In the eighties we had Men Are from Mars, Women are From Venus, and right after the ’90s ended came Dr. Phil. Now we’re well into the new milliennium, and more people are tuning in to the fact that communication and relationships will never be perfect, and “talking it out” doesn’t necessarily make things better.
According to a study published by the American Psychology Association, “relationships” account for 58% of overall sources of stress. As a result of feeling stressed (due to relationships and other factors entirely), the following symptoms were reported:
irritability or anger (42 percent); fatigue (37 percent); lack of interest, motivation or energy (35 percent); headaches (32 percent); and upset stomachs (24 percent), change in appetite (17 percent), and sex drive (11 percent).
Regardless of the actual source of our personal stress, it can’t be denied that “stress,” or tension, is contagious. The way we feel inside affects the way we communicate both verbally and nonverbally, and this impacts the people around us.
Think about it: if you come home from work with a tension headache and your husband leans in to kiss you hello, perhaps he sees your furrowed brow and mistakenly thinks you are irritable over seeing him. So he too, immediately tenses up, your loving exchange goes sour, and then in your head you think “Wow, why is he making that face at me?” Before you know it, this awkward interaction segues into an argument over who is cooking dinner, and then your kids walk in and hear the bickering which in turn rubs them the wrong way and now everyone is feeling stressed and lousy.
One way to cope with stress in relationships is to stop trying to determine the origin of it, and instead focus on eliminating the stress itself. Stress is tension. What is tension? Energy. An accumulation of energy – negative energy that has built up which requires release. You can release your own bad energy by screaming at your partner, but all this really does it direct the bad energy at him or her. Now they, too, are carrying around negative feelings, or tension. Where does the tension go next? Some of it, they may “pass on” to other people via body language, tone, and verbal communication. But the rest of it just accumulates in their muscles – internalizing bad energy, bad feelings. It’s this “bad tension” that, over the course of our lives, actually contributes to chronic illness!
So, we may now conclude that bad communication in relationships can actually make us sick. But what to do about it? If you’re tired of overanalyzing nonsensical conversations and nonverbal exchanges with your loved ones, try this instead: stop talking and start massaging.
A few facts about massage:
Muscle tension is a condition where one or more muscles contracts but then does not release. This can be caused by overuse of said muscle, but it can also be a direct result of stress. (Source: https://life.gaiam.com/article/how-relieve-muscle-tension)
Massage therapy is a 4,000 year old technique that employs rubbing of the muscles of the body to alleviate tension that has built up. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Studies of the benefits of massage demonstrate that it is an effective treatment for reducing stress, pain and muscle tension.”
Anyone who has ever had a professional massage probably does not require statistics to validate that it completely does relieve tense muscles, and why it’s totally worth getting one by someone who knows what they’re doing. So the next time you walk in the door and see your partner frowning or looking stressed out, don’t jump all over them about it.
Instead, acknowledge that both they and you are likely feeling pretty tense over various life-struggles that you endure on a daily basis. Then, make it a priority, today and for every day hereafter, in both of your lives to eliminate the tension that is wreaking havoc on your bodies and spoiling your connection with each other.
Schedule an appointment for some couples massage by a qualified massage therapy professional. Or, if you’re already familiar with how to give a massage, pencil them in for a 30-minute massage session in the comfort of your own home. Then, if there’s still time, have them reciprocate.
Benefits of massage:
- Massage relaxes muscles and relieves chronic pain, including headaches, neck pain, back aches and other muscle aches throughout the body.
- Regular massage prevents pain by keeping the muscles relaxed.
- Massage helps the body enter into “rest and recovery” mode.
- Massage significantly lowers heart rate, cortisol and insulin levels.
- Massage improves circulation by stimulating blood flow through congested areas. Improved circulation helps to improve body function.
- Massage helps to lower blood pressure and improve efficiency of the lungs. Breathing easier contributes to overall relaxation.
- Massage boosts the body’s immune function, and speeds healing by increasing the amount of oxygen to tissues and vital organs.
If you’re really unfamiliar with massage, then begin your foray into this wonderful experience by going to a massage therapist. You will learn some good techniques that you can later share with your partner. Or, the two of you can go together for a couples massage.
A few tips for how to give/get a wonderful, healing massage to your husband, wife or partner:
Get a book on massage. There are so many different techniques to try. Keep the book by your bedside, and read up every now and again so that you can later practice your new tricks on your partner.
Don’t feel like you have to carry on a conversation during the massage. Talking takes work, and can actually cause tension – and this is supposed to be relaxing. So let your mind settle, and your muscles will follow.
Limit sensory distractions. Dim the lights. Shut off the TV. Remove bulky clothing that will get in the way. Keep the room at a comfortable temperature, not too warm or cool. Some soft music can be enjoyable during the massage, but not necessary.
Be reasonably clean before accepting a massage. I say this because, if you’re feeling not so confident about your hygiene, this will distract you and prevent you from fully relaxing during the massage. Also, the person who is administering the massage may not enjoy your body odor if that is a problem for you.
Incorporate oil. You only need a tiny bit, to help your fingers and hands slide easily over their weary muscles. Actually, if the massagee has showered that day but not directly prior to the massage, this will improve things. The skin’s natural oils provide a slightly slick surface on which to rub away muscle aches.
If you’re the massager, focus on keeping your breathing steady and quiet. Inhale and exhale with long, deep, slow breaths. Avoid sounding like Darth Vader if you can. The person getting the massage will likely match their breathing to yours once they begin to relax.
Don’t just massage with your hands – get your whole body into it. You might think of massage as an opportunity to do yoga while simultaneously helping your partner relax. This may sound a little out there, but trust me if you stretch your own muscles while rubbing theirs, the two of you will feel more relaxed together. This will greatly enhance the massage. Be uninhibited during the massage… feel free to do “downward facing dog,” “plank pose” “cat/cow” etc. over them during your session.
Incorporate some visualizations as you massage. Energy flows from our hands and feet… so it makes sense that we’d be able to help heal someone else’s pain simply by touching them. Use your mind to increase the healing power of your own two hands – imagine healing energy flowing from you to them, and use your breathing to channel the energy. Close your eyes. If you let it, this can become a very nurturing and empowering experience for the both of you.
Afterward, be sure that the recipient of the massage drinks several glasses of water. If you incorporated yoga stretches as the giver, then you should drink some water as well. This is very important, as toxins are released into the bloodstream during massage (also yoga), and they must be flushed out of the body by way of the kidneys.
When you’re done, you will both probably feel pretty great – the receiver AND the giver included. Whether the massage leads to other, more intimate activity is up to you… if yes, go for it and if not, that’s okay, too. Whatever you do for the rest of the day will surely be excellent. Notice your new, peaceful state of mind, loving feelings that surge from your heart, and the kind smile playing about your lips. Doesn’t it feel amazing to be really, fully relaxed?
Massage is wonderful because it helps us remember how to love and care for each other in a very real and tangible way. Do you use massage to enhance your marriage or partnership? Talk to us on Facebook.
IMPORTANT: Massage may aggravate some medical conditions, and can be risky for those taking blood thinning medications. If you are “high risk,” please discuss with your doctor before proceeding.
Disclaimer: The information presented on this website is by no means intended as medical advice. If you are experiencing health problems or physical discomfort of any kind, please consult with your physician.