Massage For Stress

by MassageJoy - March 15, 2019

Stress is a growing concern in today’s society. A recent survey found that 37% of British residents feel stressed at-least one day per week. In our own customer surveys, overcoming stress was the number 1 reason our customers sought to get massages. So the general population intuitively knows that massage can help relieve stress.

So, can massage actually relieve stress? Studies have shown that massage is effective in reducing occupational stress which is the primary form of stress today. Massage reduces cortisol in the body and increases the production of serotonin and dopamine. This in turn increases the feeling of well-being and happiness and reduces stress

In this article I will explore how massage therapy and the use of essential oils can greatly help improve your quality of life by reducing and even eliminating stress altogether. Additionally, I will explore how stress can lead to burnout and incorporating a regular wellness routing can avoid this disastrous situation. I will also explain the different levels of stress and you will learn to identify when stress is good and when it is bad.

Massage Therapy To Relieve Stress

Massage to relive stress

All types of massage therapy modalities have the effect of reducing stress related hormones and increasing production of “happy” hormones. However, aromatherapy massage is the ideal massage for stress relief.

Cortisol is the primary hormone produced in the body due to stress. Massage therapy has been known to reduce cortisol by up to 30% in the body. In addition, massage increases the production of the chemical serotonin and the hormones dopamine and melatonin.

Serotonin and dopamine increase feelings of well-being and happiness and melatonin helps you relax and plays a big role in regulating sleep cycles. All these chemicals and hormones produced during and after a massage session effectively reduce and eliminate stress.

Aromatherapy massage incorporates the use of essential oils such as lavender, geranium and even narcissus (extreme stress) which further aid in helping the body recover from the effects of stress.

Types Of Stress

Not all stress is bad. Stress can, in-fact, be good and help us achieve our goals. Before you can start using a wellness routine of massages to combat stress it is important to understand the different types of stress and the levels of stress.

There are 3 main types of stress:

  • Positive stress
  • Normal stress
  • Distress

Positive Stress

Positive stress can be described as a “high” that you feel when you accomplish something. This is related to the reward centre of your brain. For example the feeling of accomplishment you feel when you perform your job/task efficiently and quickly. Positive stress makes us aim higher and improves our performance.

As you can imagine, positive stress is good. We need that little bit of stress to push us further and accomplish things. Positive stress is the kind of energy that increases stimulation, helps our energy level and increases creativity.

Normal Stress

Normal stress is what you experience during specific circumstances. This stress is the normal reaction of your body to protect you against threats. For example, when you have an accident, you cannot feel immediate pain and you react in ways to escape any damage. This is normal stress in action.

After the incident you will feel pain if you are injured, but during the event, your body is pumped with adrenaline and you escaped without knowing what you were doing. As you can imagine these normal stress reactions will save your life and as such normal stress is good.


Distress is the type of stress you should worry about. This is when healthy stress becomes chronic. The typical symptoms of distress are:

  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of will
  • Frustration

Distress is the result of continued healthy stress. Both positive and normal stress are only healthy when they are experienced in spurts. However when stress becomes constant it leads to distress.

Levels Of Stress

Before a massage therapist can begin to treat your distress it is crucial to understand the level of stress you are at. The level of stress will determine the frequency of massages and the types of essential oils to be used.

For example for level 1 stress you can get aromatherapy massage once a month incorporating basic lavender or geranium essential oils. Whereas for level 4 stress you might require weekly massage sessions incorporating narcissus essential oil (which tends to be very expensive).

Level 1 Stress

This is the first level of stress and treatment with a wellness routine should ideally begin at this level. This level starts as tiredness and develops into irritability, headaches and insomnia.

This level of stress requires a sedative or relaxant to be used for treatment. So, massage therapists will create a special blend of aromatherapy oil utilizing any of the following essential oils which have a sedative/relaxant effect


Level 2 Stress

If untreated level 1 stress will eventually develop into level 2 stress. Level 2 stress is characterized by the following:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Muscular pain
  • Chronic aches
  • Persistent infections
  • Falling sick often

At this level you will require a regular wellness routine of perhaps one massage session per week. Also at this level, you will need something that will add an element of stimulation to prevent you from further slipping into deeper levels of stress.

Due to this your massage therapist will incorporate stimulating essential oils into the massage. Any of the following essential oils can be used when you are at level 2 stress.

GingerPalma RosaLemon

Level 3 Stress

This level of stress is extreme and if not addressed will lead to burnout fairly quickly. The primary symptoms of level 3 stress are:

  • Anxiety attached to specific places , e.g. office, trains etc
  • Victim mentality and feeling persecuted and helpless
  • Claustrophobia
  • Despair
  • Susceptibility to infections
  • Depression

At this level of stress you will need to make massage a weekly habit. Ideally, get at least 2 massage therapy sessions using sedative/relaxing essential oils. Any of the essential oils mentioned for use at level 1 stress will work at this level too

Level 4 Stress

This is the final and most extreme level of stress. At this level your body is crying out for help. This is past the point of burnout. The primary symptoms of level 4 stress are:

  • Unexplained pain
  • Heart problems
  • Strokes
  • High blood pressure
  • Ulcers

At this level you will require custom massage sessions tailored to your needs. Additionally, heavier sedative essential oils which are known as hypnotics will be used. The essential oils at this level are very expensive are not typically used in aromatherapy blends but administered by adding a few drops to a bath.

The following essential oils will work to combat level 4 stress

Tonka beanHyacinth

Precautions To Avoid Stress

Stress relief

At MassageJoy we have always advocated establishing a regular wellness routine. One of the easiest precautions you can take to avoid bad stress (distress) is to develop a habit of exercise and regular wellness rituals like massage therapy. You can take the following precautions to avoid the onset of distress

  • Monthly massage or aromatherapy treatment
  • Yoga, meditation and mindfulness
  • Sports and exercise
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking
  • Learn to say no and protect your personal time
  • Disconnect. Turn your phone off and take regular breaks
  • Maintain friendships and family relationships. They are your life’s safety net
  • Take Vitamin B and Vitamin C which are wonderful for combating stress
  • Laugh. Laughing boosts endorphin levels and makes you feel good. Laughter therapy to beat stress is a thing

Related Questions

What type of massage is best for stress? Aromatherapy massage incorporating essential oils is best to relieve stress. Essential oils such as lavender, geranium or sandalwood can be used to create an aromatherapy oil blend. It is essential to make wellness a regular part of your routine to combat stress. Getting a massage on a monthly basis is ideal.

How long after massage can I shower? You can shower immediately after a massage. However, it also depends on the type of massage. For e.g. it is advised to sleep after a sleep massage and not shower. The oils and lotions used during the massage have their effect during the session and washing them off after the session has no adverse effects