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Everyday Stress Soothers

DIY self-care techniques

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Everyday 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.

Don’t let the hustle and bustle of everyday life leave you frazzled and in knots. Knowing a few muscle-soothing self-care techniques and comforting herbal remedies will keep you limber, pain-free and calm so you can fully enjoy each moment.

Lifestyle stressors

Modern lives are often so busy, it’s no surprise many people neglect caring for themselves. Your body doesn’t know the difference between good and bad stress, so while your job may be exciting and your social life fabulous, your body may also be trying to manage late nights, stressful commutes and unhealthy food choices.

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 tight schedules and budgets, 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 energise them,” says kinesiologist Arysta Bogner-Wood, who specialises 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 or at a desk.

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 Hitzman 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 revitalisation

“Hydrotherapy is amazing for reviving tired and fatigued hands and forearms,” says 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 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 chamomile 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 energising when stress is due to “running on empty.”

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

Regardless of how fun and fulfilling your hectic lifestyle is, your body still recognises your busyness as stressors, so use these self-care techniques and remedies to prevent burnout.

DIY self-care treatments to relieve stress

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.

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.

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.

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 towards the elbow.
  • Repeat 5 to 10 times.
  • Flush area with soft soothing strokes towards shoulder.

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.

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.

Using a 4 in (10 cm) diameter foam roller, perform this five-minute mini rolling routine first thing in the morning. Perform it again at the end of the day to relieve an achy back, shoulders or legs.

Calf and hamstring release

  • Place foam roller under one calf muscle.
  • Supporting body with arms, roll body over roller, starting from ankle.
  • Use gentle, slow rolling actions with static pressures, gradually working up calf towards 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.

A Mini Rolling Routine

Using a 4 in (10 cm) diameter foam roller, perform this five-minute mini rolling routine first thing in the morning. Perform it again at the end of the day to relieve an achy back, shoulders or legs.

Calf and hamstring release

  • Place foam roller under one calf muscle.
  • Supporting body with arms, roll body over roller, starting from ankle.
  • Use gentle, slow rolling actions with static pressures, gradually working up calf towards 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 help

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

Herbs for revitalising when energy is low

  • ginseng
  • Siberian ginseng
  • rhodiola
  • reishi
  • yerba mate

Herbs for relaxing and calming the mind

  • peppermint
  • lemon balm
  • bee balm
  • catnip
  • lavender
  • rose
  • chamomile

Herbs for managing and balancing stress

  • motherwort
  • hops
  • valerian
  • magnolia bark
  • ashwagandha
  • pine bark

Aromatherapy scents for purifying the air and the mind

  • frankincense
  • white sage
  • lavender oil
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