Massage as a self-care stress reliever

Courtesy of Living Room A hand massage therapists services a young client

Free weekly consultations provided at the Living Room

Self-care is the new buzz word and stress seems to be a primary cause for the increase in self-care attention. Thankfully, professional services that improve the mind, body and spirit are being offered through Health Commons at the Living Room.

Every Tuesday, this drop-in health and wellness center and healing space located in North Minneapolis provides an atmosphere for stress relief and self-empowerment through nurse health consultations, hand massage and body massage, blood pressure checks, and essentials oils (every second Tuesday only), all free of charge.

In a collaborative effort, Fairview Health Services, Redeemer Center of Life, Cora McCorvey Health and Wellness Center, and Lutheran Social Services have brought together a team of professionals to provide weekly self-care.

By definition, self-care is “the practice of taking an active role is protecting one’s own health and happiness, particularly in times of stress.” With all the everyday stresses out there, big and small, self-care and self-love have become essential behaviors. Health Commons at the Living Room is a place that welcomes all including; men, women and children whether first-time visitors, or veteran attendees, great-grandparents to grandchildren alike.

Health Nurse Consultant Suzanne Burke-Lehman of the St. Catherine University Nursing staff is one of the first people to greet event-goers. Burke-Lehman came on staff when a friend who was previously providing nurse consults at the center told Burke-Lehman, “A Woman of Color would be great there. A Woman of Color needs to be there.”

After visiting a couple of times, Burke-Lehman said she “was hooked on being here and being with the community,” She gives therapeutic hand massages while providing health consultations.

Getting regular hand massages or completing them on oneself has many benefits. The essentiality of touch is steadfast as we age. It is the social glue that binds parents with children and sexual partners into lasting couples. Nonsexual social touch connects people in the community and in the workplace, fostering gratitude, sympathy and trust.

According to many studies, therapeutic touch lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increases the amount of oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone,” which is credited with mother-and-child bonding, romantic relationships, and some patient and practitioner interactions. When we put our hands on each other, we’re tapping into deep associations between touch and emotion that are kindled at the dawn of life.

AARP reported one study that showed basketball teams that engage in more celebratory touch, such as high fives and chest bumps, play more cooperatively and win more games.

Pam, a community member, is a regular at the Living Room. She says she comes to the living room because “it keeps her centered on her health, and she gets to be around people who are also concerned with their well-being.”

Besides nurse consults, Angela, a community health liaison and nutrition consultant, provides community health resources as well. “I used to come to get help. Now, I come to help,” she said.

Photo courtesy of Living Room

Hazards of unrelieved stress

Using massage as a self-care stress reliever is a wise choice because stress affects the body in many ways:

  • It affects the brain’s ability to concentrate and increases anxiety and depression.
  • It increases cholesterol, high blood pressure, and risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Joint and muscle inflammations are increased, thus increasing aches and pains.
  • Immune system function decreases, resulting in illness, disease, and poor healing.
  • Skin may become dry and brittle or problematic; hair loss can occur.
  • Good digestion is compromised with malabsorption, discomfort, and poor stool quality.
  • Reproductive health may be impaired as well as libido, and PMS symptoms increase.

Tuesday massages are provided by Feng Lee, certified massage therapist, who was raised in North Minneapolis and attended Edison High School. Before each session Lee asks massage clients, “What part needs the most focus?” After that, her work is focused diligently on healing and stress relief.

    Health Commons at the Living Room, is a great atmosphere in which to participate in free self-care, provided by professionals, in a way that helps naturally relieve anxiety and stress in a community setting.

For more information about The Living Room, contact Bertha at 763-843-9988.

About Brandi Phillips

Brandi Phillips is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.

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