Tag Archives: relaxation

Massage reducing anxiety and improving alertness

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.


Massage therapy & stress and anxiety in children

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


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.

  • Jasmine (Jasminum officinale / J.grandiflora): Helps when there is tension or fear.
  • Rose (Rosa centifolia, R. damascena): Heady scent that helps open up the heart.
  • Ylang-Ylang (Cananga odorata var. genuina): Euphoric, releases tension and anger.
  • Sandalwood (Santalum album): Deeply relaxing and balsamic.
  • Cinnamon (cinnamomum zeylanicum): Warming and opening.
  • Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum): Exciting, releases tension
  • Ginger (Zingiber officinale): Hot, fiery, stimulating.
  • Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea): Very close to female hormone, deeply seductive.
  • Clove (Syzygium aromatica): Liberating, seductive. (might work best in a blend, since many associate it with the dentist!)
  • Black Pepper (Piper nigrum): Warming, fiery, movement.
  • Vanilla (Vanilla planifolia): Sensual, relaxing.
  • Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin): Playful, straightforward, fun. Used as a perfume by the hippie-generation.
  • Oud (Aquileria malaccensis): Use it straight up as a perfume, deeply sensual and sexy. Enhances floral notes.

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.


Plenty of people come to me for help with stress, expecting that a session or a workshop will make it all go away, which, of course, it doesn’t. Looking around I am not entirely surprised over this naivete, stress is on everybody’s lips and the definition of what stress actually is has been lost along the way. No matter where the stress comes from or what the stressors are, stress is always personal. Each and every person that comes to me with problems of stress are different; personalities, results of stress, what the stressors are etc. (An informational tid-bit: The word stressor (stress + or) was “created in 1955)

As I have said before, negative reactions to stress is a lifestyle problem. Knowledge and understanding is needed to isolate and understand the problem, and very often some important life-style changes are needed to heal. But this is individual so I won’t go into it here. If you have serious problems you should find a therapist or a coach to help you. For daily measures following advice makes a big difference; if you do this every hour it will take 5 minutes of your time and increase your effectiveness and well-being: But you need to remember to do it, nobody will do this for you…

  • Smile, even if it is fake. The mere muscular movement of pulling your mouth into a smile sends signals to the limbic system in the brain to secrete more “feel-good-hormones” and boosts your immune-system: Dr. Lee Berk and Dr. Stanley Tan at the Loma Linda University School of Medicine found that laughing also “lowers serum cortisol levels, increases the amount of activated T lymphocytes, increases the number and activity of natural immune system killer cells, and increases the number of T cells that have helper / suppresser receptors.”
  • Stretch; stand up and stretch your whole body, really feel how circulation increases in your muscles – like bubbly water, making them warm and free. Do this every hour and you will experience much less tension and aches.
  • Check your posture; how do you carry yourself? If you straighten up your body automatically sends signals to the brain, making you feel strong and positive. How to do it: Stand up with your knees slightly bent, arms by your side. Lift your chin and do forward shoulder-rolls, 3 times (really lift your shoulders up and around and release them to feel your arms growing longer), and then do backward shoulder-rolls 3 times. Now your chin should be lifted, your back straight, your arms are longer and your shoulders lowers. Your chest should be open and lifted. Do this exercise every hour and each time you think about it. You will find that it makes a huge difference to your energy-levels. Constantly check your posture in mirrors and shop-windows, correcting as needed.
  • Drink water: One 25cl glass each hour keeps you hydrated. You will have better energy, improved mood and no head-aches or heavy feeling. It helps flush out toxins in your body-system, keeping you healthy and balanced. Every cell in your body needs fresh water to function well. With every soda, coffee or alcohol intake, drink extra water to balance the dehydrating effects, and help the body to handle the toxins.
  • Breath; 3 deep breaths deep down in your stomach. Breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Keep it nice and slow, really filling up with fresh air and breathing out all staleness, exhaustion, irritation from your system. Do this every hour, every cell in your body needs oxygen, stress and sitting still deprives you of oxygen.
  • Thoughts; Pay attention to your thought-patterns. Every time you notice negative patterns, change them to the positive. Think of beautiful places, somebody you love, something that makes you happy.
  • Re-connect with yourself; Every hour take stock of how you feel; both physically and emotionally, and give your body what it needs; water, relaxation, movement, nutrition.
  • Cut out sugar; this is a tough one, I know, but sugars (especially fake sugars) are pure toxins to the body. It wreaks havoc with your hormone-systeme, digestion, mood… Eat fruit and nuts (unsalted, non-sweetened, non-roasted) if you need a quick fix. Your body and mind will thank you for this.
  • Stimulants; coffee, tea, alcohol, cigarettes; try to keep it to a minimum. Go for green tea or herbal teas (mint-tea is great for added energy) Check out all the natural teas in the health food store.

Once you start listening to your body and give it these hourly relief-moments you will also learn what you need. The greatest stressor is not paying attention to inner needs. Nutrition, sleep/relaxation and exercise are the 3 most important ingredients to staying healthy and combating stress. Learn about nutrition and proper eating because everything you put in your body will be used as fuel, so what you eat and drink really matters greatly to your health. Your body and mind are totally connected; all what you think/feel will be lodged in your body, and whatever is going on in your body will affect what you think/feel. Here is a small example; when you feel fear, you round your back, pull up your shoulders and cross your arms in front of you…feelings influence how you use your body.

Remember: All what you do or don’t do to yourself today will influence the quality of the rest of your life.


Fin Elsa ansikteMassage must be one of the most contraversial topics around; everybody seems to have some kind of thought or emotion about massage, be it positive or negative. A big part of my work is massage; not only doing it, but training others and spreading the knowledge about the benefits of using massage in many places, especially institutions.

Coming from Sweden I am used to massage being a household word. Massage is being used in most institutions and hospitals, it is part of the teacher-training today and every pre- and primary school has massage on the schedule. I have worked with old, sick, handicapped, mentally disabled, children, pregnant women, teenagers with abuse-problems…etc, etc…the list is endless. I have also worked with psychologists and psychotherapists with wonderful results.

Since coming to Luxembourg I am meeting with so much resistance which is surprising and shocking. Massage is accepted when it comes to anti-stress, beauty enhancement and relaxation – the idea of the Spa. But on all other levels – nil. My work here has become the introduction of massage as a normal part of society. I talk to schools, ministries, teachers, nurses etc. I have plenty of clients who come to me privately, and I go to nursing-homes to massage the ones who have family that hire me. The demand is great, so what is the problem? Why is it so difficult for society to accept the need?  Old ingrained programming of religion and sexuality? And still, massage is one of the oldest practices existing today.

Massage opens doors in us. Every individual will experience massage differently because it is an individual experience. Massage can be a relaxing and pleasurable experience and it can also be a concentrated effort to heal, it all depends on the situation. After the war in former Yugoslavia, massage-therapists and aromatherapists from all over the world worked in organized help-centers to help with the psychological effects of war-time. I trained some of them. Even if people are not physically harmed in the war, there is tremendous psychological and emotional trauma that is never adressed. Massage adresses these problems.


“Massage is the practice of soft tissue manipulation with physical, functional, and in some cases psychological purposes and goals.[1] The word comes from the French massage “friction of kneading”, or from Arabic massa meaning “to touch, feel or handle” or from Latin massa meaning “mass, dough”.[2][3] An older etymology may even have been the Hebrew me-sakj “to anoint with oil”. In distinction the ancient Greek word for massage was anatripsis,[4] and the Latin was frictio.” (Wikipedia)

Massage is a purposeful positive touch

Massagetherapists work with different forms of massage to help individuals:

  • Deep tissue massage for athletes and/or  muscular problems.
  • Soft relaxing massage for emotional reasons or for deep relaxation.
  • Localized massage for disabled persons or aged people to help with pain, stiffnes and circulation.
  • Peer massage for children and in schools to alleviate stress and create a harmonious connection between children; positive touch.
  • Baby massage to strengthen connection between parent/child, help with minor ailments and sleep. For premature babies to help them to strengthen.
  • Harmonizing and balancing massage for mentally handicapped persons.
  • Massaging animals (for all the above reasons)

Massage transgresses all barriers; language, religion, politics, race, colour…Nothing is needed for massage except hands and a good intent. And when trauma is deeper than words, touch will heal.

“The touch research institute” in Miami is dedicated to studying and researching the effects of massage since 1992. Below is their web-address, please have a look at the amazing work they have done.

“The power of touch cannot be underestimated,” says Tiffany Field, PhD, the director of the Touch Research Institute.


massage 2x åk 6

STRESS part 4

Peaceful skiesStress eats us alive and we don’t even notice it. Our warning-systems have been working overtime for so long, we don’t hear them anymore. A stressed animal tends to move continuously and endlessly in the same pattern without too much awareness of its surroundings. People find this horrible to watch; at the zoo for example. Little do we realize that we react much in the same way.

The pattern needs to be broken, and I will present you with some fast, easy and basic ways of doing this:

1) Movement

Do something nice; take a walk in the park or around the block, put on some music and dance. These activities create a positive hormonal reaction in the brain and you will feel that the air around you gets slightly less dense and the cobwebs in your brain lighten up a bit.
Keep it short and easy so it is do-able. You will find that this takes only a small portion of your time while releasing you from some of the stress.

2) Relaxation

Find a quiet spot where you can relax for a little while. Again; keep it short and easy.
Depending on where you are: Either lie or sit comfortably with your eyes closed. Concentrate on your breathing and feel it slowing down and deepening. You want to breath all the way down in your abdomen. If your thoughts start wandering, allow them, but don’t get caught up. Just watch the thoughts as though they are detached from you, like being at the movies. Or you could create beautiful and relaxing visualizations for yourself.
Set an alarm for 10 min so you can truly relax, knowing that there is a limit and you don’t need to check the time. Remember to also cover yourself with a blanket or put on a sweater since circulation slows in relaxation and you don’t want to feel cold.

3) Thought-patterns and emotion

First question: Is this really important right now? Can I do anything about this right now?
If the answer is no; let it go and concentrate on what is important here & now.

One of the strongest emotions that hits us in times of stress is anguish and fear. Usually these feelings are accompanied by thoughts of what should have been done, what has not been done, what can go wrong and why.
The only way to handle this is by reconstructing the thought-patterns as above. Classify the ifs and hows in order of importance, do some little thing that will make a difference right now and take a walk or relax.
I use the notion of “normalizing activities”: This is an activity that gives a sense of achievement without creating stress = de-stressing. (One of the most important “healers” when stressed is the feeling of achievement; a job well done. This will immediately lower the pressure in our system, creating the positive hormonal reaction in the brain.)
Normalizing activities can be: Cooking, sewing, ironing, gardening, cleaning, sorting…anything that is done with ease and gives a sense of accomplishment. Don’t choose something you hate, but you do not need to love it either.

What I call positive hormonal reaction in the brain is a kind of reward-system; relaxation and peace. Amongst these hormones are: serotonine, endorphine, oxytocine.

On the “action”-side are adrenaline and cortisole amongst others. They are the “kickers” that make things happen. These chemicals need to be “used up” by movement. If not, they create an imbalance that we know as stress. Another way to disperse these chemicals are by massage.

Avicenna (Abu Ali Sina Balkhi 980-1037) was a Persan physician and philosopher. “The book of healing” and “The canon of medicine” were his best known written works. In “The canon of medicine” he writes:

“Massage is used to disperse matter that was not dispersed by movement.

He knew his business and nothing is new under the sun