Mental Health Awareness Month is taking over May and the massage therapy service, Soothe, has been busy promoting the benefits of massage, specifically on mental health. For people who are interested in holistic approaches to healing, it’s important to note massage can help alleviate conditions such as anxiety, worry, sadness, stress, and sleeplessness.
“The power of touch has an amazing effect on body and mind,” says Curtis Lisa, one of the licensed massage therapists at Soothe. “Working specific reflex points in the body can stimulate the production of serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters that promote well-being, satisfaction, and feelings of happiness, while decreasing cortisol levels, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, which is related to stress and anxiety. Serotonin consequently stimulates production of melatonin, which helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythms and lull people to sleep.”
Before a massage session begins, Soothe provides clients with a questionnaire asking if they have any injuries, medical conditions, if they take any medications, and what their overall state of mind is. This is a technique Lisa uses to determine which combination of massage modalities to use.
According to Lisa, aromatherapy has also proved to have benefits to people looking for mental health help. “Using aromatherapy during massage affects the brain, which in turn affects our emotions and nervous system,” says Lisa. “I use different combinations of lavender, bergamot, chamomile, geranium, rose, sage, jasmine, and rosemary–all of which have positive emotional benefits. I put a drop or two in my palms which I pass over and around, but never touching their face and head while they are supine, or I’ll hold my hands under the face cradle if they are lying prone and have them inhale the aroma with several deep breaths.”
Lisa also offers the following massage-specific advice for various concerns that people tend to have:
- Those who suffer from tension and stress should consider a massage that varies in pressure, this will aim to relax the shoulders, neck, and mid-back area. “People with tension and stress characteristically have raised shoulders elevated towards their ears,” explains Lisa. “I focus on the muscles of the neck, mid-back, and shoulders. I slowly and gently palpate through these muscle groups to warm up the tissue and fascia. If I find knots or adhesions, I return to those spots later for specific attention. I slowly increase pressure working into the muscle fibers by combining several modalities, like Swedish deep tissue, acupressure, shiatsu, and neuromuscular.”
- For clients that are anxious or sleep deprived, there is reflexology massage on specific areas of hands and feet. “Those areas are reflexive of the head and brain, solar plexus, and adrenal glands,” says Lisa. “The adrenal glands help regulate our energy level, mood, and anxiety, and when they are fatigued, the result is low energy, trouble sleeping, mood swings, depression, anxiety, and slow brain function. Sitting at the head of the massage table, I place both my hands over the ears to quiet the space, so they notice a silence before I work the reflex points.”
- Those combatting depression or sadness should let the massage therapist know. "While we aren't trained to offer a medical diagnosis and treat your symptoms, we can show compassion and comfort, and use a supportive touch combined with guided breathing, visualization, and application of healing essential oils," explains Lisa. "Very slow, gentle touch has been shown to increase oxytocin–a hormone which is related to contentment. Using guided breathing and visualization helps occupy their mind with peaceful thoughts, instead of troubling ones."
- Using peppermint as an essential oil will help those who have issues focusing or concentrating. "While occupying their mind with positive thoughts during a visualization, I also use peppermint essential oil, which helps with focus and concentration, and have clients inhale the aroma with several deep breaths," says Lisa. "At session end, I remind them of the peaceful place they described and suggest they use peppermint oil at home, either using a diffuser or putting a drop of it into their palms and inhaling deeply when they feel unfocused."
For more information on massage therapy or Soothe, visit the website here or call (833) 276-6843.