Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Massage for Anxiety

We all know that massage therapy is great at working out
trigger points, regaining mobility to stiff joints, and
easing scar tissue contracture, but the effects of massage
go so much deeper than superficial tissue.

There are more and more studies supporting the use of
massage therapy for decreasing anxiety, lowering blood
pressure and heart rate, and even enhanced mental alertness!
(1) (2) (3)

When I give my boy a massage, he gets so calm and relaxed.
His eyes just stare off into space, and there is such a look
of peace on his face, that it actually relaxes me too!

One study of massage therapy in asthmatic children (4)
showed a decrease in cortisol (stress hormone) and anxiety
levels, as well as improved pulmonary functions following
treatment. Anyone who has or knows a child with asthma has
seen how stressful this condition can be –not only for the
child but the parents as well!

Another study of mothers who received massage (5) showed
decreased depression, anxiety, and pain. They also
experienced shorter labors, and shorter hospital stays.

Fibromyalgia patients who received massage reported better
sleep, lower anxiety levels and less depression. (6)

Anyone who has had a massage treatment knows that it feels
good, and that you feel relaxed after, but it really does
affect your health on a much more profound level!

So don’t wait until you have shoulder or low back pain to
get a massage. If regular massage therapy can help blood
pressure, cortisol levels, hear rate and anxiety then it
should be just as important to your health maintenance
program as eating right and exercising! Everyone should
have regular treatments, just for the health of it!

(1) Field T, Ironson G, Scafidi F, Nawrocki T, Goncalves A,
Pickens J, Fox N, Schanberg S, Kuhn C. 1996a. Massage
therapy reduces anxiety and enhances EEG pattern of
alertness and math computations. Int J Neurosc 86: 197-205
(2) Mok D, Woo CP. 2004 Nov. The effects of slow-stroke back
massage on anxiety and shoulder pain in elderly stroke
patients. Complement Ther Nurs Midwifery 10 (4): 209-16
(3) Moyer CA, Rounds J, Hannum JW. 2004 A meta-analysis of
massage therapy research. Psychological Bulletin Jan;
130(1): 3-18
(4) Field T, Henteleff T, Hernandez-Reif M, Martinez E,
Mavunda K, Kuhn C, Schanberg S. 1998b. Children with asthma
have improved pulmonary functions after massage therapy. J
Pediatr 132:854-858.
(5) Field T, Hernandez-Reif M, Taylor S, Quintano O, Burnam
I. 1997c. Lavor pain is reduced by massage therapy. J
Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol 18:286-291.
(6) Sunshine W, Field T, Quintino O, Fierro K, Kuhn C,
Bruman I, Schanberg S. 1996. Fibromyalgia benefits from
massage therapy and transcutaneous electrical stimulation.
Journal of Clinical Rheumatology 2(1): 18-22.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Getting It Done

A New Year is upon us, and with it come the expectations of what can be.

Did you set a goal for yourself this year? And if you did, was it the same thing you said last year?

This is an extremely common problem. Let’s say your resolution was “I want to loose weight this year”. This is probably the same resolution you have had for the last 5 years. Why do you suppose you haven’t achieved your goal yet?

First of all, it is just too vague. A goal is much easier to achieve if it is very specific and focused. So it is better to set a goal such as “I will lose 5 pounds by February 14.”

Did you also notice the difference in language? Rather than “I want”, the second goal said, “I will”. Focus and intention are very important. If you keep your perspective positive, you will achieve positive results. If your perspective is focused on the negative or indifferent, your results will match. I know everyone has heard about the law of attraction, and this is a great example.

So now you have a specific, positively stated goal. Next you need to decide on some smaller steps to help you achieve this goal, and then take action and start accomplishing them, one by one.

Let’s look at our weight loss goal. To accomplish this, it would be a good idea to cut back on calories, incorporate some exercise, use some visualization techniques, and establish some form of accountability.

Now this sounds like a lot of work to do all at once, and is probably an overwhelming task for many, so guess what happens – nothing. You go back to your same old eating and exercise habits because they are comfortable and easy.
You need to break things down more, and schedule yourself (use a calendar or that funky Blackberry you have!) So tomorrow, plan to have one piece of toast for breakfast, rather than your usual two. That’s it – that’s your goal for the day! The day after, plan a 20-minute walk with a coworker over your lunch break (while still only having one piece of toast).

That night, while brushing your teeth, look at yourself in the mirror and compliment yourself on your beautiful eyes, or your great posture, or whatever you see. You can also visualize what your ultimate goal will look like, feel like, be like. See yourself slim and fit, running up the stairs two at a time. Really put yourself in the moment.

The key is to accomplish little mini goals, which all eventually add up to your big goal.

I have used weight loss as an example, but this process is the same no matter what your goal, be it learning a new language, training for a marathon, or organizing your photo albums. Break the big goal up into little mini goals, and then take action on them and nock them of your list, one by one.

Before you know it, you will have accomplished your goal or goals, and be looking forward to what 2009 will bring!