Although traditionally associated with romance, love, cupid and candy, the weeks leading up to and following February 14th are often loaded with negative feelings. In fact, a European study concluded that one in ten people experience some level of depression on Valentine’s Day.
Some massage therapists may participate in the unique market surrounding Valentine’s Day by offering specialized packages that may include couple’s massage and special aromatherapy treatments. While all of the attention to love and romance conjures up good feelings for many, it can also cause feelings of exclusion, anxiety, loneliness and depression in others. Because this holiday can cause such polarized feelings in each individual, therapists are best prepared when aware of the range of potential emotions.
As professionals in the healthcare industry, bodyworkers are well aware of the benefit their services can give people experiencing depression. Decades of research indicate massage helps reduce stress, anxiety and depression by altering body chemistry. By increasing the release of endorphins, dopamine and serotonin, bodywork enhances mood and general health. Through reducing the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, massage assists the body in a quicker recovery from stress, depression and pain. Additionally, massage’s ability to increase relaxation, boost the immune system and stabilize blood sugar levels makes it a logical choice for a person suffering from depression.
Including essential oils in a massage therapy session is a valuable supplemental treatment for depression. Studies demonstrate that the smells of certain oils elicit positive emotions via the limbic system, the area of the brain responsible for memories and emotions. Essential oils used for depression vary but typically include one of the following:
- Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
- Orange (Citrus aurantium)
- Sandalwood (Santalum album)
- Lemon (Citrus limonis)
- Jasmine (Jasminum spp.)
- Sage (Salvia officinalis)
- Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)
- Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
Properly paired with a client’s state of mind and personal preferences, aromatherapy can help relieve their depression and minimize any negativity around Valentine’s Day. Prior to using an essential oil with a client, always check for sensitivity and scent aversion.
People schedule massages for many different reasons; it feels good, helps relieve pain or stiffness, maintains health and vitality, enhances relaxation or because it helps a particular health condition. However, some people seek treatment primarily for the practitioner’s company. While that last motivation for bodywork appears innocent enough, it places the therapist in a challenging position. When a person with the Valentine’s Day Blues seeks a massage treatment to ease their loneliness, the therapist must be vigilant about his or her professional boundaries.
The elevated level of trust and intimacy involved in bodywork is typically a launching pad to developing a close rapport between client and practitioner. Although this connection is a natural part of healing, certain circumstances can transform it into an ethical dilemma. Elements of transference or counter-transference can easily emerge with a client vulnerable with the Valentine’s Day Blues considering there is a chance that the therapist is the only person in a client’s life who physically touches them. Being aware of this possibility allows massage therapists to develop a plan for maintaining the boundaries of the client/practitioner relationship. For example, a client feeling lonely and sad may try to prolong a session, behave inappropriately during the massage or attempt to move beyond client status. A therapist who is prepared for these ethical breeches can quickly and respectfully thwart their advancement.
Valentine’s Day is supposed to be a joyful holiday. While many people revel in the romance of the holiday, a sizable percentage of people have the opposite reaction. Awareness of the Valentine’s Day Blues can spur bodyworkers to develop their compassion towards the depressed, offer aromatherapy to help relieve client depression and brush up on their skills for maintaining a professional and ethical client/practitioner relationship.
www.cmha.bc.ca, Valentine’s Day Blues, Canadian Mental Health Association, February 2006.
www.hbcprotocols.com, Tips for Dealing with Valentine’s Depression, Layla Chapman, HBC Protocols, February 2006.
www.mayoclinic.com, Valentine’s Day: Coping Tips for those who feel excluded, Daniel Hall-Flavin, MD, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2007.
www.medicalnewstoday.com, Feeling SAD this Valentine’s Day?, MediLexicon International Ltd., January 2005.
www.onlinedatingmagazine.com, Study Confirms Existence of Valentine’s Day Blues, Online Dating Magazine, April 2004.
www.psychcentral.com, Valentine’s Day: A Time to Celebrate Many Kinds of Love, Marie Hartwell-Walker, EdD, Psych Central, 2007.
www.stresshelp.tripod.com, Massage, its role in management of stress, anxiety and depression, S. Jackson, 2001.
www.umm.edu, Depression, A.D.A.M., Inc., 2007.