Your Touch Can Help Someone

Recently, I found myself in a situation where my personal life and massage experience commingled unexpectedly and think it's worth sharing to create more awareness about anxiety disorders and how it affects the people in your life. And I believe you can help if you find yourself in a similar situation.

However, before I get to that, let me share a bit about anxiety disorders: According to the, over 18% of adults and 24% of adolescents in the US suffer from an anxiety disorder. (Generalized Anxiety Disorder, PTSD, Social Anxiety, etc...) These disorders are highly treatable, but only a small percentage seek professional help. Learning of this and due to personal experience, I've focused my massage practice on helping people by alleviating some of the physical and mental side effects (headaches, aches and pains, sleep issues) of anxiety disorders. 

In late October of this year, someone I know who has an anxiety disorder and was having a rough time as of late tried to overdose on over-the-counter medication. While at the ER, I sat there for hours waiting for test results sitting with them as they lay in the hospital bed still in a heightened, fearful state. I will admit I felt rather helpless.

However, I couldn't just sit there and do nothing, so I did what I know best. I asked if I could hold their hand. They agreed, and I noticed an immediate softening in their energy so for the next five to six hours I touched them gently guiding them into a more relaxed state.

For someone who is experiencing an escalation of anxiety symptoms, their sensory nerves can become hypersensitive. So I started by holding their hand observing their reaction. Witnessing the calming effects, moments later I gently caressed their forearm. Every few minutes I changed the pressure or location while maintaining a slow calming rhythm which is key in a moment like this for any quick movement or too much pressure can stimulate the nervous system in the opposite direction of your intention.

Fortunately, I noticed a shift in their mood that went from fear and panic upon arrival to calm and content by the end. There's still work to do in regards to their mental state, but for that night, I was able to use my skills and knowledge to help them over a hurdle.

If you are ever in a situation where someone's anxiety becomes heightened, you can help. Just kindly ask permission to touch them and if they agree to it remember to be gentle and keep the pressure light to medium and shift to different parts of the body after a few moments checking in with them from time to time. By the way, it doesn't have to be skin to skin. 

Some things to be aware of touch, if you stay too long in one area, the neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) start setting off signals of discomfort and can create tension in the tissues. And the goal is to make sure they remain comfortable and relaxed. Another tip, small circular movements with counterclockwise strokes relaxes the recipient while clockwise would energize. (Between thumb and index finger on top of the hand and between eyebrows are places this works well.)

You don't need to be a massage therapist to help someone suffering from anxiety or a high-stress moment because your kind and gentle touch can make a difference.

For more information on anxiety disorders:

12 Effects of Anxiety on the Body
Anxiety and Depression Association of America
Therapeutic Massage for Anxiety and Panic Disorder

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out. I am here to help.