None of us are immune to stress and its toll. We all experience it. It can be so tightly wound into our DNA (under the guise of its wicked stepsister, anxiety) that at times, it even rears its ugly head when life is going smoothly.
Luckily, though, there are a variety of efficient ways to manage stress. Exercising, eating well and establishing personal and professional boundaries (aka learning that the word “no” is, in fact, a complete sentence) are all effective stress-reducers to some degree.
Still, there’s that stress lump in my neck. That feeling of not being able to shut my brain off. That inability to check out of life and experience a deep sense of calm.
I get massages because…
My health and well-being aren’t complete without them. I make sure my wife knows that for approximately one hour per month, I am checking out. All the way out. I am turning the cellphone off. All spilled milk can wait. I am going facedown. Not from too much wine. Not from stress. Quite the opposite: I am going facedown on the massage table with my face pulled taut inside that circular pillow. I am prepared to slobber with no remorse, out of pure relaxation. Massages reset my body just like that trick you do to your phone when it goes all wonky. You hold down the magic combo of buttons, and BOOM — the device runs like a charm again. Massages are just like that. They make me relax all the way to my core.
They make me feel lighter. And really, who doesn’t want to feel lighter? Studies have shown that there’s more than just a relaxation response during massage. There’s a mechanical one, too. A masseuse deliberately massages the body in such a way that blood is urged to circulate towards the heart. Soft tissue is manipulated as a catalyst for this physical response. As a result, I notice that my breathing naturally regulates when I’m on the massage table, much the same way that it might if I were about to drift off to sleep. Everything slows. Some psychologists say that the brain releases serotonin (one of the so-called happiness chemicals) in greater amounts during and after massage, and I believe them. I can say with absolute certainty that massage takes me to a happy place. The feeling lasts all the way home — where I sleep like a baby following every massage session.
It motivates me to inflict some pain on myself at the gym. I admit that working a monthly massage into the family budget can cause a bit of buyer’s remorse. That’s why I use exercise as a rationalization to get me to the massage table. I typically do a somewhat grueling workout before my massage appointment. It assuages my guilt, because I know that massage is extremely effective for muscle recovery. Let’s be honest: Anything that gets a parent to the gym and makes that parent relax and feel lighter against the load of life is a good thing. Massage makes me a better father and husband, and for that I am thankful. Now, excuse me while I go book my next appointment…