When I first started as a massage therapist and people would walk into my clinic complaining of anxiety, I simply thought they were really stressed and would give them a simple relaxation massage.
Being disappointed with my treatments, I started to do more research on the subject since I believe to really treat somebody well you really need to understand how they feel. I went on the internet and read a variety of books to get a basic idea but quickly decided to go right to source and ask my clients how they felt and what bothered them.
Today, when somebody says they have anxiety, I follow up with a series of questions. The first being: – How do you feel your anxiety’? The answers can vary from – I feel I can’t breathe, like I have a pressure on my chest.?, or – out of nowhere my heart starts beating weird and it makes me panic’I also hear about stomach complaints with phrases like – My stomach feels all twisted and in knots and I seem to have indigestion’ and – my brain feels really foggy and I’m having a hard time staying focused’All these answers lead me to believe that some very important points to work on should be the stomach, the head as well as taking some time to focus on breathing techniques.
This all made perfect sense to me. Anxiety, being a psychological disorder affects our mind making us unable to think properly and clearly( foggy head and unable to concentrate). Also, we all know that psychological disturbance can affect our stomach. For example, being nervous to put on a presentation can give us butterflies ( cramps ) in our stomachs, and when we live a stress out heart beat elevates and our breaths get shorter.
From this point on my simple relaxation massage became much more complex and the feedback from my clients has been extremely good.
How I do it:
At the very beginning of the treatment, I take a few minutes to get my clients to be conscious of their breathing and to take deeper and fuller breaths. After a few respirations I put a pressure on their on their upper chest, just enough to get them to work their breathing muscles and ask them to continue with their breathing. After, I move on to put a pressure on the sides of the rib cage using the same technique. When I stop applying the pressure, they are able to take bigger breaths with a lot less effort and their heart rate is slower. Taking the time to do this allows me to start the massage with a calmer and more receptive client.
To relax the head I was inspired by Indian head massage techniques. This specialty offers a wide variety of manoeuvres that focus on the head, scalp, face, neck and shoulders and with a little touch of lavender it works wonders.To finish off this area, I like to go work the points at the base of the skull which are important pressure points in Asian techniques to help with anxiety and stress.
I massage the stomach as usual with the help of essential oils. I use peppermint for the intestines and rosemary for the liver to encourage digestion. I also like to use ylang ylang on the lower part of the stomach to stimulate the hormones which can put us in a better mood and relieve the anxiety. And last but not least, I take a bit of time to work the solar plexus with some lavender. This is where most people feel ‘knoted’ and they enjoy the relief that it offers.
Taking the time to focus on these few points has made a tremendous difference on my clients. They feel like they got a relaxation massage with the added benefits of working targeted areas that really bothered them. I hope this article has been informative for other massage therapists and if your experience has thought you any tricks I would love to hear them.