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Massage: Stress relief?

Last year around this time I started having neck pains so severe that they were affecting my sleep. Because I’m used to ignoring pain, it took me a few weeks to realize that it might help to massage the back of my neck.  Once I did this I found a big lump and I freaked out.  I have a friend who had Cushing’s disease and she had a lump in the back of her neck, so I worried that maybe I had that.  Or maybe I had a tumor.  It was the weekend before Labor Day and there was no way I was going to get in to see a doctor right away so I saw my boss, who is the physician at our health center.

Much to my relief, she said the knot in the back of my neck was from stress and gave me some strategies for dealing with it.  She said that after a few days it should be better.  But it wasn’t getting better.  So I decided that I better up the ante and get a 30 minute massage.  But instead of finding the instant relief I was hoping for, I found out that my entire upper body was so tight that it would take her several sessions just to get to the deeper muscles.

The whole getting a massage to reduce my stress thing became another cycle to agonize over just like sleep.  It was clear I needed massages; sometimes I could feel my muscles tensing up later that day after I had just gotten one.  So at first I had to go weekly, and then every other week.  The only problem is I don’t have money to get massages regularly, so I would obsess the entire time about how much it was costing me.

I would try not to.  I would try to do what I tell my clients to do–focus on the experience of it, focus on where she is touching you.  This is your time to relax.  This is making your money count.  You deserve this–need this–to function.  But I’m really, really, obsessive.  In fact, somehow even though I wasn’t saying anything out loud, my massage therapist could tell that I was obsessing the entire time.

We finally worked out a schedule where I got a discounted rate since I have to go so regularly.  And I put the max into my flex spending account and have a doctor’s note saying that I need the massage for my neck pain, which has helped me stop obsessing about the money.

But I obsess about other things during my massage, too.  It’s stressful scheduling one because once the semester starts, I have appointments every hour with just 10 minutes to get things done in-between.  I would get my massage at 9 and then rush back for my 10 o’clock appointment.  And then I would see back-to-back clients.  By the end of the day I was stressed again.

The other problem is that my muscles are so tight that even weekly massages are not enough.  I need to stretch every day, several times a day.  Especially my chest muscles.  And I should be doing yoga.  I actually have massage homework.

I hate yoga.  Well, maybe that’s too strong of a word.  I recommend it to clients all the time for relaxation/meditative purposes.  It just never seems worth doing to me, personally.  I’m used to focusing on exercise that is fun, burns calories, or builds muscle.  I stretch after these activities, but stretching just for the sake of flexibility and stress management?  Boring!  Even though feeling my chest muscles release after stretching was an eye-opening experience, I cannot motivate myself to do yoga.  Not to save money.  Not to reduce stress.  Not for anything.  So I just feel guilty and stress about it every day that I don’t do it.

But I try.  I’ve always been a good student, always done my homework, so I do make an effort.

Last night I was in bed by 12:30 and did my nightly routine. I made coffee and packed food so I could save money.  I got my massage and scheduled another one in two weeks.   It wasn’t too busy of a day, but on the way to my tennis match I was so tired I was falling asleep at the wheel.  It started to rain and I was actually thankful that we had to reschedule.  When I got home around 8:30 I fell asleep on the couch and didn’t wake up until 1:30 am, at which point I had to get up and do my nightly routine.  Still an exhausting day.

But on the bright side, I did fall asleep early.  And I’ve already gotten about 5 hours of sleep in.  And I finished another blog.  So that’s something.

Olindapully Photography (

About Christy Barongan

I didn't know it at the time, but I wanted to be a psychologist so that I could figure out how to be normal. I think many people come to counseling for the same reason. What I've come to learn is that feeling good about myself is not about trying to be normal. It's about trying to be me. But it's a constant struggle for me, just like it is for everyone else. So I thought I would approach this task with openness and honesty and use myself as an example for how to practice self-acceptance.

2 responses »

  1. One of the ways I treat myself every once in a while is a massage. I practically fall asleep on the table! I do stress over the price, but not while I'm in there. If I ever strike it rich, massages will be at least a weekly occurrence for me. Aaahhh! I carry lots of stress in my shoulders and get knots that I have my husband work out for me. We also have a massager thingie that we plug in and I lay there with it pounding away at my shoulders. I need to teach my children to do massage…


  2. Pingback: One Year Progress Report | Normal in Training

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