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4 Self-Massage Techniques to Help with Stress

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any of us are all too familiar with the mental and physical stress that comes with work. Whether it is working in front of a computer eight hours a day to carrying heavy equipment around during your part-time shifts, there is always something you can do to relieve tension caused by stress.

“Self-massage is helpful for relaxing and to de-stress,” says Chad Friel, a registered massage therapist and yoga therapist. “It’s helpful [for the immune system as well] because it reduces cortisol levels” and increases the activity of white blood cells, which help our body fight diseases. Here are Friel’s four self-massage techniques for stress relief. 

1. Treat Your Tension Headaches 

Tension headaches are caused by overactive or tight muscles, which is a direct result of overwork and not enough rest. Set aside any electronic equipment you have and turn away from your computer screen, when applying the following self-massage technique:

  • Sit upright at the edge of your chair. You can close your eyes if you prefer. 
  • Spot your temporalis muscle by taking your three middle fingers and placing them on your temples, located one inch above and in front of your ears. 
  • Start moving your fingers in small circles and add pressure as you go.
  • Slowly move your fingers towards your eyes, and then slowly move back to where you started. 

2. Rid Yourself of Stressful Shoulders 

Man stretches his back where his trapezius muscles are located.
Shrug or lift your shoulders to activate your trapezius muscles. Photo by Aldi Permana of Unsplash

Do you sometimes feel like you’re carrying the weight of your work on your shoulders? Well, that’s only because you do. Whether you are carrying around heavy equipment or are sitting eight hours a day behind your computer screen, your back, neck and shoulders can feel the tension of a long day’s work. If that’s the case for you, maybe you can try this out:

  • Shrug or lift your shoulders towards your ears to activate and find your upper trapezius muscles.
  • Place your right hand on the muscle located on the opposite shoulder and give it a squeeze — compress the muscle between your fingers and the palm of your hand.
  • Do the same for the opposite muscle while shrugging up and down your shoulders, if you wish. 

3. Don’t Forget Your Neck

Our necks are also no stranger to tension. Muscle tightness or stiffness around the neck can be caused by poor posture, hunching over the computer, a poor sleeping position, stress, trauma or tension headaches, to name a few. Whenever you experience any tension around your neck, try to do the following:

  • Sit at the edge of your chair, with your back away from the headrest. 
  • Straighten your spine and drop your chin towards your chest. Be sure to bend the neck and not your lower spine. 
  • Place your fingers at the back of your head and allow the weight of your arms to increase the stretch. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds until you release your hands and return to a neutral position. 
  • Stretch the muscles on the side of your neck by turning your head to the left, and drop your chin down towards your armpit. 
  • Take your left hand and place your fingers at the back of your head. Add pressure from your hand to increase the stretch and hold for 30 to 60 seconds. 
  • Repeat on the right side. 

4. Breathe In and Out 

When you have no time and you are at the brink of a stressful day, this last technique of ours is the one for you. Whether it is mental or physical stress, some of us will need a few seconds to clear our minds in order to keep working productively. This breathing technique should help keep you going:

  • Sit up straight or lie down on your back, if possible.  
  • Place one hand on your chest and another on your stomach. 
  • Start exhaling all the air out of your mouth, and focus on deflating your belly.
  • Inhale: Focusing, first, on the expansion of your belly and then on the expansion of your chest. 
  • Once you feel your lungs and belly are filled with air, you can start to exhale.
  • Exhale: First, focus your hand against your deflating chest, and then turn your attention towards your belly as you do a full exhale. 
  • Repeat this around 10 to 20 times.  
  • Focus on taking long and slow deep breaths, and try to match the length of your inhales to your exhales. 

Make managing your stress a priority this year and turn any tiring day into an energetically productive one. Whether you are regularly facing a stressful work environment, home life or are running on a busy travel schedule, we hope these tips can help you take a break and relax before getting back into the grind. For more tips to creating a better year for yourself, visit our list of the 5 Best Resolutions To Make the Most of 2021


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