As adults (I use this term loosely), we like to think that we have cornered the market on stress. After all, we work, we raise children, we cook, we clean, we have long tedious days of pretending to know what we're doing. We long for the days when we were younger, nostalgia tinting our memories rose colored, and think if only we could go back, we would appreciate it more. If only we could go back, we would be so much less stressed. Right?
(Warning, these statistics can be kind of dark, but I PROMISE there is a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.)
According to a survey by the American Psychological Association done in 2014, today's teens report stress levels that rival, and often surpass, those of adults. The survey found that during the school year, teens reported an average stress level of 5.8 versus adults who average out at 5.1. And the thing is, their stress levels don't go down much in the summer either. They report feeling overwhelmed, depressed, with some skipping meals or being fatigued as a result.
Overall, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America. However, in children and young adults aged 10-24, it is the 2nd leading cause of death, only topped by accidents. A study released in 2016 found that pediatric hospitals reported the amount of suicidal thoughts and actions reported in admitted children aged 5 to 17 more than doubled between 2008 to 2015.
But the stress doesn't end after high school. In September of 2017, the American Psychological Association published an article detailing the rise of students on university campuses seeking mental health help from college counseling centers. Overall, counselors reported a 30% increase in students coming through their doors. And of those that saw a counselor, 61% of them listed anxiety as the reason for their visit, 49% listed depression, and 45% listed stress.
So what do we do? How do we help?
Studies have shown that in conjunction with regular therapy sessions, alternative therapies can help to reduce depression and anxiety levels in both children as well as adults.
Activities like reiki can help to lower the heart rate and reduce blood pressure. Massage has been studied to help not only physical ailments, but mental ones as well, such as depression and anxiety. Aromatherapy has been proven to help with pain, anxiety and agitation. And in a study spanning 8 weeks, those who attended yoga classes twice a week showed a decrease in depression as well as an increase in optimism and mindfulness.
There are also a multitude of things that you can do at home to reduce your anxiety and stress levels. Even something as simple as taking 15 minutes to yourself in a quiet place can do wonders. Try to make it a point each week to find time to do things that you enjoy, whether it's a sport or a hobby, or simply taking a relaxing bath. Meditation is a great option or even just taking some time for introspective reflection. Practices such as journaling or having a creative outlet of some kind are also helpful things to consider.
But just as no two people have identical struggles, there is no single alternative therapy that works for everyone. However, at Grow Wellness, we approach each client on an individual basis and customize therapy sessions for their specific needs.
Feel free to reach out to us with any questions you may have!
*It is important to note that the first step in helping those struggling with stress and mental health issues, is to talk to them. And if you are a parent and your child doesn't feel comfortable talking to you, a therapist might be a good option. If your child is struggling, it is very important that they speak with a professional as soon as possible. All of the holistic therapies we offer should be used in addition to clinical help from a qualified mental health professional to be fully effective
Devin is a collector of random knowledge, entrepreneur, researcher and writer. Though she is a Texas native, she is currently living abroad writing and studying alternative medicine. She is a proud partner of Grow Wellness, as well as the founder and operator of the blog TechnicallyAdults.
Upper back and neck pain inhibits the lives of so many on a daily basis.
We are left wondering what to do about this nagging pain....
Watch the video above and work this yoga flow into your daily routine to release tension!
Check out more recommendations and loads of useful information below! Remember, everyone heals differently and upper back/neck pain can be triggered by a range of variables, so be sure to try some of the suggestions below and see what works for you. Become mindful of your posture throughout the day, many of the therapies below will help you to stand up tall and keep those shoulders back. Always be in dialogue with your primary care physician about your pain and alternative therapy plans!
Tips to Release Upper Back & Neck Tension
Hydrotherapy is the use of "water" in its many forms (ice, steam and liquid) as an alternative therapy to create powerful results in the body. Check out the list below for some ideas on how to play with temperature to relieve your tension and pain. My BIGGEST recommendation lies in contrast hydrotherapy, where hot hydrotherapy is applied followed by a cold application. The heat will dilate blood vessels and fascia, allowing a surge of circulation to open the area and cold hydrotherapy will constrict the blood vessels and tissue while reducing inflammation.
*Play with the use of hot compresses or hot neck wraps and cold compresses, ice packs or ice wrapped in a towel. If you do contrast hydrotherapy with this, apply the hot compress for 3 minutes and then the cold compress for 3 minutes, for about 3-4 rounds.
* Baths & Showers - Hot water baths are amazing for muscle relaxation and they're also great for stress reduction. Lukewarm water baths also have effective results, as a lukewarm temperature calms the nervous system. In a shower, let the hot water hit your upper back and neck as well as your pecs. For contrast therapy take a hot bath or shower followed by a quick cold shower. To enhance these effects, check out "Aromatherapy" below!
Yoga is a over 5,000 years old and can be found in some of the earliest evidences of written word. The unique practice of yoga cultivates our relationship between the mind body and spirit and has for centuries. Not only will yoga help to stretch and strengthen almost every major muscle in your body but it can help relieve any stress or trauma lingering there. There are specific yoga asanas (postures) that can help release tight areas of the body, like the ones in the video above! Try attending your local yoga classes too, see what feels good for you and employ those flows and stretches in your home practice. *Always tell your yoga instructor about your areas of tension as there are contraindicated asanas as well. If you attend a Grow Wellness Shanti yoga class, give me a heads up and I will work some great stretches for your areas of restriction into the class! For more information on Shanti Yoga and how to sign up for your class click here!
Natural essential oils have incredible effects on our body's physiological systems. They can work as natural muscle relaxers when applied! Check out the list below for some oils that help to relieve pain and myofascial tension!
When shopping for aromatherapy essentials, make sure to go with a top quality brand with no additives. I recommend Doterra or Plant Therapy.
How to use essential oils at home: Add a few drops to that yummy bath we talked about above! Or add a few drops to a scentless lotion or cream and massage into the area for 10 minutes. Throw a couple drops into a diffuser at work or home to affect your pain receptors aromatically.
*Eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint, roman chamomile and ylang ylang are my go-to oils for muscle relief!
Hemp being used specifically as medicine is dated as far back at 2900 BC, although many argue it's been used even longer! Our bodies literally have an endocannabinoid system full of receptors that perfectly receive the signals from CBD. This ENC system regulates pain, our immune function and sleep patterns, thus CBD has the potential to create powerful effects on the body. Using CBD to relieve upper back and neck pain can come in the form of a CBD salve, for topical application, or ingested in the form of a tincture or other edible. Make sure to talk to your doctor before you try out CBD and find a reputable and high quality company to purchase your products from. I recommend the CBD Boutique as a great source for CBD products, most of which we carry in our massage studio in Ridgefield CT! Grow Wellness is also one of very few massage places in Connecticut to offer CBD as a massage enhancement, don't hesitate to ask about incorporating this into your next session!
What can you do outside of home self-care? Therapeutic massage is essential for people experiencing upper back and neck pain. Do a little research into your local businesses and seek a well-educated massage therapist who specialized in therapeutic techniques to relieve pain. Myofascial release is a powerful massage tool to release upper back and neck pain as well as deep tissue, Swedish, trigger point, acupressure, and lymphatic drainage techniques. If your pain is derived from high daily stress levels, create a massage routine to balance and enhance your quality of life while serving as preventative care for residual upper back and neck pain. If you live in Connecticut, contact us to make an appointment!
Cupping therapy has been around for thousands of years to treat a wide array of conditions, muscle tension being at the top of the list! It uses negative pressure to create space in the tissues and allow for healthy blood and lymphatic circulation. There are many applications for cupping therapy and the amazing thing is that this form of alternative therapy can treat the conditions that can accompany upper neck and back pain, such as sinus congestion, headaches and inflammation.
Stress, trauma and emotion can store in the body's tissues, requiring a deeper level of therapy to release the tension. Upper back and neck pain can come from daily stress, where in times of anxiety we tend to wear our shoulders as earrings. Injuries and traumatic events can leave our bodies chronically locked up. For example, when I work with clients with whiplash from a car accident, the trauma and fear that rushed the clients body in the intense moment that the accident occurred is also very much present in their neck. I experienced this for the first time myself a few weeks ago when I witnessed something traumatic at home with my family. I went into shock, lifted my shoulders to my ears and tensed up so quickly and powerfully that my neck was in pain for a week. The pain did not give up until I addressed the issue energetically. Below is a list of a few ways to pursue energetic healing.
*Meditation- Learn some beautiful meditation techniques to calm your nervous system and release trauma. I recommend the app "Gaiia" for meditation on the go. Attend a local yoga or meditation class to pick up new ideas and create a wellness routine. You are always more than welcome in a Grow Wellness class, where meditation is always incorporated.
*Reiki- Reiki energy healing is another age old form alternative therapy that has withstood the test of time. A powerful session in the hands of a reiki practitioner to lift trauma and negative, stagnant energy is definitely one of my top recommendations. For more information about reiki click here!
MORE TIPS TO TRY
(I recommend Alyssa Knapp with Integrative Wellness, check her out at integrativewellnessri.com)
(Chiropractic Health Performance with Kyle Innes is a wonderful option for chiropractic care on the East coast, nychirohp.com)
*Mattress & Pillow Selection - Make sure what you are laying your body on for up to 8 hours is good for your alignment!
Some sources to check out:
*The Guide to Modern Cupping Therapy - By: Shannon Gilmartin
*Naturopathic Doctor News & Review - "Hydrotherapy" By: Sussanna Czeranko, ND, BBE
*Medical News Today - "Does CBD work for Chronic Pain Management?" By: Jon Johnson
*Center for Reiki Research
*WebMD- "Massage Therapy Styles and Health Benefits"
Kathleen Jaramillo Kweskin LMT RYT