1. Understanding the physiology of anxiety to be able to overcome it
With anxiety comes the symptoms of the primary "fight-or-flight response:
- Our breathing accelerates and becomes fast and shallow.
- Our heart rate accelerates
- Our blood sugar spikes
- Our senses get sharper
- Our bloodstream gets flooded with the stress hormones adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine
When these hormones and our nervous system put our body on high alert, our musculoskeletal system contracts and springs into action to be ready to face an intense situation. While helpful for the occasional life challenges, such intense contraction in our muscles and joints as well as the long-term exposure to stress hormones are most damaging to our physical and mental health in the long run. The American Medical Association has noted that stress is the basic cause of more than 60 percent of all human illness and disease and it is recognized by many as the No. 1 proxy killer disease today. For example, long-term exposure to cortisol and other stress hormone can contribute to weight gain, heart conditions, digestive issues, insomnia, autoimmune diseases, burnout and can disrupt almost all our body's processes.
2. Why movement is an essential remedy
As a result of too many or too intense perceived threats, our body never lets the guard down and high strung tension starts becoming a constant and pervasive reality in our nerves, muscles and joints, with contraction in these typical places: shoulders, neck, lower back, hips, and jaw.
This is where movement comes in! Movement, a direct outlet for the physical stress response, prevents, diffuses and relieves the buildup of muscular and nervous tension.
Some major benefits of movement:
- Freeing the body from tension patterns
- Allowing our tissues and joints to relax
- Allowing our mind to relax: focusing only on our body's movements frees the mind and is like meditation in motion.
- Allowing to burn the energy that has been stored in the muscles, letting them return to their normal resting state after exercise is complete.
- Strengthening muscles and bones
- Increasing brain's feel-good neurotransmitters:
- Exercising for twenty minutes or more can dramatically enhance our mood by releasing endorphins which relieve pain and increase a sense of well-being and relaxation.
- Exercise in short bursts. Even brief bouts of physical activity offer benefits. For instance, if you can't fit in one 30-minute walk, try a few 10-minute walks instead. Taking a break to move and stretch, bike, dance or go for a walk is incredibly rewarding!
What movement calls to you? Whatever you choose, what is most important is making regular physical activity part of your lifestyle!
3. Massage as a key therapy to deepen relaxation and joie de vivre!
Massage therapy can have a major impact in relieving anxiety by eliciting a relaxation response in our nervous system. In activating our parasympathetic system (the relaxing branch of our autonomic nervous system) massage plays a key role in rectifying the unbalance that occurs when anxiety strikes. It does this by reeducating our system to find its way back to comfort, ease, relaxation and flow. It is also highly effective at diffusing tension patterns, lowering heart rate and nourishing our tissues with more blood flow and oxygen.
The Mayo Clinic reports that after just one session, a 60-minute massage can lower cortisol by up to 30 percent. Massage is also effective because of the release of three major “feel-good” chemicals into the body: endorphins, oxytocin and serotonin. A study published in the journal Depression and Anxiety found participants who received regular massage therapy for 12 weeks had a 50 percent reduction in anxiety symptoms. And the benefits weren’t short-lived either: symptom reduction remained at 50 percent 26 weeks after the therapy had ended.
Overall, massage therapy allows us to reconnect with a deeper sense of well-being and enjoyment enabling us to feel good all around!
We can anchor this grounded sense of calm, ease and wellness and bring it more readily to our everyday life. We are therefore more likely to feel stronger, resourceful and to bring more radiant and positive energy to our life, even in the face of challenging situations!