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Shot of a beautiful young woman getting a head massage at a spa Getty

Since 1992, April has been set aside as Stress Awareness Month, a time to recognize the causes and cures for what has been labeled America’s “modern-day stress epidemic.” While we all often casually respond, “Girl, I’m stressed,” when a friend asks us about our day, a persistent feeling of physical or mental strain should hardly be taken lightly.

Long-term stress or frequent bouts of stressful episodes can lead to harmful behaviors like overeating, excessive drinking, violence, anxiety, and angry outbursts. More serious health conditions and complications can also develop such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and depression.

When most of us think about the stress in our lives, we try to brainstorm ways to minimize it, but few of us come up with ways to manage it when it arises. And an even smaller subset see self-care treatments such as facials, massages and assisted stretching as practical methods we should routinely implore to reduce the harmful effects of stress on our lives. For many, spa visits are a “treat,” an experience we save up for once a year or only indulge in when on vacation. But regular visits to a spa facility can improve your physical and mental quality of life, even when faced with daunting struggles. Here, Beth Stiller, Chief Commercial Officer of Massage Envy, talks to us about the benefits of spa self-care and how women can become more comfortable allowing themselves to reap said benefits.

MadameNoire (MN): What are the mental health benefits of facials and massages?

Beth Stiller (BS): In addition to relieving stress, massage can improve sleep, soothe anxiety and depression and release endorphins that enhance perspective and clarity. Routine, professional skincare creates a foundation for healthy skin and increases confidence and self-esteem — when you look better, you feel better. The key to getting these powerful mind/body benefits is a regular routine. We recommend monthly treatments to see the best results, inside and out.

MN: A lot of people don’t like the idea of being touched by someone else, how can women become more comfortable with massages?

BS: The key is open communication with your massage therapist. Before you get into the treatment room, your massage therapist should have a conversation with you about what you are looking to get out of the session, the type of pressure you prefer and if there are any areas to concentrate on or to avoid.

MN: What are the best treatments for recharging after a stressful work week?

BS: The best treatment for recharging after a stressful work week is the one you find the most restorative. For a skincare junkie, that might mean a gentle facial or even a chemical peel. (We use PCA Skin peels, which are customized to specific skin types and needs and have little to no downtime.) If you need to loosen up after sitting at a desk all week, it could be a therapeutic massage, or you might want to get a professionally assisted stretch session in before your weekend workout routine.

MN: Which treatments are best for physically active women?

BS: Every physically active woman should make assisted stretching part of her routine. Most of us stretch, but stretching with help from a trained professional lets you move beyond your muscles’ natural resistance and get a far deeper, more effective stretch. Professional athletes have used it for years, and regular assisted stretching is proven to boost sports performance, help fend off injuries and improve recovery time. We created our Total Body Stretch service to make the benefits of assisted stretching accessible for everybody, from serious athletes to weekend warriors to people who are dealing with chronic injuries or just want to feel better.

MN: How does stress show up on your face and what treatments are best for reducing those effects?

BS: Stress can negatively impact your skin in ways beyond fine lines and dark circles:

Hormonal breakouts: Stress releases cortisol, which can throw off other hormones in the body and cause breakouts.

Uneven skin tone: Stress creates inflammation, which can create rough patches of built-up cells and an uneven tone.

Environment stress: Pollution and exposure to the elements create free radicals in the skin, which age us faster.

Combatting stress on the skin requires routine facials and professional skin treatments, combined with an at-home regime prescribed by an esthetician. To get strong, healthy and radiant skin, Massage Envy estheticians recommend at least one treatment a month, rotating between facials, chemical peels and microdermabrasion. Everyone should use a cleanser that clears pours without over-drying, a vitamin C serum, which is a potent anti-oxidant and essential for collagen production. And, don’t forget the sunscreen, even on cloudy days. Your esthetician can recommend the right products for your skin.

Massage Envy estheticians used their expertise to help us create our own line of sheet masks, foot masks and under-eye gels. CyMe products are built around innovative ingredients like charcoal and snail secretions and are designed to maximize your skin care between appointments.

MN: How often should women visit the spa and how can we shift the perception of spa treatments as a treat versus a necessity?

BS: In an always-on world it’s imperative to disconnect and focus on our overall well being. Regular body and skincare is just as essential to a wellness routine as exercise, daily supplements and planning healthy meals and, arguably, the most enjoyable part.

We recommend treatments at least once a month, which will help you see faster, better, and longer-lasting results, and we created our membership to make high-end massage, skincare and assisted stretching accessible to everyone.

Every day, we hear from members who tell us the profound difference regular body care has made in their lives. Massage Envy therapists have helped clients heal from injuries, relieve chronic pain, enhance mobility, and reduce life-altering anxiety.

MN: What should women do in between spa visits to maintain their wellness?

Ask your therapist to recommend an at-home regime. This can include product recommendations, at home stretches or other wellness activities. A healthy lifestyle matters. By getting enough rest, eating a well-balanced diet, exercising and taking time to de-stress you will see a true transformation in your skin, mind, and body.

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