As a massage therapist, one phase of our job is to help reduce stress levels by turning on the body’s parasympathetic switch with various massage techniques. To be able to help those who come to our practice seeking relief from stress is deeply satisfying. Stress may show up as physical pain or tightness in the muscles or simply as an unidentifiable feeling of dis-ease, depression, or anxiety.
Many individuals all over the country are experiencing an insurmountable amount of stress and in this profession, it pains us knowing we cant be of help especially to our doctors and nurses who are on the front line fighting to save lives every day. I know that we will get through this turbulent time, I just hope it’s sooner than later. In the meantime, for those who feel completely overwhelmed or overcome by anxiety, we have put together 6 techniques that can help reduce some of the stress you might be experiencing.
I pray when this is all over that many will take advantage of massage therapy after this storm to help get your mind and body back into alignment. Our hands will be waiting for you until then be safe and please practice social distancing; it’s one of the bridges that will get us to the other side.
1) Lavender Essential Oil for Relaxation
You can gently rub a couple of drops on your feet at night to help fall asleep. A little self-massage of your feet is also naturally sleep-inducing. Lavender can also be used in a diffuser in your home to help keep your home feeling peaceful. It’s not quite like being back at the spa, but maybe it will trigger your smell memories and help calm you a bit more. If you don’t have any lavender we have it in our online store ready to ship.
2) Deep Breathing
Although you can’t get a full massage, you can ease your body into turning on the parasympathetic nervous system (“rest and digest”) with deep breathing. The body naturally breathes deeper and fuller when relaxed, which is our natural state.
We have learned to live in a “normal” state of stress which causes us to take shallow breaths regularly. Focusing on deep breathing can be considered a form of meditation as it can help quiet your mind and allow you to focus purely on your breathing.
Because we are so accustomed to shallow breaths, deep breathing can seem unnatural, so you practice for 10 minutes a day to get started. Try and find somewhere quiet and don’t overthink it. Just breathe. You can try breathing into a count of 3 and out to a count of 5 to get started. The more you focus on breathing, the less you focus on your stress.
3) A Warm Bath with Essential Oil Bath Salts
Now is the perfect opportunity to indulge in something you may not normally feel you have time for. A bath can be a luxurious opportunity to connect with yourself. You can even practice your deep breathing while in the bath, or just listen to some relaxing music or an audiobook. The heat of the bath also causes that sleepy feeling as your blood pressure drops and your brain gets less active.
Mix your bath with natural essential oil bath salts or other essential oil products. Epsom salts are perfect for a soak because the magnesium soothes muscles. Don’t add essential oils to plain bath water alone because they will sit on top of the water and not be diluted. It’s a better idea to mix them with Epsom salt or oil prior to adding them to a bath. We also have some bath salts ready to ship in our online store.
4) A Steam Shower with Essential Oil Steam Spray
Another way to appreciate the relaxing benefits of essential oils in the bath is to use essential oils in the shower. It works best if you have a shower tablet made from oils and a carrier like baking soda, but you can also add a few drops of oil to the floor of the shower and let the steam naturally diffuse them into the air around you. This works especially well for clogged noses and chest congestion. Oils like Eucalyptus and Peppermint are especially effective in opening up the lungs.
5) Eat a well-balanced diet
Supporting our body through a time of stress is extremely important. Our body uses food for fuel, so if we provide it with healthy and nutritious foods it will function better. I know it’s super tempting to reach for those cookies right now, but just make sure that’s not your entire diet.
It can be okay to indulge a little too because it brings you pleasure and we all need a little joy right now. Just make sure the basis of your diet is foods that have high nutritional value (as much as you can manage during this time). Beans are a great, shelf-stable option that pack a nutritional punch and seem to be pretty easily available still. Everyone is doing their best, whatever their situation, but if you can remember to be kind to your body then it will help your overall health.
6) Stress Journaling
There are a few methods to stress journaling. One option is to write daily a little bit about your stressors in order to identify them and acknowledge them and be able to take action around them. Right now, many of our stressors are out of our control, so the better option might be a gratitude journal.
You can write something down that is stressing you out, then write something you can be grateful for right now. Compare the two thoughts and see which one feels better. Would you rather dedicate your headspace to the anxiety-inducing space or the space of gratitude? The more time you spend thinking of ways you are grateful, the more you will feel grateful and the more positivity you will attract into your space.
Another way to approach this is to try and come up with ways to reframe your negative thoughts. For example, you might write, “I’m really upset that I can’t work and provide income for myself right now.” Now, how can you turn that into a more productive and positive thought? Maybe that can flip to “ Because I’m not working I finally get to do a fun project with my kids (or insert something you love) that I never had time for before.” The more you try and reframe your thoughts, the more momentum you’ll get behind feeling better.
Did you know that scientific research also backs up the significance of stress journaling? Journaling can improve cognitive function, increase immune response, and reduce stress and anxiety.
These are just a few tips to help manage stress in this truly unprecedented time. We will continue to provide other tips and tricks and would love to hear some of what you are doing to reduce your stress.