To fully nourish our mind and body it is important to ensure that we invest quality time in ourselves. During periods of stress or heightened anxiety, making time to relax and unwind is important but it can sometimes be a challenge to achieve. Holistic therapies are a useful way of making time for you. Reserving a section of the day where you can fully focus on yourself, shutting the door physically and mentally on the rest of the world and taking that time and space to relax.
Various studies have also shown that massage and other holistic therapies help us to feel good and relax. In a hospice setting, levels of anxiety and stress can be particularly high. Holistic therapies are often on hand for patients and their families to book. One study into slow stroke massage (relaxation massage) found a decrease in heart rate in the hospice patients and an increase in their general levels of comfort1 after their massage.
Additionally, a study into the relaxation effects of ‘coffee breaks’ of bedside nurses showed that stress perception of a group who received a 10 minute massage was reduced whilst those who had their normal coffee break displayed no changes to their perception of stress2.
Another fascinating study monitored the response to regular massage given to children with asthma by their parents. Before bed they’d receive a 20 minute massage, the results showed a decrease in general feelings of anxiety as well as a reduction in cortisol levels (a hormone associated with stress)3. Similarly, where parents massaged children with atopic dermatitis on a daily basis, the results were improvements in the dermatitis with a decrease in anxiety4.
Further to this, a study of breast cancer patients receiving massage measured their dopamine and serotonin (mood-enhancing hormones) levels immediately after massage. The results were that the mood-enhancing hormones increased whilst ‘stress-related’ hormones decreased. Interestingly there was also a higher lymphocyte count (white blood cells part of our immune system) in patients.
In light of these studies, it’s unsurprising that clients have reported some of the following benefits after massage: generally feeling wonderful, a sense of calm, feeling more open and light in their body and getting a good night’s rest.
1. Meek, S. S. (1993), Effects of Slow Stroke Back Massage on Relaxation in Hospice Clients. The Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 25: 17–22.
2. Brennan, M.K. & DeBate, R. (2004).The effect of chair massage on stress perception of hospital bedside nurses. Massage Therapy Journal 43, (1), 76-86.
3. Field, T., et al., (1998), Children with asthma have improved pulmonary functions after massage therapy. The Journal of Pediatrics 132, (5), 854-858.
4. Schachner, L., et al., (2008), Atopic Dermatitis Symptoms Decreased in Children Following Massage Therapy. Pediatric Dermatology, 15, (5), 390–395.
5. Hernandez-Reil, M., et al., (2004), Breast cancer patients have improved immune and neuroendocrine functions following massage therapy. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 57, (1), 45-52.