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Beat economy-induced stress with massage therapists' secrets

(ARA) – Your shoulders are tight, your head throbs, your heart pounds and you don’t recall the last night you slept peacefully. Whether it’s because your 401(k) statement just arrived or you’re dreading the up-coming holiday shopping season, you – like millions of other Americans these days – are probably feeling economy-induced stress.

Whatever its source, prolonged stress can have serious health consequences – a well-known fact that may contribute to Americans’ willingness to spend money on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), like massage therapy. In 2007, Americans spent $33.9 billion on CAM, according to a study by the National Center for Health Statistics. And that was at least a year before most of us realized just how bad the economy had become.

“Even during these tough economic times, massage is thriving because more and more it is seen as a cost-effective way to influence your overall health,” says Grant Lessard, director of education for Cortiva Institute in Scottsdale. “For some who have had to make other sacrifices, massage is seen as an inexpensive substitute for more costly stress relievers such as vacations or extended time off from work.”

“Not enough has been written about the benefits of laying down and doing nothing for an hour in the day,” says Lisa Santoro, an instructor at Cortiva Institute - Boston. “Having someone work lotion or oil into the largest organ of the body, the skin, while relieving muscle tension at the same time, is an added bonus to just laying down.”

The professionals of Cortiva Institute, a network of massage therapy schools across the country, offer some helpful hints for easing your economy-induced stress:

Start with your eyes

“Many people are on computers during the day, whether for doing a job or trying to find a job,” Santoro says. “The eyes endure a lot of stress from staying focused on such a small area (the computer screen) for long periods of time.”

Santoro recommends giving your eyes a two-minute break every few hours. “Place your palms over your eyes to block out all light. If possible, lean back so the eyes can sink into the socket, which can be even more restful,” she says. “Do this for two minutes, breathing deeply. Just this simple two-minute rest can do wonders for increasing comfort and decreasing stress on the eyes.”

A getaway without going away

“Massage provides a positive and relaxing sensory experience,” says William Ensminger, co-director of the student clinic at Cortiva Institute - Pennsylvania School of Muscle Therapy.  “The rest of the world goes away and you get a mini vacation.”

“Massage therapy has been found to elicit an energy-conserving state and decrease the levels of pain and stress chemicals in the body, as well as decrease blood pressure,” says Deanna Sylvester, education director at Cortiva Institute - Tucson. “Your time with a massage therapist feels good because you are slowing down, and you continue to feel good afterward because of the physiological changes that occur due to the treatment.”

Make time in your day

Don’t have time or resources to get a massage? “Take a few deep breaths, grab your foot and start to massage,” Ensminger suggests. “Your feet take a beating. Give them a treat and pamper them yourself. Feet don’t care who massages them, and you will reap the rewards.”

If you’re at work and massaging your feet isn’t an option, you can relax by massaging your hands for a few minutes, he adds. “Concentrate on slow, deep breaths. Massage the whole hand – the palm, the fingers and thumb, even between the fingers.”

A professional massage might be more affordable than you think, and there are good reasons to invest in one. “Allowing yourself to get a massage regularly is not only physically and mentally beneficial, it will give you something to look forward to and motivation for completing whatever tasks daunt you,” says Kathy Lee, graduate resources coordinator of Cortiva Institute - Tucson.

To find an affordable massage therapist, check with massage schools in your area to find out if they offer a student clinic, Ensminger suggests. “It’s a great way to try different therapies and therapists to see what style you like best. You can also check with your chiropractor’s office. Many now have a massage therapist on staff.”

Another way massage can help you relieve economy-induced stress is by providing a challenging, meaningful and financially rewarding career, the Cortiva staff agree. If you’re out of work or just looking for a career change, you can achieve a professional credential and be prepared for a job in massage  with as little as six months of training.

“Many people have taken mandatory salary cuts, and massage can be a versatile alternative to make up the difference in income,” says Jeff Mann, president of Cortiva Institute - Pennsylvania School of Muscle Therapy.  “They can ease their stress because massage therapy can provide the flexibility they need with a minimal investment. It works as a full-time or part-time career option.”

“Massage is a career that fits around your life, versus life fitting around your career,” Santoro says. “It is very flexible, every day is different, every person is different.”

To learn more about a career in massage therapy, visit

Courtesy of ARAcontent


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