Mitigating the stress response is essential to our whole health and the workplace is logically a great place to implement more wellness resources.
This particular day had a different vibe; let’s just say I was apprehensive to touch a cop. Some years ago, I was hired to work at a correctional facility as a massage therapy provider for law enforcement personal and the administrative department of the county jail.
I myself had an unfortunate encounter with the law many years ago, and I’ve since done my darn best to stay out of the way of the police. Carrying my massage chair into the belly-of-the-beast, I couldn’t help but think that my karma was about to be restored on multiple levels.
Surprisingly, the day spent at the county correctional facility was both encouraging and anti-climactic. It was simply a chair massage gig with grateful recipients on a quick 15. Lawyer, Teacher, Doctor, Nurse, Cop, Postman–all carry with them the same sentimentality of every human who wakes up, puts on a uniform and goes to work. They look forward to their coffee, lunch breaks, and clocking out at the end of the day. They are stressed about the demands of their jobs, they feel like they haven’t slept in weeks, and they certainly don’t have time for relaxation.
In all the workspaces that I’ve set up shop in, what I’ve found is this. We all wear our work-suits but they do not define us. We put it on at the beginning of the day and take it off at then end. We wear the title, the uniform, the badge, the jacket. We have quotas, numbers, sales, calls and emails. We have trainings and meetings and we transform with our garments and accolades to get the job done.
For nearly a decade now I’ve observed my clients before and after receiving massage. I have watched people shape-shift from the roles they play, to the person they are. It’s no surprise that people are most themselves in the moments of relaxation and calm.
In a relaxed state, people are disarmed. People are more likely to make a nice gesture, display acts of kindness and consideration to others. In these moments of pause, people are people; regardless of a uniform or job title. In moments of pause, self reflection and self care people are more likely to respond to others with compassion and understanding.
The new office paradigm is offering holistic services as apart of a productive office culture. And for good reason. Studies show that the productivity ratio is higher in companies that provide holistic wellness solution like chair massage, meditation or guided breathwork. Less stress equals more creativity and better corporation and communication in team meetings.
What I enjoy most about going into these high stress workplaces like hospitals, call centers and correctional facilities, is seeing how people respond to a 15-20 minute re-set.
Often I hear, “I only have 5 minutes, I don’t have time today is too crazy or I don’t like being touched.” These people are putty in my chair after 3-minutes.
Some how, “I don’t have time” changes to “I can re-schedule that meeting.”
I love the transition of hardened human to softer human.
Creating a space to initiate deep breaths, release the days’s tension and break from the demands of work is deeply beneficial to the workplace, individual and society. Research shows that brain-wave activity stimulated by massage is linked to improved attention, memory and productivity. This shift of brain waves is the key in signaling the parasympathetic response, the state in which your body actively repairs neurons and cells.
Studies that measure brain waves show the effects of therapeutic massage by mapping the electrical charge between nerve cell membranes within the cerebral cortex. The prefrontal brain regulates decision making, complex cognitive behavior and controls the execution of a goal. The left prefrontal brain region is composed mainly of positive emotions, while the right anterior frontal brain is mainly for negative emotions.
Studies have shown that after receiving a massage, there is a significant decrease in α and β waves on the right frontal lobe region, which translates as reduced anxiety, depression, withdraw and fear.
A client once told me that in 20-minutes she felt differently about something that had stressed her out for weeks. She felt an emotional shift after feeling the weight of her stress lifted from her neck and shoulders. Often people express the lightness they feel in their bodies after receiving therapeutic attention to their stressors and pain.
The officer I worked on this particular day got up from my chair, rubbed his eyes and said, “Wow, I haven’t been this relaxed ever.”
It’s no surprise that stress adversely affects our cognitive, behavioral, emotional and physical response to any situation. We see now that the stress taken on by law enforcement is exceedingly egregious as well as their behavioral and physical response to acute stressors.
The Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health says that acute stress generates emotional disturbance, anxiety, worry, frustration and hostility.
Hello Mr. Police officer have you had your relaxation today?
Simultaneously, physical symptoms of acute stress include chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndromes, increased blood pressure, rapid or irregular heart beat, pain, inability to concentrate and mental confusion.
In todays conversation of police reform and re-allocation of funds, it is quantifiable to include holistic wellness protocols that support the three pillars of health; Mental, Emotional and Physical. Not only for the police department but for all the individuals who participate in legislation, education, healthcare, and any policy making decision affecting society.
Its the small things that keep us connected to our human-ness. Let’s normalize getting massages in the workplace.
Heal the police.
Massage Therapy in Management of Occupational Stress in Emergency Medical Services Staffs: a Randomized Controlled TrialArticleFull-text available
Chang KM, Luo SY, Chen SH, Wang TP, Ching CT. Body massage performance investigation by brain activity analysis. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:252163. doi:10.1155/2012/252163
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