Wondering how to stay calm at this busy time of year? Try these tips for de-stressing, unwinding and letting it all go.
1. Rib tickle
When the body is in the stress response, we tend to breathe rapidly in our upper chest. If done for long enough, this can cause strain to the muscles in this area. One thing we can do at busy times is check in on our breath and encourage it to fill our whole torso. There are many ways to do this, one I like to use in sessions of massage in Sea Mills is to hold the side of the ribs and feel the breath going in and out. There is something strangely comforting about feeling the ribs going up and down and then you know that your breath is at least filling your ribcage. If you want to take it an extra step, apply a little force through your hands so your ribs have to work to expand. This encourages stronger breath in the lower part of the torso.
2. The eyes have it
We take in a vast amount of information through our vision, and spending hours at screens or concentrating while driving can put a strain on our eyes. Gentle massage in different areas around the eyes can help them come to rest:
- The temples: these are the little dips at the sides of your eyes. You’ll know you’ve found the right spot because massage here feels really good! Make little circles with the tips of your fingers.
- Either side of the bridge of the nose, where the specs rest – especially good for those who wear glasses. Again, use your finger tips and make small circles.
- Place you finger right on the bridge of the nose, sometimes called the third eye. Putting attention here feels very calming.
- Also try gently cupping your eyes with your palms, giving them some much needed darkness.
3. Healing hands
Our hands do so much for us. When we feel tension in our neck and shoulders, often it originates in the actions of our hands.
A gentle hand massage is great for releasing stress – you can hold one hand in the other and work around the muscles, applying gentle pressure with finger tips and the thumb. Two points to pay attention to – the area between the thumb and first finger is an acupressure point for letting go. Gently massage this to feel release. Not suitable for pregnant women unless they are full term.
You can also place a thumb or finger in the centre of the palm and rest it there. This calms the nervous system and is great if you have trouble sleeping.
4. Feel your feet
Our feet connect us to the earth, they ground us and move us through life. Stress takes us away from the ground, up into the higher reaches of our nervous and hormonal systems, ready to run from danger. To remind ourselves that we have feet on the ground can be highly beneficial. When I give massage in Sea Mills I often start and end by holding the feet – this reminds the client they can ground and let go into the earth.
Hold your bare feet and take a few deep breaths. This alone can be profoundly calming, and if you want to go a step further, take your favourite moisturiser or some muscle-soothing arnica salve and work around the soles of your feet. Another great way to induce sleep if it’s hard to come by.
5. Hang loose
Stressful postures and working long hours often involves scooping our bodies forward, hunching our shoulders and collapsing our chests. Remind your body that it can bend the other way!
If you have access to a blow-up yoga ball and this feels possible for you, bend over it backwards, so your back is full stretched over the ball. Stay there for a few minutes if you can and shift position to give a work out to different parts of your back. This can feel hugely relieving after hours at the desk. If you don’t have a yoga ball, you can do the same thing on a smaller scale with a big pillow or a rolled-up towel. Just find something that you can bend your back over and hang your arms loose.
You can also try hanging your leg off the bed or a table if your bed is low to the floor. This stretches the psoas muscle that connects the front and back of the body. It is a key muscle in forward movement and emotional stress is often held here. Clients that I massage in Sea Mills report a deep sense of ‘letting it all go’ when the psoas is stretched.