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Reduce Stress with a Self-Massage

Massage and other touch and pressure therapies are among the most popular ways of relieving muscle tension. If you can’t or don’t want to get a professional massage or a free massage from a friend, you can learn to effectively massage yourself.

You can go two ways: high-tech or low-tech.

The high-tech route usually requires a wall socket or lots of batteries. Many specialty stores stock massage paraphernalia, such as a mega-buck relaxation chair that transports you to relaxation heaven with the flick of a switch.

On the less expensive side, a handheld vibrator massages those tight and tired muscles, leaving you much more relaxed. Alternately, you can forego the batteries and the cash by letting your fingers do the work. Fingers are cheaper, easier to control, and readily available. Following are three simple ways to rub away your stress.

For your hands

Hold your left palm in front of you, fingers together. The fleshy spot between your thumb and index finger is a key acupressure point that should spread a sensation of relaxation when massaged. Using your right thumb, massage this spot in a circular motion for a slow count of 15. Switch hands and repeat.

For stress-related fatigue, pinch just below the first joint of your pinkie with the thumb and index finger of the opposite hand. (Pressure should be firm but not painful.) Increase the pressure slightly. Make small circular movements in a counterclockwise direction while maintaining pressure. Continue for 20 seconds. Release. Wait for ten seconds and repeat up to five times.

For your feet

Try this sole-soothing exercise. Take off your socks and shoes and sit comfortably with one leg crossed over the other. (The sole of your foot should be almost facing you.) With both hands, grasp the arches of your foot and apply pressure, especially with your thumbs.

Now kneading (like you would bread dough, using your thumbs and fingers) every part of your foot, work your way from your heel right up to your toes. Give each of your toes a squeeze. Now massage the other foot in a similar way.

If crossing your legs is more stressful than it used to be, go to the kitchen and get your rolling pin. Sit in a chair and position the rolling pin next to your foot. Gently roll your bare foot back and forth slowly for two minutes or so. Then try it with the other foot. Now wash the pin.

If you don’t own a rolling pin, work with a tennis ball. Put it under the arch of your bare foot, put some pressure on that foot, and move the ball backward and forward.

Keep this rhythm going for about two minutes, and then switch to your other foot.

For your neck and shoulders

Stress often finds its way to your neck and shoulders. To dissipate that tension, take your left hand and firmly massage your right shoulder and the right side of your neck. Start with some gentle circular motions, rubbing the muscle with your index and middle fingers. Then finish with a firmer massage, squeezing the shoulder and neck muscles between your thumb and other fingers. Now switch to the other side.

For your face

Start by placing both of your hands on your face with the tips of your fingers resting on your forehead and the heels of your palms resting just under your cheeks. Gently pull down the skin on your forehead with the tips of your fingers while pushing up the area under your palms. Rhythmically repeat this movement, contracting and releasing your fingers and palms.

Now pull on your ears in different directions.

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