Stress is a normal part of life for everyone. It always has been, from the days of being chased around by saber-toothed tigers to today when we’re trying to meet a deadline while making dinner for our kids and looking for the electric bill (you know you put it somewhere). The problem is, our bodies aren’t meant to withstand chronic high levels of stress. But these days there’s no way around it. It’s why so many of us look forward to treating ourselves to a nice relaxing massage. And what better time to get one than Valentine's Day?
OK, maybe that’s not actual a helpful gift at all. Sure, massages make a great Valentine’s gift, but if the thought of trying to squeeze even one more thing into your already jam-packed schedule makes you break out in hives, here are six simple ways to give yourself a massage that will have you melting like butter…in your own hands!
Scalp massages are one of the most relaxing types of massages. They release tension that has built up from your neck, shoulders and even your jaw. Star by placing the heels of your palms or tips of our fingers at your temple, near your hairline. Push your scalp in an upward motion, hold it there for five seconds, then release. Move up and down the back of your head and along your hairline for the ultimate in tension release.
2. Upper back
We tend to carry a lot of stress in our neck, shoulder, and upper part of our back. First, wrap your arms around yourself, like you’re giving yourself a squeeze. This helps open up your back and stretch out the area a bit, getting fresh blood circulating and oxygen pumping through your kinked up muscles. Then roll out the knots and tightness using a trigger ball. You can do this up against a wall or lying on the ground. It’s especially helpful if you have a particular spot that is cramped or chronically tight.
If you crack your neck when it feels tight and tense, stop right now! This is not an effective way to release neck muscle tension and you run the risk of hurting yourself. Instead, sitting up in a chair, lace your fingers together, clasp the back of your head, and gently pull you head down toward your lap. Hold it there for 15-30 seconds and then slowly return your head to an upright position.
You’re a clencher, aren’t you? All that stress you pretend you’re handling just fine all day takes its toll on you at night when your psyche is unguarded. If you clench or grind your teeth you probably wake up with a pretty sore jaw many mornings. Massage out that tension to help reduce tension headaches and preserve your teeth. Using your thumbs, rub gentle but firm circles at each side of your jaw where your larger muscles are, then draw your thumbs down along your jawline to your chin. Repeat between 10 and 20 times in the morning and at night before you got to sleep.
5. Hands and arms
We use our hands and arms in all kinds of repetitive ways that we don’t even realize. Typing, writing, carrying and lifting (weights, children, society’s expectations), grabbing, pulling, the list goes on. You need to give your arms a rest and help them recuperate. Place one arm in your lap, palm up, and be sure to keep it relaxed. Using a small trigger ball or the heel of your palm, apply firm pressure starting at the inside of your elbow and working your way toward your wrist. Do this on all sides of each arm. When you’re done, twist your wrists in small circles clock wise and then counter clock wise to loosen up the joints and increase healthy blood flow.
Your upper leg muscles and glutes are the largest muscles in your body. They take the brunt of the work you ask your body to do every day, even just standing! Give them a break and ease your stressed and tired muscles by rolling them out. Using a foam roller or a hand held plastic or rubber roller, run the roller down the front and back of your thighs. Start at the top and roll down away from your body. This helps break up knots and increase blood flow to keep your muscles strong and health.