If you have found yourself jittery, depressed, or anxious lately, you are hardly alone – Australia, along with most of the developed world has experienced an epidemic of stress in recent decades.

Stress levels are much higher than they were 25 years ago, a statistic that is reflected in skyrocketing use of antidepressants. While there are a number of contributing factors to this accelerated use of ‘goofballs’, higher stress levels are also definitely to blame.

The Down Side of Antidepressants

Antidepressants have become a substitute solution for people who are suffering from temporary unhappiness, rather than their original use for treating severe depression. In many cases, it is easier for the physician to simply write a prescription than to take time to help the patient overcome a transitory problem.

The new antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) were considered to have the advantage of being non-addictive, but sometimes serious problems have surfaced since use began.

  • Suicide.
  • Changes in weight.
  • Depression and/or anxiety.
  • Intestinal bleeding.
  • Permanent alteration in brain chemistry.
  • Elevation of cortisol levels in the body.

Some of the side effects of antidepressants are extremely serious, such as an increased risk of suicide. Another problem that has arisen is the fact that many people are unable to ever stop taking these drugs, even if they are causing problems – they alter the way the brain produces neurotransmitters, and as the change may be permanent, the patient will have to keep taking these medications to prevent serious withdrawal symptoms. In some cases, the SSRIs have taken over supplying neurotransmitters and there will be no other way for these to be produced as the brain has been permanently disabled from making them, and the person will have to stay on these drugs for the remainder of their life.

Health Problems Associated with Stress

Unrelieved stress can cause cortisol levels in the body to become elevated and to stay elevated. In normal circumstances, elevated cortisol, released by the adrenal glands, gives us a fast boost of mental and physical energy to get us out of tight spots. Avoiding an automobile accident or catching a child before they fall down the stairs are examples of how useful cortisol can be. After the incident is over, cortisol levels will return to a low level.

The problem arises when continual stress keeps cortisol ‘topped up’. Elevated levels of cortisol are associated with a number of serious health conditions:

  • High blood pressure.
  • More fat in the abdomen (increased risk of heart attack or stroke).
  • Compromised immune system.
  • Cognitive problems.
  • Insomnia.
  • Depression.

Relieving Stress the Natural Way with Massage

Fortunately, one of the best ways to reduce stress naturally and safely is through therapeutic massage. Today’s highly trained masseurs are skilled at providing massage treatments that will help you overcome stress without the use of potentially dangerous medications.

  • Massage causes an increase in the amount of endorphins released by the body. These hormones result in a feeling of wellbeing and relaxation, and work to reduce levels of cortisol in the blood.
  • Stress causes muscles to tighten up, which often results in them feeling painful, leading to more stress. A professional massage will loosen knotted, painful muscles, improving circulation and increasing available warmth.
  • The increased heart rate associated with stress can actually develop into a serious medical situation. If an irregular heartbeat occurs, it could trigger a heart attack. Massage has been proven to lower a fast heartbeat to more normal levels.
  • Panic attacks are one of the most harrowing effects of continual stress. These sudden onsets of uncontrollable anxiety can be difficult to overcome. Because massage helps to stabilize heartbeat and release endorphins, it can not only stop a panic attack once it’s begun, but can help prevent future attacks, especially if massage therapy is provided on a regular basis.
  • Most people are quite aware that their stress will cause upsets in the gastrointestinal system. Conditions affecting the stomach and intestines can often be alleviated by the use of massage, although massage is not a substitute for conventional medical care.

Making intelligent use of massage to help relieve stress and its accompanying physical and mental symptoms can help you to live a more stress-free life. Every member of the family can also benefit from massage; keep in mind that children are also under considerable stress today.