By: Cristina Goebel, owner, and operator of Massage Heights Indianapolis
Friday, March 13, 2020 – a real-life Friday the 13th when the President signed a declaration of emergency over the coronavirus pandemic. The “two weeks to slow the spread” plan was released in the following days, putting many Americans across the country on lockdown. Two weeks turned into two months, which turned into a year and we sit here today still living a life with little resemblance of normalcy.
It is no secret that the pandemic shook the world. People lost their jobs, their businesses, and, in the worst cases, their loved ones. And while everyone felt the pain that the coronavirus pandemic caused, women were oftentimes even more so affected, creating a new kind of crisis: The Women’s Wellness Crisis.
As frontline workers battled the living virus, international non-profit organization CARE sounded the alarm on this global mental health crisis that would set back the progress made across women’s health and economic stability. They released a first-of-its-kind study that found 27% of women reported experiencing increased mental health challenges due to the pandemic, compared to only 10% of men.
As women continue to carry the weight of being teachers and tutors, full-time caregivers, chefs, coaches, and so much more, all while ensuring their loved ones are taken care of long before shifting attention to themselves, I wanted to provide a few ways they can let go of the stress and heal their mental state:
Practice mindful meditation.
Meditation has been in practice for thousands of years and is designed to produce a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind. Whether you have five minutes or an hour, meditation can be used as an everyday way to promote a healthy mindset.
Practicing meditation allows you to clear your mind from the information overload we are currently facing and see stressful situations in a new light. There is a wide range of emotional benefits to practicing meditation, such as reducing negative thoughts that lead to depression, increasing self-awareness, and directing away from future scenarios and back into the present time.
In the current state of our chaotic day-to-day lives, it is easy to lose the connection between your mind and body. Meditation is focused on finding ways to connect these together in harmony. There are several ways to practice meditation, allowing you to find which method works best for your individual self.
There is an abundance of guided meditation videos online and apps that fit into any window of time you have available for individual practice. For those craving social interactions in these times of isolation, yoga classes are a great option. Whether it be held in person or via video chat, yoga is a great way for those looking to strengthen their body and relax their mind.
Breathe in and breathe out.
Have you ever been going about your day and feel like you don’t even have a minute to breathe? Women have been forced to wear many hats in the past year, leaving them with very little time to just breathe. One of the easiest ways to ease stress and calm the mind is with deep breathing exercises. Oxygen helps cleanse and soothe different parts of your body, increase energy, lower blood pressure, and improve digestion, making this a free and effective way to settle down in these stressful times.
One of the most common exercises – 4-7-8 breathing – involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding in the breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling slowly for 8 seconds. Repeating this practice will help reduce anxiety and relax tension when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Remember to be intentional with your breathing and focus on filling your abdomen instead of just your chest to get the most benefit out of this practice. This breathing exercise is always available whether you’re in the car, helping kids with homework, cooking dinner, or watching television.
Treat the muscles and the mind.
As things start to open up, one safe outlet available to help women unwind is massage therapy. Mental health issues like anxiety and depression can manifest as physical problems, creating lasting pain in our bodies. Massage therapy has been proven to drastically make a difference in managing these physical side effects and ease mental issues.
Massage therapy also closely resembles traditional psychotherapy, with both taking place in a private setting and are based on a ‘50-minute hour’ for the length of the session. When a person is experiencing stress and anxiety, they usually have heightened levels of the stress hormone Cortisol, which blocks patients from absorbing the full benefits of psychotherapy. Massage therapy, on the other hand, has been proven to lower these cortisol levels by up to 30%.
Massage therapy is not a quick fix but rather an investment in long-term wellness. While one treatment will temporarily have you feeling better, each continued treatment promotes longer-lasting results.
What’s that smell?
Aromatherapy uses the healing powers of different scents to create positive effects on the mind and body. Essential oils, bath salts, aroma spritzers, and body oil rollers are all products that can be utilized in aromatherapy, either alone or in combination.
Essential oils are safe and easy to use both around your home and on your body. These scents are used to reduce stress and treat the side effects of it, such as chronic pain, poor sleep quality, and headaches or migraines.
At Massage Heights, we’ve developed custom-blended scents, which is something you can do in your own home. Three of the most popular aromatherapy scents are lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus, each one treating a different ailment.
Lavender promotes calmness and wellness. This scent is proven to reduce stress and anxiety, as well as reduce mild pains. Peppermint is a popular choice for both aroma scents or topical treatments, promoting invigoration, focus, and clarity and treating side effects of stress and anxiety-like migraines and joint pain. Eucalyptus has a wide range of benefits, from soothing seasonal allergies and clearing sinuses to play a role in controlling blood sugars.
A day in the hopefully near future, restaurants will open up, kids will return safely back to school, and life will return back to “normal,” but women will continue to live with the ripple effects the past year has created. Women deserve to have an outlet and a support system to help relieve stress, anxiety, and the pressures of living life in a man’s world so we can continue to conquer the future.