Mental Health, Loneliness and Medical Massage in New York
Jess Loewer, LMT at Bodyworks DW, addresses how medical massage in New York can help with your mental health and loneliness. Read below for more information!
We live in a fast paced, grind, hustle, burn the midnight oil from both ends of the candle kind of city. We make our bodies go until they can’t, and then we limp through mile markers. Then we bad-mouth our bodies for not being able to handle the life-long marathon we thought we were winning. Most of us don’t even think about the impact this has on our mental health unless things start to feel really bad.
Because it’s the cultural norm, it can be hard to identify when we’ve gone too far, until loneliness and burnout make regular appearances. While we might have company in this misery, I’m happy to reveal the not-so-secret news that there are tools at our disposal to achieve better mental health and self-value. In plain English, you can feel better than you do, without a lot of effort!
Caring for our Mental Health is Physical Health is Mental Health
I’d like to build a case around our mental wellness being physical. If you run a quick search on mental and physical health, you’ll find many ways they’re linked, or that they affect one another. For one example, we now know that the body’s lymphatic system exists within the brain - linking our immune system health directly to our brain health.
Our immune system (ie our body’s waste filtration system) was not thought to cross over the blood/brain barrier before this study’s findings.
We already know that the nutritional content (or lack thereof) of whatever we digest makes its way to our small intestine. This is where we absorb what’s useful into our bloodstream. Our circulatory system transports those nutrients where we need them and deposits plasma, lipids, and debris into our lymphatic system.
Sometimes our digestive system can’t completely eliminate harmful things and they make their way to our bloodstream. Our lymphocytes (white blood cells) kill what we don’t need. The leftover waste is passed back to our bloodstream to be filtered out and eliminated.
A Case for Diet Affecting Mental Health
What this means is that our diet physically affects our brain function on a cellular, nutrient-exchange level. This also might mean that healthy lymphatic drainage (achieved primarily by exercise and movement but also massage and skin brushing) may have real impacts on our mental wellbeing!
This is a big deal. How our brains function on a cellular level is physiological, not just mental. And it is inseparable from the rest of our body’s systems. Our thoughts are affected what we eat, who we spend time with, and how our bodies are moving. And not simply by how well we process our emotions past and present.
Our Bodies Store Our Emotional Memory of Stress Responses and Traumas
How? We’re still getting a better understanding of this process through research and integrative, functional medicine. So far, a lot has been done in the fields of neuroscience, biology, and psychosomatics.
Here’s what we know: When our bodies have a stress response, our endocrine system jumps to sympathetic nervous system mode (freeze, flight or fight). We start pumping stress hormones (mainly adrenaline and cortisol) into the bloodstream. These hit our muscles fast for the purpose of hiding, running away, or fighting.
In the way our bodies were designed to survive, your boss yelling at you would elicit three potential responses: hiding in the corner, running out of the meeting, or punching them in the face. None of these are an option in modern day society, right?!
Our Modern Restraint Takes a Physical Toll
What happens when we don’t let our bodies use that burst of power to get out of the confronting situation? What happens when the stress trigger doesn’t stop? While our adrenal glands stop pumping eventually, those hormones wind up in our muscles. Since you can’t run or fight at the office, your body chooses the “freeze” response (you know how a cockroach just freezes there on the wall…). If you continually engage in a freeze response your muscles and fascia will get stiffer and stiffer.
If the muscles are not restored to resting length, they’ll remember that contracted state as your “new normal.” This is where medical massage therapy can help with not just muscles but also mental health. There’s often an emotional origin to our trigger points, fascial restrictions, and movement patterns. Acknowledging that can help us resolve problematic patterns faster, for true healing and better body mechanics.
So let’s talk about the power of touch!
Our bodies respond with more than just stress responses to keep us safe. We also have restorative hormones produced when we rest and when we’re touched in a compassionate way. Massage increases oxytocin and reduces adrenocorticotropin hormone in humans. It also decreases cortisol production and increases serotonin and dopamine. While we’re not positive how long that increase lasts, simply getting that physiological change is vital. Medical massage tells our brain it’s both possible and repeatable to relax and be at peace. What the mind can conceive the body can achieve 🙂
What about loneliness? Self care and mental health is really much more nuanced than body chemistry before and after shots can show. Right? It is so much more personal. And generally socially inappropriate to talk about in our culture. Unless we find avenues to communicate our feelings safely, we tend to keep things to ourselves.
It isn’t news to try our hardest to limit chronic stressors, yet here we are...
We may have heard this over and over as general doctor’s advice: keep your stress low! However, we rarely hear about how physical a stress response is. And we rarely hear about what the physiological consequences of chronic stress are. There’s something about New York City that makes us a special breed of compromise-makers.
We compromise our health for our career or lifestyle so easily. We really blast past the health advice. We roll our eyes and put ourselves into adrenal fatigue easily. And call it normal because there’s pride in a NY hustle! And then add in more exercise as if that’s going to counteract all the stress. Or take away things and go on a juice cleanse. Sadly, while these measures can help, they are helping in much smaller amounts than we hope for.
In the tug of war between the stress and the healthy things we do, team “stress” is like an Australian Rugby team and team “health” is like a kindergarten class at nap time.
So what are the actionable steps you can take towards a solid mental health?
1) Behold, my mental wellness toolkit (not an exhaustive list)
- Improve your Sleep Hygiene
- No blue light 2 hours before bed. And add glasses that filter it while you’re at it https://shopfelixgray.com/
- Go to bed at the same time each night
- Make your bedroom a dark cool room
- Do some pre-bed stretches and breathing exercises
- Try journaling
- Eliminate emf emitting devices near your head https://www.safesleevecases.com/
- Diffuse some relaxing essential oils such as lavender or vetiver
2) Practice healthier eating and hydrating
- Has it been a while since you’ve had dark leafy greens? Get ‘em.
- Had too much caffeine & traveled this weekend? Drink up on water!
- Snacking while stressed? Try some healthier snacks such as nuts and fruits
3) Schedule Time With Uplifting People
- You are the five people you spend the most time with...are those people restoring your or stressing you out?
- Prioritize people that build you up.
- Bonus if you get to work alongside these people. (If not, can you find the folks at your office that seem to radiate relaxation? Go have coffee with them!)
4) Joyful Exercise
- If you don’t have an exercise routine, try something low key but invigorating like the NYT 7 minute workout
- If you do exercise but aren’t really loving what you are up to anymore, try something new that also engages your learning brain (martial arts, circus arts, ballroom dancing, the Ido Portal method, etc.)
- Small additions really matter such as just taking the stairs a few times a week rather than the elevator
- If you’re not enjoying what your body can do for you, welcome to 2019, where we can make new rules for our workouts 🙂
5) Add in some simple Meditation and mindfulness, play and creativity
- Walking Meditation https://www.lionsroar.com/how-to-meditate-thich-nhat-hanh-on-walking-meditation/
- Climb a tree
- Paint abstract art
- Sing karaoke
- Remember what you thought was so cool as a child and allow yourself the joy of returning to it!
6) Get out and spend some time in nature! (Nature deficit disorder can be a real thing here in the city!)
7) For those of you as bookish as I am, if you haven’t read Dr John Sarno’s books or The Body Keeps The Score. Pick them up!
8) Massage Therapy!
How Medical Massage in New York Can Make a Big Impact on Your Mental Health
Are you trying to maintain healthy mental wellbeing and/or in a lonely season of your life? I encourage you to make massage a dependable part of your life. It is more versatile medicine than you might have ever known. I have seen truly empowering results with our clients when we acknowledge the other parts of their life that impact their physical wellbeing.
The emotional support and understanding of having a medical massage session dedicated entirely to your wellbeing can have a huge impact. And it is often enough to get our systems to chill out and relearn how to relax. Having time to be present with your body instead of dissociating is a powerful thing, my friend 🙂
I’m human too. Even though I live and breathe massage and self care, life has a way of shaking us up every so often to see where our values lie. I have to keep committing to my own mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health, right alongside you.
And I can say without a doubt that we at Bodyworks DW are all here to support you to set and meet your physical and mental health goals. And to take glorious steps to living the life you choose. Our team’s therapeutic focus means we treat the whole person not just a torn shoulder and or an aching back (though we excel at treating those!).
We offer medical massage in Midtown and the Financial District in New York City.
If you are are working on your mental health, medical massage can help you experience what your body could feel like to truly rest.
If you would like to schedule a fantastic medical massage and experience the benefits above, please contact Bodyworks DW today or click on the button to book online at our medical massage midtown or massage therapy fidi studios!
See you on the table, Jess