Stress Management: A Massage Therapist’s Approach
By: Marcia Guy LMBT, CPT
Stress Management is Hard
It may come as no surprise, but even massage therapists struggle to manage stress. Despite working in dimly lit rooms with ambient music playing in the background we also get stressed from daily life. So how is it managed? How do I control stress levels so I can show up for my patients in a calm and supportive way? There’re two strategies that I fall back on regularly: nature hikes and meditation.
Nature and Its Lessons
I like getting out into nature because it seems to slow life down. Nature, especially trees, moves at a much different pace from our modern society. A tree can live many hundreds of years and here in our temperate forests they go through cycles of growing and shedding their leaves as the reach higher and higher toward the heavens above.
Many of us get depressed in the winter as the plants “die back” and everything loses its lovely green color. It’s important to remember the trees and even many of the smaller plants are not dead. They aren’t even asleep. They’re turning below ground and growing a rich root system so they can be even stronger when spring comes.
In this way, nature reminds us that even when we look like we aren’t making progress on the outside or to others, we can still be making active improvements on ourselves. And that’s a good thing.
Meditation for Stress Management
Meditation is actually a good example of this. Meditation is a method of practicing relaxation. This may sound a little ridiculous I understand. However, given how hard meditation can be for most people, I’d say it’s safe to assume most people could use a little relaxation practice.
Meditation can come in multiple forms, I like to predominantly do breath and body meditations. In breath meditations, you sit or lie comfortably and try to quite your mind. Then you focus on your breath. As you breathe in, feel the changes in your body, feel your chest and belly expand and the air pass through your nose. As you breathe out, follow through breath once again. If you have thoughts come up that’s okay, don’t judge them as either good or bad, just let go of them and try to continue with a quiet mind.
A body meditation is sometimes also called a “body scan” once again we sit or lie comfortably and try to quiet our mind. We start with the head, feeling for any traces of tension in the scalp and the face, and then release that tension. Really try and feel the area melt. You then continue this down the body one area at a time until you get all the way to the feet.
If you have a hard time letting go of the tension, try contracting each area for about 2-3 seconds and then try letting go. Sometimes actively connecting to the area via contraction makes it easier to then let go of the tension we had to begin with.
An Ounce of Prevention
These are just two methods I use to manage stress. There are certainly far more available to you. The key thing is to find a method that you enjoy and can stick withe. Unmanaged stress can prevent us from doing the daily maintenance that keeps us happy and healthy in the long run. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”
If you’d like to learn more, check out our post on Stress and Chronic Pain