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“It has been verified through scientific exploration that more than 80 percent of all diseases are due to stress and strain that originate in the mind and reflect on the body.”
We are experiencing more physical, chemical and emotional stress in our lives than ever before. But the good news is that even if you’re not aware of these stressors on your mind and body, there are numerous ways to mitigate their effects. But first, let’s take a second to define stress to learn how we can get rid of it.
“Everybody experiences stress,” says Sara Peckham, former long-time director of wellness at Judson and member of Judson’s board of directors. “It’s the body’s natural reaction to a stimulus or stressor that disturbs our physical or mental equilibrium. It’s also commonly known as our ‘fight or flight’ response.”
This response to life or death situations served us well in the evolutionary process, allowing us to adapt and survive in dangerous situations.
Here is your body’s physiological response to this type of stress:
You can see how these reactions can be beneficial in dangerous situations. Our body, in remarkable fashion, responds so that the necessary functions for immediate survival are enhanced. Pretty impressive, really. But once the dangerous situation subsided, our body was meant to return to homeostasis.
The problem we’re finding in today’s culture is that many of us have this “fight or flight” mechanism turned on continually throughout our lives, and in everyday situations that don’t warrant this level of response. Refer once again to the list above, and imagine those reactions being someone’s state of being.
Exposed to this type of stress continually over the course of our lives has a chronic effect and can lead to the sub-par performance and breakdown of various internal organs, all the way down to a cellular level.
Researchers have identified common health problems associated with chronic stress:
As you can see, these are issues that don’t affect only older adults, but the members of every generation.
And while we’ve previously offered a variety of avenues to stress prevention, what do we do if we’ve already experienced the negative effects of stress? How do we undo the damage stress has wreaked on our body?
A great place to start is massage therapy.
Beyond the obvious aesthetic benefits like relaxation, therapeutic massage has been shown to decrease stress in the body and lessen the negative effects of anxiety, depression and even digestive disorders.
The Mayo Clinic agrees: “Studies of the benefits of massage demonstrate that it is an effective treatment for reducing stress, pain and muscle tension.”
“The benefits of massage therapy are wide ranging,” says Anthony Lima, licensed massage therapist at Judson. “From increasing blood flow to the limbs to supporting the body’s immune and nervous systems, massage is a versatile therapy.”
Lima has specialized in geriatric massage for the past five years, and while the healing medium can serve all ages, he finds it especially helpful for older generations. From stroke recovery to improving balance, the benefits of massage therapy for seniors are seemingly boundless. But because our articles can’t be boundless, we’ve condensed the primary benefits into a very bounded list of ten.
Coupling massage therapy with other relaxing and preventative measures helps to enhance its positive effects. Activities like Tai Chi, craniosacral therapy and meditation can all help to decrease the negative effects of stress on the body.
Lima also works closely with occupational and physical therapists for many of his patients, further enhancing the benefits of this healing medium.
“Each time I apply pressure, I push all your blood through your heart so it’s filtered. It’s almost like getting an oil change,” he says, laughing.
At Judson, we offer massage therapy at all three of our retirement communities.