If you’re like me, Christmas is 1/3 food, 1/3 fun and 1/3 hair-tearing stress. Gift-buying, feast-cooking and end-of-year deadlines – it gets pretty overwhelming come mid-December! If tea-drinking, baths and stress balls aren’t cutting it, it might be time to step up to a professional massage, which has lots of health benefits according to science!
How to tell if you’re stressed
Here are the classic signs of stress, according to Dr Lily Tomas, an expert in integrative medicine:
Yep. I’ve got all of those!
How massage helps
There’s a fair bit of scientific research on the beneficial effects of massage. Some of the healthy effects that have been reported are:
1. Reducing cortisol levels – Cortisol is a stress hormone which is released by your body when you’re stressed. Too much cortisol running around your body for too long can lead to a multitude of problems like weight gain, mental illness, high blood pressure and heart problems.
2. Reducing muscle tension – There’s a reason why we associate tension with stress – when you’re stressed, your body tenses up to prepare for action. If you’re under a lot of stress, the tension can be constant, and the best way to loosen everything is to give your muscles a good rub.
3. Improving mental state – Massage can increase the levels of dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters that make you feel happy and satisfied, and are implicated in depression.
4. Improving your immune system – A few studies have found that the levels of white blood cells, which defend the body from disease, are elevated after a massage.
Given how great massage is for stress, I sent my handy stressed out male guinea pig (aka my boyfriend) to Endota Spa‘s Warringah branch for their Classic spa package, which includes a Billabong footbath and an hour-long massage or facial. I’ve had the Endota Spa experience before and found it blissfully soothing, but how would a rough-around-the-edges kind of guy respond to a bout of pampering? Mr Muffin had just come off about 16 hours’ worth of international flights in economy class – a challenge for any masseuse! While he didn’t respond quite as well to the gong-y music as I did, he did enjoy the experience a lot and came out relaxed and slightly blissed-out.
If you have any stressed friends or family, a massage makes a great gift! Endota offer a range of gift vouchers and gift packs to suit a range of budgets. If you’re after a more DIY approach, you can try a tennis ball between the shoulders or my post-exercise BFF, a knobbly foam roller, or if you’re lucky, co-opt a willing volunteer to knead away your stress.
American Psychological Association: Stress Effects on the Body.
T Field, M Hernandez-Reif, M Diego, S Schanberg and C Kuhn, Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy. International Journal of Neuroscience 2005, 115, 1397-1413.
Spa voucher was provided for editorial consideration, which did not affect my opinion. For more information, see Disclosure Policy.