It’s selfcare Sunday: a day which should be in indelible ink in everyone’s bullet journal. I had an aromatherapy massage today, a long overdue use of a birthday voucher.
It sent me into a blissful meditative state and made me question why I don’t make time and space for this kind of therapy regularly. When you’re a mum in the early days, we tend to fall on the sensory overload end of the spectrum, with someone constantly “on” you: pulling, climbing, grabbing, sitting on you… so our desires for being touched feel at full capacity (and then some). At the last Mothers’ Wellness evening I ran with Zoe from Hypnobirthing Place some of the mums talked about avoiding any kind of physical connection with their partners as they were all touched-out.
But massage therapy can reset the dial of your mind maybe free up a bit of space for your partner again. I discovered the healing power of touch when I went through a crappy tornado of a time in my life 12 years ago: my best friend from school died suddenly, and then 6 months later my 8-year relationship finished. So essentially the scaffolding of the past 15 years of my life toppled down around me. I wandered listlessly carrying my grief around in my pocket for a long time, crying alone on the top deck of buses a lot.
Then I headed to Thailand for a bit. Anyone who’s been to Thailand will know that getting a massage there is about as commonplace as buying a pint of milk. I realised after my relationship split that I hadn’t really been hugged very much, that regular inconsequential loving touch that you take for granted in a long term partnership was gone, and nothing had replaced it. And that along with the loss of a beloved friend meant I was feeling really rudderless, nothing at all to anchor me. So in Thailand, I had a massage every single day. And I realised at the end of my trip that some of the grief of the past year began to be assimilated, I felt lighter, brighter, a bit more “me”, and a sense of equilibrium began to settle on my soul.
Wanting to harness this healing power of touch into my regular life, coupled with a slight anxiety about turning 30 (hah, my salad days!) I promised myself then that I would treat myself to an Organic Pharmacy Rose Crystal facial once every couple of months. Bliss time, always resulted in leaving me feeling rejuvenated, renewed and glowing, and very much helped to lead me out of the dark months of bereavement – and meant that my skin was bloomin amazing.
Alas, that disposable income and time of those days is no longer mine, and these kind of treatments are but a fond and wonderful memory. But knowing the benefits of massage and feeling them anew today has made me pledge that I’ll try to incorporate touch back into my life, even if just with a self-neck and shoulder massage with oils such as jasmine, lavender, neroli, every evening.
So what are the benefits?
Manage anxiety and depression
Anxiety and depression, the diseases of our modern age. A massage can soothe these feelings by reducing cortisol levels. Deep levels of relaxation lowers cortisol and triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, a cue for our fight-or-flight response to calm down as if soothing a flighty horse. That floating on air feeling. Now the trick is to be able to imprint this feeling into your daily responses and come back to it when you’re in times of stress. That’s where a mindful breathing tool comes into play. Breathe in deeply for 5, out slowly for 6. Picture your mental space when you’ve had a nourishing treatment like a massage or facial. Aahhh.
Massage boosts immunity
Getting a massage not only helps us relax, but also gives our immune and endocrine system a boost. Receiving a 45-minute massage has been found to increase the number of lymphocytes, white blood cells that help defend the body from disease. It can also result in lower levels of cytokines, molecules that play a role in inflammation, and a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol.
Sleep, ahh, sleep. A crappy night’s sleep can be but a distant memory in your soul, with massage therapy. Several studies have found that getting a massage can reduce fatigue and improve sleep – not just for adults but babies too. Lots of studies suggest that massages increase delta waves, brain waves connected to deep sleep, which would explain why it’s common to drift off on a massage table and wake yourself up with a snort (hey, I’m sure all masseures/masseuses are used to that…).
Humans desire touch, it’s a fundamental need. A massage is one of the most simple and effective ways to feel a sense of intimacy and human connection, especially if you’re single or going through any mental health turbulence.