Just in time for Stress Awareness Month, these do-it-yourself self-care techniques provide at-home relaxation—no massage therapist required.
Late nights, unhealthy food choices and hectic schedules may elevate our stress levels. 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
Massage for stress relief
Massage therapy is an effective way to manage 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.
With our tight schedules, it can be challenging to fit in a massage therapy appointment; however, simple self-care techniques can keep you supple until you can book a session.
To release stress and encourage healthy circulation throughout your body, massage therapist Derek Woodske suggests a massage technique called petrissage. Petrissage involves 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.”
Hydrotherapy for revitalization
“Hydrotherapy is amazing for reviving tired and fatigued hands and forearms,” says massage therapist Robyn Feuz. Hydrotherapy often uses alternating hot and cold muscle soaks.
Roll away the stress
“Rolling out your muscles will refresh and energize them,” says kinesiologist Arysta Bogner-Wood. 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.
DIY self-care treatments
Petrissage for exhausted legs
- Take one calf at a time and work from ankle to knee, gently kneading.
- Increasing pressure, squeeze and release skin 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.
- Starting at wrist and using thumb, compress forearm muscle with deep pressure, moving toward the elbow.
- Repeat 5 to 10 times.
- Finish with soft, soothing strokes toward shoulder.
Calf and hamstring rolling routine
Using a 4 in (10 cm) diameter foam roller, you can perform this two-minute rolling routine at the start and end of the day to relieve achy legs.
- 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.