Stress is universal, and it’s not always bad. Whenever you jump aside to miss getting hit by a ball, feel especially nervous before an important meeting, or hit the brakes in time to avoid an accident, stress is doing its job.However, when there’s never any relief from stress, the sustained fight-or-flight response can cause problems. Stress actually becomes “distress — a negative stress reaction. Distress can lead to physical symptoms including headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, and problems sleeping. Research suggests that stress also can bring on or worsen certain symptoms or diseases.”Research has shown that massage can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, relax your muscles and increase the production of endorphins, your body’s natural “feel good” chemical. Serotonin and dopamine are also released through massage, and the result is a feeling of calm relaxation that makes chronic or habitual as well as acute or short-term stress much easier to overcome.In fact, stress relief is one of the first benefits that come to mind when thinking of massage therapy. It’s also a key component for anyone trying to achieve a healthier lifestyle. Clinical studies show that even a single 1 ½-hour session can significantly lower your heart rate, cortisol levels and insulin levels — all of which explain why massage therapy and stress relief go hand-in-hand.Taking care of your body should be at the top of your priorities. By adding therapeutic massage to your routine now, you’ll feel, look and simply be healthier far into the future. In fact, stress relief alone can improve your vitality and state of mind. So what better way to prep for a long, happy life than a relaxing, therapeutic massage?