Massage reducing anxiety and improving alertness
There are now a number of research papers demonstrating the beneficial effects of massage therapy in relation to the physiological and psycho-logical aspects of stress (see ALTERNATIVES in healthTM Vol 1;2 and Vol 1:5) and the latest controlled study conducted at the Touch Research Institute, University of Miami School of Medicine, Florida, USA shows once again that massage therapy has an important role to play in the alleviation of stress and stress-induced illnesses.
In the study two times every week for five weeks, twenty-six adults were given a chair massage and twenty four adults were asked to relax in the massage chair for 15 minutes to be used as controls.
On the first and last days of the study all of the participants were monitored for EEG, before, during and after the sessions. In addition, before and after the sessions they performed math computations, they completed POMS Depression and State Anxiety Scales and they provided a saliva sample for cortisol.
At the beginning of the sessions they completed Life Events, Job Stress and Chronic POMS Depression Scales. The results revealed the following:
1. Frontal delta power increased for both groups, suggesting relaxation;
2. The massage group showed decreased frontal alpha and beta power (suggesting enhanced alertness); while the control group showed increased alpha and beta power;
3. The massage group showed in-creased speed and accuracy on math computations while the control group did not change;
4 Anxiety levels were lower following the massage but not the control sessions, although mood state was less depressed following both the massage and control sessions;
5. Salivary cortisol levels were lower following the massage but not the control sessions but only on the first day; and
6. At the end of the 5 week period, depression scores were lower for both groups but job stress score were lower only for the massage group.
This small-scale study suggests that massage therapy offers benefits in not just alleviating the physiological effects of anxiety, but also in improving mental alertness.
Field T; lronson G; Scafjdi F; Nawrocki T; Goncalves A; Burman I; Pickens J; Fox N; Schanberg 5; Kuhn C.Massage therapy reduces anxiety and enhances EEG pattern of alertness and math computations. mi Neurosci (ENGLAND) Sep 1996,86 (3-4) p197-205.
Posted in Lifestyle, Massage, Stress, Wellness
Tagged abstract, accuracy, alertness, anxiety, concentration, cortiso, Massage, relaxation, research
Seniors are a growing but invisible group in society. More often than not do they come to the point of moving into a home where they can be properly looked after. This is an intensely stressful event. Some people choose to move into a home of their choice at the time of their choice, but they are few. Most seniors slide into a solitary life in their own homes until they can’t manage it anymore and then are moved to a senior home. At this point they often become confused, scared, depressed and angry.
From these negative feelings arise many problems; circulatory, emotional, sleep-disorders, appetite and digestion. Sometimes seniors deteriorate very quickly in a home; the older we get, the more loath we become to leave our familiar – and therefor safe – surroundings and when this safety is taken away the world falls apart. When there is also mental confusion, a move at this time in life can become a huge trauma.
I have done some work in retirement homes using essential oils and the results are amazing! By using carefully blended oils in proper dosages a lot can be done. Together with massage they work wonders on stressed individuals. Massage can be as simple as stroking somebody’s hand, bringing peace to the person. There is no need for massage-training, all that is needed is care. Scents in diffusers also help with emotional balance and a stress-free environment. Anxiety, fear, stress, confusion, depression, anger….all schoolbook examples on areas where essential oils are helpful.
- Emotional disorders: Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia), Orange (Citrus sinensis), Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens), Frankincense (Boswellia carterii), Rosewood (Aniba rosaeodora), Petit grain (Citrus aurantium), Bergamott (Citrus bergamia), Ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata). When severe: Neroli (Citrus aurantium ssp. amara var pumilla), Rose (Rosa damascena), Melissa (Melissa officinalis). Massage, diffusion.
- Sleeping disorders: Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia), Bitter orange (Citrus aurantium), Ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata). Massage, diffusion.
- Stimulating appetite: Lemon (Citrus limon), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). Diffusion 20 min. before mealtimes.
- Mental stimulation: Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia), Lemon (Citrus limon), Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus), Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
Seniors are frail in many ways, not least physically. Always contact a professional aromatherapist before using essential oils.
Posted in Aromatherapy, Lifestyle, Massage, Stress
Tagged anxiety, appetite, bergamott, fear, frailty, geranium, lavender, lemon, Massage, melissa, mental stimulation, neroli, orange, peppermint, retirement home, rosemary, seniors, sleep, Stress, ylang-ylang
Massage therapy and stress and anxiety in children
A study conducted at University of Miami Medical School, Florida, USA, revealed that massage may offer considerable help for children suffering from stress-related disorders. A 30-minute back massage was given daily for a 5-day period to 52 children who were hospitalized as suffering from depression and adjustment disorders. Subjective assessments were made by the children themselves and by the nurses based upon perceived anxiety levels, sleep patterns and the willingness of the child to be co-operative. Objective analyses were also made by analysing stress hormone levels in the both the urine and saliva. The results were then compared to a control group who were shown relaxing videotapes for 30 minutes instead of massage therapy.
The results of the study revealed that the children receiving a 30 minute massage were less depressed or anxious and had lower saliva cortisol levels after the massage. In addition, nurses rated the massage group as being more co-operative on the last day of the study, and noted that the children were sleeping better than the children in the control group and that their night-time sleep had increased over the 5 day period. Massage therapy also had the effect of reducing urinary cortisol and norepinephrine levels in the children suffering from depression which was not observed in any of the children in the control group.
The researchers were left in no doubt that massage therapy offers real benefits for children suffering from stress and anxiety.
Field T; Morrow C; Valdeon C; Larson S; Kuhn C; Schanberg S. Massage reduces anxiety in child and adolescent psychiatric patients. Journal of the American Acadamy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry (UNITED STATES) Jan 1992, 31 (1) p125-31
To many people this time of year brings an all-time low. It gets colder and darker and our energy plummets. This is believed to occur because the hormone serotonin decreases when there is less light.
There are plenty of ways how to bring energy and joy back into life as the nights get longer (and actually start creeping into daytime…).
- Enjoy the season; This is a time to go indoors; light candles, buy flowers, make your home cozy; this is your space of retreat. Experience the bliss of sitting in the warmth of your home with lit candles, watching the cold darkness outside.
- Pamper yourself: Take warm baths, create a home-spa; rub, buff, peel and moisturize! Go for a massage.
- Un-clutter: Go through ”all that stuff”; pictures, books, papers, clothes. Use this indoor-time to clear your living-space and allow yourself the joy of uncluttered living. Believe it or not, but this is a great boost for serotonine-levels in the brain. Clutter creates stress.
- Meditation: Take time out each day for yourself, 10 minutes is enough. Light some candles, put on relaxing music, lie or sit comfortably, close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. Really bring the breath all the way down into your belly. Set a timer so you don’t have to worry about the timing. These minutes will feel longer than they are… Great energizer!
- Get outside EVERY day: Even for only a little while. Your system needs day-light and exercise in order to function. It doesn’t matter what the weather is like. Just get out there and walk or jump around for a while. It will boost your energy-levels and you will feel great! (then you can crawl onto your sofa with a steaming cup of tea and a good book, or movie…BLISS!)
- Herbal teas & natural remedies: St Johns wort, Lemonbalm, lavender… Stay clear of too much stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol and sugars.
- Aromatherapy: Of course. Essential oils are a great help to help with emotions and stress. They also work directly with the hormonal system. Use uplifting oils in a burner or on a tissue to inhale. Great scents for winter are: Citrus-oils (orange, mandarin, lemon, grape…), Lavender, Ylang-ylang, Geranium and/or whatever you prefer. Remember; essential oils are strongly concentrated and only a few drops are needed to have an effect.
- Thought-patterns: When you feel yourself thinking negatively, change your thoughts, think of uplifting things.
Remember: This doesn’t just happen by itself. You are responsible for your well-being. No matter how difficult or un-attractive it might seem to exercise, for example. Just do it and you will notice what an incredible change it makes!
In the times when people still lived in harmony with nature and seasonal changes, this was a time for togetherness and preparation for the hectic spring/summer season. Bedtime came earlier because of the dark.When we remember the rhythm of the seasons and allow ourselves to fit into this rhythm, we handle seasonal changes better. Once spring comes again there will be an explosion of action and energy…then we need to be rested.
For ideas on how to use essential oils, see earlier posts under the “aromatherapy” category.
Posted in Aromatherapy, Lifestyle, Personal development, Stress, Wellness
Tagged bath, candles, citrus, clutter, cold, darkness, day-light, energy, exercise, geranium, herbal teas, lavender, lemonbalm, Massage, meditation, positive, seasons, serotonin, St Johns wort, thought-patterns, winter blues, ylang-ylang
Over the years I have held training courses and workshops on aromatherapy for health-professionals. Mind you, this is not “true” aromatherapy which is individual-based, but the essential oils can be useful in many different areas such as stress-management, care for the elderly, hospice, handicap, physiotherapy and much more. I create safe blends to be used in different areas and I train existing health-care professionals in how, when and why to use them. Very often this small addition to already existing practices gives huge results.
Care of the elderly (usually in old people’s homes); EO-blends help with a wide array of problems; fear, insecurity, stress, circulatory problems and appetite.
Handicapped (also intellectual): Stress, fear, confusion, mood-swings and comfort. If the individual is in a wheel-chair EO-blends help with different physical problems such as head-aches, muscle-tension and circulation.
Massage-therapists: Gives an added touch to the massage.
Physiotherapists: Blends help with respiratory problems, circulation, muscles, emotion and rehabilitation.
Hospice: Smoothing the transition to accept the end of life and giving comfort to the individual. This work also includes those near and dear to the sufferer.
Another area where I work with EO-blends is for health-professionals themselves. People who are constantly working with others, especially in demanding situations such as with elderly, handicapped or the dying, are very often taxed both physically and emotionally. To be able to do this work they need to stay balanced and healthy and the best way is to make sure that they pay attention to their personal needs and learn to recognize signals of stress or exhaustion. We all need to learn to pay attention to ourselves and review our personal status every now and then, especially if we work with others or with people who are suffering in some way. The only way we can be truly “useful” to our fellow beings is by staying whole ourselves.
Posted in Aromatherapy, Massage, Stress, Wellness
Tagged balance, care, circulation, elderly, emotion, essential oil-blends, handicap, health-professionals, hospice, Massage, muscle, physiotherapy, Stress, touch
Fragrances have through time been associated with sensuality, love and passion. Humanity has forever looked for the scents which are aphrodisiac in nature, turning people’s heads, making them breathless with desire. Essential oils are amongst these scents; since ancient times have they been used to induce passion and love. Scents as widely removed as clover and rose are on this list.
When researching aphrodisiac scents I noticed that the idea of aphrodisiacs has changed through the times, depending on society and whims. At one time the strongest aphrodisiacs were thought to be musk and civet – taken from the sex-glands of the muskrat and civet-cat. These are strong pheromones that supposedly stimulate the vomeronasal organ, or VNO. Today it is known that this part of the olfactory system is used to “pick up” pheromones between individuals of the same species.
Over time the idea of aphrodisiacs has gone through most scents we know today, from grasses and spices, through woods and roots to flowers. (Though some flowers were always thought to be aphrodisiacs.) I think it also had something to do with the abundance of human smells in the earlier days. In a letter from Napoleon to Josephine he writes: ” I will be home in 3 months, don’t wash”. This gives an idea of the pheromone power!
I personally believe that sensuality is a combination of many things; pheromones – we enjoy the other person’s smell, food, relaxation, scent and, of course for women, monthly cycle. Body smell is made up of pheromones; as much as we enjoy the scent of our loved ones, as badly do we experience the smell of someone we don’t like. One of the first signs of “falling out of love” is when we no longer enjoy the other person’s smell.
(“Researchers have already shown that ‘man sweat’ can elicit some unusual physiological responses in some women: an increased heart rate, a better mood, and sexual arousal.” Read the article here)
Perfumes are designed to make people attractive to each-other. Male perfumes are usually the scents that mostly attract women and vice verse. Today there is a whole industry creating perfumes with pheromones (synthetic) to enhance the attraction of the other sex.
Here is a list over the most commonly used aphrodisiac essential oils, there are of course many more. Sniff around and go with your feelings. The best-known aphrodisiacs are often warming and bring you into contact with emotion and body. To access the emotional areas of the brain, true essential oils are needed, not synthetic scents.
Use them in the bath, as air-spray, massage-oil, perfume and/or room-scent. Spray them on your linen and on your hair. Use your imagination and have fun. Just remember dosages and possible sensitization. For best effect, use them sparsely – too much scent dulls the mind and can give head-aches instead. Be careful with floral oils if there is asthma or allergy.
Posted in Aromatherapy, perfume
Tagged aphrodisiac, bath, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, civet, clary sage, clove, essential oils, flowers, ginger, history, jasmine, Massage, musk, Napoleon, Oud, patchouli, perfume, pheromones, relaxation, rose, sandalwood, sensuality, sex, smell, vanilla, vomeronasal organ, ylang-ylang
I am working with a young woman who suffers from an invisible, high-level stress. Her stress comes from inside and even though she’s plenty busy, this is not the source of her problems. The first signs were head-aches that over time became both more frequent and painful. Then she became aggressive and worried. After 4 months she was seriously ill with constant migraine, nausea, constipation, mood-swings and night-mares. One day she fainted in the street and was brought to the hospital where she underwent all the tests in the book: Brain-scan, neurology-tests, blood-analysis – the works. Nothing could be found. The doctors diagnosed migraine and gave her different kinds of medication, constantly increasing the strength but nothing helped, the girl was seriously ill.
At this point enter the complementary forces:
After talks with her it is obvious that she has an enormous need of controlling her world, everything must be perfect – which is also mirrored in her appearance and surroundings. She helps her friends with everything she can and is always available when needed. The feeling I get is that her head is stuck in a labyrinth box. There is such tremendous mental pressure that it has turned into pain, she can find no clarity and when she tries to figure things out she gets confused. She is angry and negative towards her state and scared that it will not go away.
- Going over her diet and taking out all stimulants; sugar, tea, alcohol.
- Teaching her about mind-mapping (see an earlier post) and how to find clarity. At this point she gets angry and can not find any “clues” in her mind-mapping. I take her through a mind-game and she relaxes as an “inner door” opens. When she feels the results, she is pleased.
- Brain-movies: In a guided meditation I take her to a nice place which is her own and where she feels happy. This place is where she will go to heal. I make sure she remembers the path to this sacred place and tell her to do this every night until falling asleep there.
- Breathing exercises and how to control the mood-swings by recognizing signals.
- physiotherapy for the tension in head, back and stomach – 3 sessions in 2 weeks.
- Full-body massage once a week and home-massage of face and neck twice a day with essential oils.
- A small roll-on phial with pure essential oils to be carried in hand-bag and used at first sign of headaches; massage temples and nape of neck.
Posted in Aromatherapy, Personal development, Stress
Tagged breathing, diet, essential oils, eucalyptus, geranium, head-aches, healing, inner stress, lavender, mandarine, Massage, meditation, migraine, mind-map, nausea, pain, pepper-mint, roman chamomile, rosemary, sandalwood, ylang-ylang