were fleeing from--or fighting--lions, tigers and bears. It’s as natural as green beans and as normal as getting the flu in winter.
The big deal these days about the “Stress Response” is that it’s being engaged constantly by the pressures of our daily lives. Back in the old days, if you were lucky enough to outrun the bear, eventually your heart rate normalized, your glucose and hormone levels returned to balance and homeostasis prevailed. But today, the alarm goes off and immediately we are thinking of a thousand things that must be done--fast.
Here’s the kicker--thoughts are things! This means that the minute we think something is stressful, our brains begin a hormone cascade that ends with cortisol coursing through our bloodstreams. Instead of normalizing, this hormone can stay with us and it’s a no-good sidekick, causing far-reaching health concerns including heart problems, skin diseases, sleep disorders and weight challenges.
Good news is here and it’s only a massage away. We always knew a Swedish massage relaxed our muscles and made us at least feel less stressed. But there could be cause for more rejoicing. In October 2010, the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine published online a study on the effects of a single-session of Swedish massage in healthy adults. They found that in one massage session, there were significant decreases in the stress hormone cortisol and increases in the number of lymphocytes, which are white blood cells that are part of the immune system. The lead author, Dr. Mark Hyman Rapaport, chairman of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at Cedars-Sinai, said the findings were “very, very intriguing and very, very exciting--and I’m a skeptic.”
Are you already picking up the phone to reserve your next massage appointment?