When you are faced with a stressful situation – whether it’s an immediate problem like an emergency or a long-term build-up of stress like trouble at work or tiredness – your body responds by secreting the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream, These hormones give us the famous ‘fight or flight’ response that is designed to allow our bodies to react to dangerous situations. When they are released, our muscles tense, ready to spring into action, and the heart and lungs work harder to pump oxygen to the arms and legs. Blood pressure, breathing and pulse cafe rise, and oxygenated blood is diverted away from the stomach (halting digestion and causing the ‘nervous’ sensation of butterflies), the skin (causing it to turn pate), the immune system and organs like the liver and kidneys.
Our bodies are designed to respond to stress – it is only when stressful situations become prolonged that the body starts to suffer damage. Being in a constant state of alertness raises blood pressure and heart mate, and can cause problems with skin, digestion, migraine, back pain and heart disease. Massage helps to combat the harmful effects of long-term stress because it allows the body to slow down and reduces the effects of the stress hormones. It slows breathing and relaxes muscles, which prevent more adrenaline and cortisol from being released into the bloodstream, and simultaneously stimulate the skin and major organs to boost circulation and lymphatic drainage around the whole body.