Should I see my therapist or just get a massage? I often find myself asking this question. By therapy, I mean mental therapy, a place where I can get comfy on a couch and talk my troubles away to a professional who will help me handle my stressful life. By massage I mean going to a spa where a professional massage therapist will rub me down, paying special attention to those places in my body where mental stress has turned into physical pain. For me this is usually my shoulders and back.
I am not a doctor, and I don’t propose to give advice on whether to do one or the other. If you suffer from a chemical imbalance in the brain, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or some other serious illness or disorder, you should be treated by a psychiatrist. I am only talking of the stressful lives we lead, of the pains we suffer from sitting at the computer 24/7 or driving the kids around town all day, or any other type of activity that tenses our brains and bodies.
And I say this because I only discovered massages recently. My wife suggested I go get a massage after suffering terrible pain on my shoulder for over a week. The pain came from working at the computer, sleeping on the same side, and whatever added stress was beating down on me like a big iron hammer. When I came out of the massage, I was a new man. My shoulder was fine. But best of all, the stress was gone.
Now, I am not saying this will work for everyone, but I’ve been focusing on new ways to treat myself with meditation and massage instead of going to a therapist. But please understand that I am not harping on therapists. I think they’re great. I worked with a therapist when my son was a toddler and was having trouble at school. I thought the therapist did an excellent job diagnosing him and helping him and myself understand what was going on and how to adjust our lives to fix the problem. And for many people who live stressful lives, having a professional with whom they can talk things through is the likely the best solution.
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Life ain’t easy. Most of us live under constant stress. We all need occasional relief. A massage is a great way to treat that stress. The physical work a massage does on the body helps untie the knots in our muscles and loosen the tightening we’ve caused on ourselves.
But there is also a great calming atmosphere in the spa. The aroma of the oils, the relaxing music. It’s an entire experience that helps us lose ourselves, even if only for an hour. Sometimes, I supplement my massage with my own slow breathing, very much like yoga. I envision my breath coming in and out of my body. I concentrate on the flow of air, on my body movements. I lay quietly like that for a while. Sometimes I get so relaxed, I fall asleep. Sometimes I get ideas. I remember things that might lead me to become stressed again, but I recognize this and go back to the focus point: my breath.
A decent regiment of exercise at least three days a week, and half an hour of meditation every night can turn you into a happier person. Your stress levels will drop. And if you still feel tense, get a massage. This works wonders for me.
But on the other hand, if I’m having serious troubles like I once had in my previous marriage, or if I feel seriously depressed I seek out a therapist.
I think it’s important to take care of ourselves and be in tune with our bodies. We’ve become a society loaded down with too much information and constantly engaged in activities. We need to learn to disconnect.
No, it’s not easy. But a massage every now and then can force us slow down, breathe easier and be happier on a regular basis. It shouldn’t be a regimen, something we do on a daily or weekly or monthly basis. But it should be part of our own process of release—like a vacation. It certainly is not be a substitute for serious issues like depression. What is ultimately important is to be in tune with our bodies and our brains so we can recognize what is going on inside us and seek the proper treatment. Sometimes stress can make us feel ill. Sometimes, an illness can stress us out to the breaking point. Clear your mind and look inside yourself. I am sure your body, and your mind, is telling you what you need to do in order to feel better.