Stay Stress Free and Healthy During the Holidays
By Michelle Phillips
The benefits of massage are proven to decrease stress, strengthen the immune system, increase circulation, reduce blood pressure and promote deeper and easier breathing among other things. Managing stress and staying healthy over the holidays can be difficult at times. Regular massage lowers stress levels significantly by decreasing the stress hormones and increasing the happy hormones—Oxytocin, Serotonin, Endorphins.
Oxytocin is the opposite of stress hormones. It makes you feel calm, relaxed, content and affectionate. The chemical can be released by touch such as giving or receiving a massage or even a hug. Eating chocolate elevates dopamine in the brain, thereby stimulating the production of oxytocin.
Serotonin is increased during massage and maintains the “happy feeling” post massage. Its effects are similar to morphine but are more powerful. It naturally lowers depression, improves sleep and calms anxiety. Tryptophan is the only substance that can be converted into serotonin. Tryptophan is commonly found in foods such as turkey, tofu, English walnuts, roasted pumpkin seeds, gluten flour and warm milk. An increase in tryptophan equals an increase in serotonin. Food cravings can be derived from low serotonin levels.
Endorphins reduce the perception of pain in the body and are released during and post massage. They are known to have a euphoric effect and promote an overall sense of well-being. Chocolate is the most popular food item that releases endorphins. Capsaicin (the ingredient that makes peppers spicy hot) is also known to release endorphins.
Slow deep breathing calms the nervous system by sending a message to the floor of the brain. It gives the “ok” for the body to relax thereby releasing stress. Breathe in through your nose deeply to fill your abdomen with air for 4 seconds. Exhale slowly through your mouth for 8 seconds. Maintain this rhythm while allowing your feet to relax, your lower legs, and then continue up your body until you reach the very top center of your head. Focus on each muscle group to release. The deep breathing oxygenates the blood and allows the body to detoxify more efficiently.
This season enjoy turkey, chocolates and spicy foods! Remember the healing power of touch and its long lasting effects on the body. Take a few moments a day to breathe a little deeper. Happy Holidays to all!