By Deborah Adams

Stress.  A word we hear much too often… “Oh, I’m have so much stress in my life”, “I’m so stressed-out”, “This job is too stressful”… we hear that word in our lives daily.  Do you know that stress related problems account for up to 90% of all visits to primary care physicians.  90%!  An estimated one million employees are absent from work each day because of stress related problems according to the National Safety Council.  One million absent employees every day due to stress?  I don’t know how you feel about that, but it sounds like its costing all of us a lot of extra money, time, and our own personal stress covering for those million that are too stressed to even come to work to begin with.

Stress is something I’ve been dealing with for the past 30 years.  Before you go off thinking I’m going to share a whole bunch of personal info, let me explain.  Though I’ve had my moments of personal stressors throughout my life, I’m talking about the people I see everyday through teaching and talking about stress reduction.  People seeking out help from their own personal stress, possibly one of those statistics listed above.  I’m in the touch business, and I say that in the most clean and legal of ways, I help people learn how to receive and share the power of touch.

The gift of touch is a powerful tool, a superpower that each of us possess.  We were born to touch, why else would we have been given arms that can reach out and wrap around, hands and fingers to hold other’s hands with in a perfect puzzle-like fit.  Wrapping around someone and giving them a big squeeze feels incredible in a way that most of us can’t describe with words, it’s simply a feeling of joy, comfort, and peace.  After you give or receive touch, you physically and emotionally feel better.  Think about a sad or overwhelming time in your life when words were not working for comfort – then someone came over to you, said nothing, and simply held you.  You felt your body maybe struggle at first, as if to stay locked into your personal space and emotion, not wanting to share this with anyone.  But then you let go, allowing the other person to take a bit of your pain as your bodies are melded together in some kind of magnetic energy exchange.  You feel yourself sink deeper and deeper into that person’s body, feeling the weight of your own body being held by theirs.  Your breath changes, taking in deeper and deeper sighs, filling your lungs full of the other person’s super-power of touch and love.  A chemical reaction happens within your body that physically changes the way your nervous system was reacting to the pain or sadness, and whatever grief or sorrow you were feeling, even though the reason you felt it in the first place hasn’t changed, your perspective of overcoming it has.  With that simple gesture of a hug, you felt better.

Touch boosts our immune system.  Touch stimulates our body to release certain hormones, reducing stress, thereby alleviating some of the damage done by stress hormones such a cortisol, a byproduct of adrenaline.  Many Americans live such crazy-busy lives, pouring in caffeinated beverages to keep themselves going, putting their bodies in constant overdrive so they can keep working, keep playing, keep ‘doing’ all of the time until their bodies are almost running on the fumes of adrenaline.  Many times, the more you ‘do’ in this technologically advanced society, the less you touch – and I’m not talking about your computer, X-Box, cell phone, or vehicle – I’m talking about a living, breathing human being.  Many of us get so busy with our machines that we put our fellow humans on the back burner when it comes to the simple act of touch.

Society is partially to blame with all the sexual misconduct, fear of lawsuits, and misinterpretation of the simple art of sharing the kindness of touch.  Teachers have to be afraid to put their arms around their students to give them an encouraging squeeze or a pat on the back to say ‘good job’.  The workplace is filled with fear of a sexual harassment suit or possible loss of your job (maybe why a million people each day are too stressed to go to work!)  Spas and massage therapy continue to grow even in our economically challenged times because people need touch more than ever.  Ancient writings from many cultures around the world, dating back thousands of years, proved how important touch was throughout history.  Why have we lost the importance of such a simple and easy gift to give – the gift of touch.  It has no side effects, doesn’t cost anything to give, improves health of the giver and receiver, and can be done anywhere.  How many things can you say that about?

Start living a healthier life today.  Share the gift of touch.  It’s easy to do; you just have to do it.  If you are a ‘touchy’ person already, awesome – keep up the good work – keep sharing hugs, massages, and loving touches with those you encounter on your daily journey.  If you are not comfortable touching or getting touched, know that it is okay, but it would be in your best health benefit to start opening yourself up to the concept of touch.  Start with something safe like a handshake, but pleeeeeeeease, make it a real handshake, not one of those ‘don’t want to touch you but I guess I have to’ kind of handshakes.  Make sure your hand fits into the other persons hand completely and count to one one- thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand before you pull away.  When you start feeling more comfortable with the handshake, step it up to a double-handed shake, sandwiching your hands around the persons hand you are shaking, sending them the message that you are interested in offering your touch and confident about this whole touching thing.  Before you know it, you’ll be wrapping your arm around someone’s shoulders or even hugging them.  Touching, once given enough, gets addictive and almost a necessary part of your daily life.

Do your body a favor, keep your emotional health in tact, heal your inner spirit – share the wellness of touch.  In fact, try to share your wellness touch 10 times a day, to 10 different people.  Make it a game; set a ‘touch goal’ for the day and check in on yourself throughout the day to make sure you goal is on course.  Not only will you be improving your own personal health and wellness, but you will have affected the health of the 10 others you shared touch with… pretty powerful tool… Start using it today.