An instructor of mine once said that our generation is far more stressed out than our parents, entirely because in today’s world we simply don’t let things go. We dwell on them, we hold on to things and never let them go. Whether it’s trying to decide on the color of fabric for our furniture or that driver that ran a stop sign in front of us, we simply don’t get over things.
A major part of that problem is the massive amount of stimulus around us at all times. We have immediate access to all information at all times on the television, the radio, internet and cell phones. Our lives are constantly plugged into the world and everything in it. And because of this, our nervous systems are stimulated and overstimulated.
This constant bombardment of information to our nervous system stimulates our sympathetic nervous system, also known as the fight or flight system. It’s what encourages the release of hormones that keep us on edge, ready to run at a seconds notice. It’s also the system that can prevent us from having a restful sleep at night, properly digest our food, and cause us to be anxious.
The balancing mechanism to this is the parasympathetic nervous system, also called the rest and digest system. As the name suggests, its what helps us calm down especially at night when we need to rest and to help us properly digest our food.
It isn’t a simple matter of living in balance between the two since the sympathetic nervous system will always be the more powerful of the two simply out of self-preservation. But, with a little help, we can make sure that we don’t exist entirely in a fight or flight state. Massage therapy is a wonderful way to calm down the system and ease the tensions of life as it stimulates the calming receptors of the muscles to decrease tone as well as help the body enter a relaxed state.
Massage therapy isn’t a miracle cure that will remove all stress from the body, but it is a powerful and accessible tool. Combined with other methods of relaxation such as meditation, yoga, or tai chi, it can break the cycle of anxiety that many of us live in and help us regain a little more inner peace.