Massage to Help Anxiety, from a First Hand Perspective

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As someone who’s dealt with Anxiety Disorder for most of my life, I wanted to discuss this topic from a first hand perspective, and especially to use my personal experience and insights on this disorder in hopes of offering assistance to others who suffer from this often debilitating condition. Anxiety and Panic Disorder, like a lot of mental health conditions, can often be stigmatised by those who have never experienced these symptoms and therefore cannot relate to what we go through. Uninformed individuals can be dismissive of anxiety sufferers, with statements such as “Calm down, don’t worry about it, let it go, it’ll be fine,” etc. etc.

If only it were that simple, right? If only, when in the grips of a panic attack, we could just decide to “let it go” and then suddenly be 100% better. But no, it’s definitely not that simple. Severe episodes of panic or anxiety can stop you in your tracks, affecting you mentally, emotionally, and physically. You can feel disturbing sensations like reality is distorted, or like you’re losing touch with reality or losing yourself. It can be impossible to hold on to a rational thought during these times, as you deal with this inner struggle, trying to tell yourself “Hold on, it’ll be fine, I’ll be fine, this will pass”, whilst the irrational anxiety brain keeps interjecting with fear thoughts such as “No it’s not, no you won’t, you’re losing your mind, you’ll never feel normal again, something terrible is about to happen, you’re going to die..etc.”

These high stress response feelings also wreck havoc on us physically, with symptoms such as racing heart and heart arrhythmias, gastrointestinal distress, dizziness, shaking, and eventually extreme fatigue as the body exhausts itself from dealing with these highly draining and damaging sensations.

There’s no doubt about the benefits of massage therapy for stress and anxiety; we begin learning about this in school and further study shows a vast amount of research on the topic. Massage therapy has been shown to affect the body’s biochemistry, in ways such as lowering blood pressure, reducing cortisol levels, and increasing the levels of serotonin and dopamine – the neurotransmitters that reduce stress and promote feelings of peace, calm, and happiness. Regular massage has been shown to lead to a reduction in anxiety episodes and symptoms.

In addition, combining massage therapy with energy work such as Reiki can reach even deeper to assist with healing not only on the physical level, but also the mental and spiritual levels, clearing and balancing the Chakras and clearing away negative energy patterns that may be contributing to our anxious feelings.

But, what about when our anxiety itself prevents us from participating in these healing therapies? From my own experience, I know that several factors of anxiety that can make us reluctant to seek treatment. First, many of us experience anxiety at the prospect of going somewhere new and unfamiliar, and outside of our “comfort spaces”. Then there’s also the worry that comes with meeting a new person and working with someone we’re not familiar with. We worry about all the unknowns and irrational fear thoughts can then come in and make us worry that “something bad” might happen. And even during the treatment, something as relaxing as a massage can also invoke anxiety thoughts; for some of just the act of lying still and what can feel like surrendering control to another person can make us anxious. Or we start to worry, “Omg what if I have a panic attack during the session? What will they think of me? I’ll be so embarrassed.” Some of us also find that our anxiety is often triggered by physical sensations, and become hyper-aware of our bodily sensations, to where something like an increase in heart rate due to the increased circulation that can come as a result of massage can turn into a thought of “Omg, what if I’m having a heart attack”.

I experienced all of this when I first started receiving massage. And if I had the choice, I may have just given up and decided I didn’t want to do it again. But, I didn’t have a choice. I was in school, and part of our training obviously included giving and receiving massages to each other. So I persevered. And after awhile, I noticed that I no longer experienced the anxiety symptoms during the massage. I also noticed that I was experiencing less anxiety symptoms in general day to day life.

After finishing school, I’ve continued to make time regularly to schedule massages for myself. And I was thinking about all these things during my last massage, and how I wanted to use my experience to help others. I would like to use my experiences with anxiety to provide a safe space for others who deal with this condition to still be able to enjoy the healing benefits of massage and energy work.

If you currently suffer from anxiety or panic disorders, don’t let it stop you from coming in. I am completely empathetic to everything you may be feeling, and therefore will not be in any way judgemental of any related issues that may come up during the treatment. I will work with you to change or adjust any aspect of the treatment to your comfort level, and welcome and encourage your communication.

I respectfully invite you to take this step, to help me to help you to move in the direction towards a more peaceful life.

Namaste

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