As a licensed massage therapist and from my own personal experience, I have seen how stress affects my own body and mind as well as that of my clients. Stress is universal, and it’s not always bad. Whenever you jump to catch a badly thrown ball, feel especially energetic before an important meeting, or hit the brakes in time to avoid a car accident, stress is doing its job. The adrenaline boosting your heart rate and the cortisol boosting your blood sugar, while diverting energy away from the less essential digestive system and immune responses, are exactly what prehistoric humans needed to fight or flee attackers.

These days, you’re not likely to face the threat of being eaten. But you probably do confront multiple challenges every day, such as meeting deadlines, paying bills and juggling childcare that make your body react the same way. As a result, your body’s natural alarm system — the “fight or flight” response — may be stuck in the on position. And that can have serious consequences for your health. Your body does not know the difference between being confronted with a tiger or being stuck in traffic. It produces a similar stress response in your body.

When there’s never any relief from daily stress, the sustained fight-or-flight response can cause long term problems. In fact, WebMD warns that constant stress actually becomes “distress — a negative stress reaction. Distress can lead to physical symptoms including fatigue, headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, problems sleeping, and I would add muscle tension to that list. Research suggests that stress also can bring on or worsen certain symptoms or diseases.”

There are many ways to relieve stress: meditation, walking, being in nature, spending some quiet time reading a book, massage, or even having a glass of wine. Massage can be a key component for anyone trying to achieve a healthier lifestyle. Research has also shown that massage can lower your heart rate, cortisol levels, blood pressure, and relax your muscles. It also increases the production of endorphins, your body’s natural “feel good” chemical. Serotonin and dopamine are also released and the result is a feeling of calm relaxation that makes chronic or habitual as well as acute or short-term stress much easier to overcome.

Another way to relieve stress and tension is through a powerful and effective form of therapeutic bodywork called Ortho-Bionomy.® This gentle form of bodywork supports the body’s own natural ability to come back into balance helping your body to move away from pain and tension towards greater ease and relaxation. This kind of gentle bodywork is easier on the body and can be tolerated by people whose muscle pain worsens with deep pressure from some forms of massage.

Taking care of your body should be at the top of your priorities. By adding therapeutic bodywork to your routine now, you’ll feel, look and simply be healthier far into the future, improving your vitality and state of mind. So what better way to prep for a long, happy life than a relaxing, therapeutic massage or Ortho-Bionomy® session?

Anne Andrews is a licensed massage therapist MA38362. She is also a certified Ortho-Bionomy® Practitioner and a Bones for Life® Trainer. She is a graduate from the Florida School of Massage and has been practicing since 2003. For more information you can visit www.anneandrews.abmp.com, www.Society of Ortho-Bionomy® International , or www.BonesforLife.com