All the physiological changes that happen in your body with this response occur for one reason only: To prepare your body for physical action. Your muscles tense in preparation for activity. Your heart rate and blood pressure increase to get blood to your muscles. To deliver oxygen to your muscles, your breath becomes quick and shallow. Your digestive and reproductive systems shut down to conserve energy. Hormones are released to keep you awake and alert. Fats and sugars are released into your bloodstream for energy.
Dr Herbert Benson, Harvard Medical School
Your body and mind can’t slow down and unwind. Over time, you become caught in a self-perpetuating cycle of stress in which you become less and less able to relax. Tension turns into chronic headaches, or perhaps neck, shoulder and back pain. You may not be able to sleep well. You never seem to feel rested. You constantly feel tired and have little energy to deal with problems effectively. You may also find that your threshold for handling stress is reduced. It becomes increasingly difficult to cope with even small stresses. Even taking time for recreational activities can seem burdensome.
As the massage progresses and the relaxation response kicks in you’ll find that your breathing deepens. Your heart rate and blood pressure decrease. Muscles start to relax as tension is gently kneaded out of your muscles. Painful sensations gradually subside. Your mind is also affected as you focus on the pleasant sensations and break the cycle of mental distress. Studies show that anxiety and depression decrease and your mood improves, possibly through the release of endorphins.
trying to cope with fast-paced lives. ”
The New York Times
Massage also makes you more aware of sensations in your body allowing you to notice more subtle signs of stress and tension. Heed these early warning signs and you can take control of your stress before it gets out of control.
To learn how to do this, place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen and follow the instructions that accompany the illustrations. You can do this either sitting or lying. Focus on the sensations you are feeling in your body as you breathe. Repeat this sequence six to eight times. If you start to feel light headed stop immediately. Practice this several times a day. If you do this exercise when you are relaxed, it will be much easier to perform when you are feeling stressed.