Last week, I sent out and email to my clients. With the world beginning to open up again, I wanted to take the pulse of my people. What could I do to help them feel safe coming in for treatment? When might they be ready for this type of contact? I asked them to reply with answers to these questions.
Everyone in my life has been strict about Stay at Home orders – whether because they are in a risk group, or because they understand the responsibility each of us has in flattening the curve… or both. Stay at Home has been good for us. What’s it going to be like stepping out of our safe little havens?
I’ve been studying up on state and CDC safe practices… trying to figure out everything I can do to minimize risk of disease transmission in my office I’ve been looking at extreme recommendations from the spa industry that would require a full-time employee to implement. I question myself daily: Are the measures I’m taking ok? Are they enough? Will people even want to come back?
And then I opened Angela’s email. She said “honestly, I feel that connecting with these life-giving practices and with people we love and trust will build our strength, vitality and resilience. These are the foundations of what we need for a healthy being that can respond to the world.”
Wow! What a wonderful wake-up call! I had been so focused on keeping everyone safe and making them and myself feel comfortable. I’d forgotten the most important thing: I’d forgotten the immune-enhancing functions of the work I do. Angela reminded me that the benefits of massage and of connection are essential to our health. And that health is not just absence of disease – it is vitality, resilience and responsiveness.
Much has been written about how massage directly supports the immune system. In short, it has been shown to increase lymphocytes, including T cells and natural killer cells. Lymphocytes are an important part of our immune defense. They act to recognize antigens, produce antibodies against them, and destroy the cells that could cause disease. Abdominal massage in particular can improve gut health. Gut health is also essential to healthy immune function.
And consider the connection factor. We are social animals… wired to thrive in communion with each other and the world around us. Oxytocin – the same hormone which causes the contractions of labor and birth – is the pleasure hormone. It is secreted and runs through the body when we hug or hold hands, even when we enjoy a meal with friends. It certainly increases during massage, and while spending time in therapeutic connection with me and other providers who establish real caring relationships with their clients.
Adequate levels of oxytocin – along with other “feel good” hormones like serotonin and dopamine – are essential to the immune system as well. Feeling good within yourself and with others actually helps make you healthier and more resilient.
Right now much of the world is spinning in fear of contagion. Fear, anxiety and stress actually suppress immunity by increasing cortisol levels and our inflammatory response. Allowing these emotions to dictate our actions is a very slippery slope. Fear breeds fear and anxiety can easily grow in the fertile soil of this pandemic. We can never be completely safe… ever… and if we obsess about safety or not getting sick, we increase our stress, which actually makes us more prone to illness.
Isolation may make us feel safer and decrease our chance of exposure, but it goes against our biological need for connection and thereby increases stress to our systems. As I said, we need contact to thrive. So please, don’t isolate yourself. Find the connections you can open to within a container of relative safety.
As you begin to venture out, prioritize those activities that really make your heart sing. Perhaps a picnic with friends, or a yoga class in the park. Maybe a haircut would be truly uplifting for you and make your day!
As you step out, step out with faith. Wear your mask, wash your hands, eat well, sleep a lot and exercise. Keep your distance and know that we can do this! Think health, joy, hugs and sunshine. Simply put, love is health-enhancing. Health is so much more than the absence of disease. Let’s raise the bar and be the best we can in response to a world that needs us!
My office will be open for you starting in August. I will be so happy to support your health!