Personal Stress Soothers

Self-care techniques

Personal Stress Soothers

You don't need to go to a spa to reduce your stress levels. Get stress relief at home with our DIY self-massage techniques.

The hustle and bustle of the daily routine can frazzle our minds and tie our muscles up in knots. These do-it-yourself self-care techniques and soothing herbal remedies provide at-home relaxation—no massage therapist required. Valentine’s Day is a great time to pamper yourself with a little TLC.

Everyday stressors

Our body doesn’t know the difference between good and bad stress, but late nights, unhealthy food choices, and hectic work schedules help to elevate our stress levels.

Physical and emotional stress can manifest in the body a number of ways:

  • tension headache
  • eye fatigue
  • sore legs and feet
  • stiff neck
  • achy back and shoulders
  • digestive problems
  • low energy
  • insomnia

Massage for stress relief

Massage therapy is one of the most widely used approaches to managing muscle stiffness, aches, and pains. It also reduces physiological stress responses including elevated blood pressure, cortisol, and heart rate as well as perceived stress and anxiety.

Be your own masseuse

With our tight schedules and obligations, it can be a challenge to fit in a visit to your massage therapist; however, simple self-care techniques can keep you supple until you can book a session with professionally trained hands.

Petrissage

To release stress and open up healthy circulation throughout your body, massage therapist Derek Woodske suggests a massage technique called petrissage. The movements of petrissage involve various ways of kneading, rolling, and picking up the skin and muscles.

It promotes circulation as well as drainage of both surface and deep tissues. “Helping release the calves will do wonders to help you relax,” says Woodske. “Petrissage will release the strong tensions developed from standing and moving.”

Roll away the stress

“Rolling out your muscles will refresh and energize them,” says kinesiologist Arysta Bogner-Wood, who specializes in myofascial release techniques. Self myofascial release using foam rollers has become increasingly common to supplement traditional massage. Bogner-Wood recommends using a foam roller on the legs and back before and after a long day on your feet.

Light touch

Somatic movement educator and manual therapist Sue Hitzmann focuses on the connective tissue of the body, not on muscle. Connective tissue is a fluid-based system, and Hitzmann suggests that dehydration is the underlying cause of daily aches, stiffness, cramps, and strain. Hitzmann recommends light touch self-care techniques to restore hydration to connective tissue.

Hydrotherapy for revitalization

“Hydrotherapy is amazing for reviving tired and fatigued hands and forearms,” says Canmore, Alberta-based massage therapist Robyn Feuz. Hydrotherapy uses alternating hot and cold muscle soaks to flush out toxins and bring nutrients to the area.

Reflex the stress away

Self foot reflexology has been shown to be very successful in reducing perceived stress and fatigue. This type of massage stimulates areas of the feet to help relax and rejuvenate other areas of the body, including the glands and organs.

Soothe your stress with herbs

There are many herbs that can be relaxing. “I focus on pleasant, aromatic herbs used as infusions,” says master herbalist Nathaniel Whitmore. “Besides the benefit from ingesting the herb, there is an aromatherapeutic effect, and simply drinking a hot beverage has benefit.”

“The aromatic mints, including peppermint, lemon balm, bee balm, catnip, and lavender, are particularly good. Rose and camomile are also delightful additions,” he says.

Whitmore also recommends the use of herbal tinctures: “My favourites for preventing stress are motherwort, hops, and valerian.” Herbs such as ginseng, Siberian ginseng, rhodiola, licorice, and medicinal mushrooms are more building and energizing when stress is due to “running on empty.”

Nutritional biochemist Shawn Talbott includes magnolia bark, ashwagandha, and pine bark among his most effective antistress herbs.

Try these self-care techniques and remedies to relax, rejuvenate, and prevent burnout.

DIY self-care treatments to relieve stress

Petrissage for headaches

  • Start by cupping neck in hands, letting fingers gently touch and knead soft tissue along cervical spine.
  • Using gently increasing pressure, squeeze and release in milking fashion from tops of trapezius muscle to base of skull.

Cucumber hydrotherapy for tired eyes

  • Place fresh cucumber slices on ice for 10 minutes (do not freeze).
  • Place slices over eyes, lie down, and relax for 10 minutes or more. Remove slices.
  • Using pads of fingers, start at corner of eye at the nose and begin small gentle compressions, one finger width apart, over eyebrows and around and under the eyes.

Hydrotherapy hand and arm treatment

  • Prepare 2 tubs with water, one hot (as tolerable) and one cold (as tolerable).
  • Soak hands and arms in hot water for 3 minutes (up to the shoulder if tub is large enough). Wait 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Place arms in cold water for 1 minute.
  • Repeat 2 to 4 times.
  • Finish with a warm soak, then apply massage oil or lotion.
  • Start at wrist and using thumb, compress forearm muscle with deep pressure, moving toward the elbow.
  • Repeat 5 to 10 times.
  • Flush area with soft soothing strokes toward shoulder.

Small ball foot release

  • Using small, firm ball (tennis ball-size), work through arch of foot, heel, and toes.
  • Create compression and stretch on toes for 1 to 2 minutes per foot.

Petrissage for exhausted legs

  • Take one calf at a time and gently work from ankle to knee, gently kneading.
  • Increasing pressure, squeeze and release in milking fashion.

Basic foot rub revamped

  • Place fingers between each toe and create small circular motions with forefoot.
  • Then squeeze toes around fingers to aid in better circulation to the forefoot.

Mini rolling routine

Using a 4 in (10 cm) diameter foam roller, you can perform this five-minute mini rolling routine any time. Perform it at the start of the day and again at day’s end to relieve an achy back, shoulders, or legs.

Calf and hamstring release

  • Place foam roller under one calf muscle.
  • Supporting body with arms, roll leg over roller, starting from ankle.
  • Use gentle, slow rolling actions with static pressures, gradually working up calf toward knee.
  • Then gradually work back of thigh up to buttocks.
  • Repeat on the other leg.

Upper back release

  • While sitting on floor, lean back onto foam roller, placing roller at bottom of shoulder blades.
  • Use gentle, slow rolling actions, gradually working from upper back to neck.

Herbal helpers

Soothing herbal infusions can help replenish depleted energy and calm the mind during stressful times.

Herbs for revitalizing when energy is low Herbs for relaxing and calming the mind Herbs for managing and balancing stress Aromatherapy scents for purifying the air and the mind
ginseng
Siberian ginseng
rhodiola
reishi mushroom
yerba maté
peppermint
lemon balm
bee balm
catnip
lavender
rose
camomile
motherwort
hops
valerian
magnolia bark
ashwagandha
pine bark
frankincense
white sage
lavender oil

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