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L i s te n to T h e A B M P Po d c a s t a t a b m m /p o d c a s t s o r w h e reve r yo u a cce s s yo u r favo r i te p o d c a s t s 79 critical thinking | MASSAGE THERAPY AS HEALTH CARE Rest and Relaxation Are Necessities, Not Luxuries By Cal Cates There is a heck of a lot of work we could be doing to normalize rest and personal nurturing for ourselves and the people we serve. We could get curious about why rest, love, and the recognition of the toll the human experience takes on us are not normalized. Then, we could begin to change it. What if we didn't have to qualify to feel good? Or, what if we didn't need to have a reason to relax or be kind to ourselves? I know, it's hard to imagine a world like that. Maybe you even notice a resistance to this line of inquiry, thinking, "I'm not 'one of those people' in the hustle who thinks rest is something you must earn." If you think this, I hope it's true for you. Even so, I feel confident saying that regardless of your personal relationship to this concept, many of your clients or patients are likely subject to the pressures and stories of production, action, and achievement. Like so many of the oppressive lies that uphold Western culture, we all experience this idea that relaxation has to be earned. There is a very big boat that is ready to sail in our culture, and massage therapists everywhere are going to miss it because we're too proud to get on it. Or rather, some of us will be on it and we'll tearily wave our white handkerchiefs and bid farewell to those on the shore. But there's room on the boat for all of us. We can begin our own revolution by ending our insistence that we must do more than "just relax" others. We can pause before adding more capital letters to the end of our names to announce a new technique we've learned that may unwittingly carry us away from anything that could be considered nurturing and loving. Techniques are valuable and can be employed to great effect—they often result in improved function and sensation and a host of other positive outcomes. Even that experience, we must believe that it's more than enough to bring our whole and loving attention and skill to this person for these moments and to trust that their nervous system will receive that connection and use it for nourishing ends. The most profound value in what we do is providing an experience that invites the people we touch to rest, to say, "It's OK to be right here with this person taking care of me for the sake of kindness and relaxation." Notes 1. American Psychological Association, "Stress in America 2020," accessed May 31, 2023, releases/stress/2020/report-october. 2. National Council for Mental Wellbeing, "Study Reveals Lack of Access as Root Cause for Mental Health Crisis in America," accessed May 30, 2023, www.thenationalcouncil. org/news/lack-of-access-root-cause- mental-health-crisis-in-america. Cal Cates is an educator, writer, and speaker on topics ranging from massage therapy in the hospital setting to end- of-life care and massage therapy policy and regulation. A founding director of the Society for Oncology Massage from 2007 to 2014 and current executive director and founder of Healwell, Cates works within and beyond the massage therapy community to elevate the level of practice and integration of massage overall and in health care specifically. Cates also is the co- creator of the podcasts Massage Therapy Without Borders and Interdisciplinary. TAKEAWAY: We do a disservice to our clients, ourselves, and the profession when we downplay and/or deny the value of relaxation. so, techniques are nothing without care, connection, or relaxation and rest. There is nothing more important we can do for ourselves and each other than to facilitate and normalize relaxation. Nearly 2 in 3 adults (65 percent) report experiencing stress because of the current amount of uncertainty in the US. Further, 3 in 5 (60 percent) report feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of problems we face in the world. 1 At the same time, more than half of Americans (56 percent) are seeking mental health providers and support, but limited options and long waits are both growing problems. And 76 percent of Americans finally rank mental health on par with physical health in terms of priorities for personal care. 2 Massage therapists support both of these things, and there are a lot of us! These findings are important for us to consider as we think about the potential impact of our work and how we talk about it. It can be hard to know where to begin when tackling something as pervasive as hustle culture. In massage therapy, we could begin by working to remove the stigma from words like "pampering" and "spa day." What if we stop thinking that having a skilled massage therapist be nice to you and your nervous system is not health care? It's entirely up to us, as practitioners and as a profession, to move the delightful, pleasurable, intimate experience of skilled touch solidly out of the "nice, but not necessary" category. As the people who are perhaps best positioned to deliver

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