Last updated January 28, 2022 by Lisa Richards, CNC

Touching: A Simple Way To Reduce Stress

Couple Holding Hands

Do you feel like you’re constantly stressed out? Long term stress is much, much more than an emotional issue. It can play havoc with your cortisol cycle, weaken your immune system, and leave you vulnerable to opportunistic infections like Candida overgrowth.

When you can stay in your zen, your quality of life improves along with increased energy and a feeling of empowerment.

I’ve written about some different methods to reduce stress before, including using lists, getting outside, and taking probiotics. Today I’m going to focus on a different aspect of stress management.

As human beings, we like to make physical contact with each other. Whether its a big bear hug, a neck rub, an Indian head massage, or simply holding hands with your partner, touching always seems to reduce stress levels. In fact, touch is one of the most under-used natural therapies that can help you stay healthy in mind, body, and heart.

Research has shown that touch can dramatically reduce stress, reduce blood pressure, and lower heart rate. It boosts the immune system and can also help to relieve pain. It makes us happier and less anxious, and re-affirms bonds within relationships.

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There are many ways to incorporate stress-relieving physical contact in your life. Here are just four of them:

1. A Quick Rub Down

Massages, even quick ones, cause your muscles to unclench, your heart rate to slow, and your blood pressure to fall. Levels of the stress hormone cortisol begin to decrease when healing hands give us a rub down. Your whole system “reboots” and you feel calmer. This in turn boosts your immune system and gives your adrenal glands a break.

According to MD Roberta Lee, vice chair of the Department of Integrated Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in NYC, the stress hormone cortisol suppresses your immune response. “Anything that increases the relaxation response triggers the restoration of your immune response,” she explains.

The amazing thing is that its not just human beings where we see this behavior. There is a type of chimpanzee named the bonobo (our closest living relative in the animal kingdom), that uses grooming to reaffirm each individual’s role within the group and bond all members together. You might say that evolution has programmed us to respond very well to touch.

2. A Bear Hug A Day Keeps The Therapist Away

When somebody embraces you, your body is flooded with oxytocin, a “bonding hormone” that makes you feel secure and trust the other person. This hormone is known to reduce cortisol levels, which helps to strengthen immunity.

Research by the University of North Carolina shows that women who are hugged more often by their partners show higher levels of oxytocin and lower blood pressure and heart rates. And, according to research done at the University of Wisconsin, it’s not just hugs by our partners that make us calmer. Up to an hour after on onstage presentation a mother’s hug could still reduce cortisol levels in volunteer participants.

This is also true with children. At times they have trouble regulating emotions when they are distressed. A hug is a beneficial stress reliever both for parent and child.

3. Stress-Busting Pooches

Snuggling up with your pet can seriously reduce stress levels – in both mammals! Scratch your cat or dog behind the ears or tickle their tummies, and both of you will experience a sense of comfort and calm. Indeed, research shows that people’s blood pressure falls when they touch dogs, especially when it is their own pet. Research has also shown that people feel their pain is being eased when they pet dogs. This may just be their perception, but there is also proof that their immune system functions better after petting a dog.

Brad Lichtenstein, a naturopathic physician and assistant professor working for the counseling and health psychology department at Bastyr University in Seattle, explains this phenomena: “You’re focusing on the animal, not on you, so your mind isn’t able to ruminate about the pain.”

For this reason many hospitals, especially those dealing with long-term elderly patients, now allow pets on to wards. Recovery is speeded up, because patients feel less stressed by their unfamiliar environment.

4. “I Wanna Hold your Hand”

The old Beatles’ song had it right: holding hands with your sweetheart, entwining your fingers with your loved one, has a hugely calming effect. It reduces stress activity in the part of your brain called the hypothalamus, which reduces the levels of cortisol bubbling throughout your body. Holding hands with your partner also reduces stress in the area of your brain that registers pain.

You can see how important stress is to your health, and how a few simple adjustments to your life can quickly lower those stress levels. Our Ultimate Candida Diet program comes with a stress handbook designed specifically for Candida sufferers. It includes lots of valuable therapy ideas that you can use to lower your stress and get back to perfect health!

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  1. Diane Stelling says:

    I’ve been on Stage 1 for a week now. Not difficult if you put your mind to it. Have lost 4 lbs ( a nice side effect) and feel much better. Reading labels is eye opening!

  2. Linda Baker says:

    That information is all well and good unless you live by yourself. Now how in the world am I going to get those warm fuzzies by holding my right hand in my left hand or being a contortionist and trying to hug myself?!?!

  3. Donovan says:

    You’re a great writer! Inspiring website too. So well done! I do massage trades with a friend myself. It’s free!

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