The Healing Power of Touch

Lisa … at the Beauty Shop Restaurant in Memphis

I had a rough week at work. It was interesting, but I’m still in a learning curve, and things are heating up a bit with some transitions we’re about to make. In addition, I think our little team is about to go into the storming phase. If you’ve ever read about team-building, there are four distinct stages that almost every team experiences. There is the initial phase of forming where you are still getting to know each other. Everybody sort of holds back and is observing, trying to get to know the lay of the land. The second stage is norming where we all try to get along and start to set standards for which we’ll work as a team. The third stage, and the one that makes most people uncomfortable, is the storming stage. However, it is one of the most rich stages in learning to work with each other if you can get through it. Everyone is more comfortable with each other, so they are feeling more free to express themselves honestly, AND they start to push each other’s buttons and become more reactive. If you can get through this stage, a team will enter the performing stage where work can get accomplished. We’re teetering on norming and storming right now. So, it’s stressful. Plus, there’s a lot to do and a lot of relationships to build out in the field. My people-pleasing edge is raw.

Luckily, I had my monthly facial scheduled for Thursday. My high school friend Lisa is my aesthetician in Baton Rouge. I have gotten massages monthly for many years, but, when I moved here, I thought this would be a great opportunity to take care of my skin and re-acquaint myself with Lisa who I remembered fondly from high school. The reason is simple. When I’m under stress, I increase my self-care. Stress is the cause of almost every disease and illness. I don’t like being sick. It cramps my style.

That's Lisa to the right of me in Memphis
That’s Lisa to the right of me in Memphis

I got my first massage when I was in my early thirties. It was a birthday present to myself at the tail end of a failing marriage that had been void of affection for many, many years. It literally blew my mind how good it felt to be touched non-sexually. I was depressed, so I was isolated in many ways and was not touched by girlfriends, either. The experience was so powerful that when we eventually divorced, I started scheduling regular massages even though I really couldn’t afford it on my $27,000 a year salary. I have continued that practice for a very long time, and I don’t intend to stop now. As a single woman, I don’t get touched that often. In today’s workplace, it’s taboo to touch too much. I don’t have children that touch me except for my nieces and nephews. When I do see them, I love to just hang out with them and bathe in their touch. Kids love to touch. They sit right on top of me and are hanging all over me all the time. Why don’t we do that as we get older?

If you look at the research, touch is one of the most powerful ways that we express our emotions to each other. They used to think that our voice and facial expressions conveyed most of the emotional message, but they now know that it is touch that is the emotional impactful messenger. Think of how comforting it is to get a hug from a dear friend. When I was in Memphis, I was assured to get hugs on Sunday mornings at my favorite meeting. It’s probably one of the things that kept me committed to that group. We were intimate with each other, so we felt very comfortable hugging. I loved seeing my sponsor. She and I would hug each other, and it was like a game to see who would hold on the longest. I long for one of those hugs right now. Next time I see her, she’s getting about a 5 minute hug. When we touch skin-to-skin, our bodies release the hormone oxytocin which counteracts cortisol, the stress hormone. In other words, it helps us relax.

Since I just relocated, I haven’t found my girlfriend huggers yet. We’re starting to get to know each other, but we’re not there yet. I do have my family huggers. I saw my Aunt Carol Ann last night. She’s a great hugger. But, I’m still touch-deficient. So, I go to my facials. Not only is my skin looking good, but, man, I love to have Lisa touching my face. She’s working to clean my skin and re-condition it, but the best part about it is her gentle touch as she applies creams and lotions and steam. A massage can sometimes hurt with the pressure – a good hurt – but a hurt nonetheless. There is no hurt with these facials. I can tell that she cares about me and how I feel. I feel so pampered and loved-on by the time I leave. In addition, we are girlfriends, so we talk, too. When females bond, we also release oxytocin. My facial is a virtual body bath in the stuff. By the time I leave, I feel so relaxed that I know I can do another month of whatever I have to do with grace. It’s like pushing the reset button.

And, Lisa to the right of me again!
And, Lisa to the right of me again!

I do miss my massages. But, the budget will only allow one bodywork appointment a month right now. I can’t imagine not having my Lisa “fix” at this point. The facial is the priority. I’m also pretty thrilled with what she’s doing with my skin. She looks at it under a light, and she says it’s looking “plump”. She says it’s improved since I’ve been seeing her, and I’d have to agree. However, I warned her that I’d better never hear her say I was “plump” in any other context or she might get b*tch-slapped. When I leave, my face is hydrated and glowing bright pink from all the lovely massage and care it’s had over the last hour. Honestly, it’s probably just as happy as a clam from getting touched for an extended period of time. I can’t wait for my next oxytocin bath. I wish it wasn’t a month away. I’m already scheduled through the holidays because I don’t want to miss out during the salon’s busy time.

Thanks, Lisa … you are my drug dealer right now …

2 Comments on “The Healing Power of Touch

  1. Sharon, if you haven’t experienced Reiki yet, look for a Reiki share circle in your area. It has changed my life for the good and recently finished up with Reiki Master teacher certification. I self Reiki for spiritual and emotional healing mostly and also “do” friends if they want it. Very calming. I think the massages are a great cure for most anything… more preventative I think. You are spot on with the touching.

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