There are 364 new emails in the inbox, those new pants are covered in scalding coffee, and the next conference call starts in exactly five minutes. In other words, it’s the perfect time to relax. When we’re feeling frazzled, a weekend at a beach resort might be just the thing to calm our nerves. But there isn’t always time for tanning, let alone sleeping, eating, or going to the bathroom. Luckily we’ve rounded up 40 ways to relax and relieve stress in just five minutes or less. From sipping tea to trying some pranayama breathing, all these tactics can create calm during tough times.
Let go of guilt. Many religious and cultural beliefs instill the value of hard work very deeply. Over time, and increasingly so with the advent of smart technology that keeps us hyper-wired 24/7, many of us have come to believe that being "on-the-go" constantly is the only way to prove our value. Having an unrealistic interpretation of "hard work" will end up wearing you down. Hard work is giving your tasks the attention they deserve at the time they deserve, not letting it bleed into all hours of your day!
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While this is practically a no-brainer, it’s still important to note that exercising is an excellent way to get rid of stress. Find the type of exercise that suits you and makes you happy doing it. Some people find walking or jogging very relaxing while others like to dance or lift weights. Find a physical exercise that suits you and raise your heart rate around 20-30 minutes every day. Simple ways to increase exercise are to take the stairs, and park farther away so you have to walk further. Look for opportunities to walk and move at home, school or on the job.
Thank you so much for your article The Pressure Question in Massage Therapy. I just read it all. I went for a sports massage two weeks ago as I was recommended to have one as it was suggested it might help with tight calves, a side effect of some other injuries I have. I’ve been for sports massages many, many times before over the years. This one was one of the most painful experiences of my life — when I got home I was almost sick and felt in shock. My right achilles tendon was raging and it’s been bad ever since. It hurt so much when it was done (like someone was sticking knives in) and I kept asking if it was meant to hurt. I wish I’d just stopped the session or objected but I didn’t. It used to be a bad injury that affected me walking for about 6 months so I’m just devastated about this. I can hardly bear to put shoes on and its all this time on. I know there are good practitioners out there but experiences like this just make me want to stay away. I wish I’d gone to a “gentle” one.
The psychoanalyst David Morgan, of the Institute of Psychoanalysis, believes that for many of us this deadening retreat to our screens is both a reason for and a consequence of the fact that we no longer know how to relax and enjoy ourselves. Our screens and what we use them for are all techniques of distraction, he says. “People have got so used to looking for distraction that they actually cannot stand an evening with themselves. It is a way of not seeing oneself, because to have insight into oneself requires mental space, and all these distraction techniques are used as a way of avoiding getting close to the self.”
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In Mexico massage therapists, called "sobadores", combine massage using oil or lotion with a form of acupuncture and faith. Sobadores are used to relieve digestive system problems as well as knee and back pain. Many of these therapists work out of the back of a truck, with just a curtain for privacy. By learning additional holistic healer's skills in addition to massage, the practitioner may become a curandero.
Well, all living creatures have what’s known as fight or flight responses. Fight or flight can be triggered when you’re forced to respond to environmental stressors and your default biophysical reactions kick in to get you out of harm’s way (or what you perceive as harm’s way). Interestingly, your epithelial and endothelial cells – that’s right, even your tiny cells – enact fight or flight when they’re up against environmental stressors.1
Some research has shown that massage therapy can be effective during pregnancy due to its anxiety-lowering effects, and women who receive massages before and during labor tend to experience decreased depression, anxiety, and leg and back pain. Results from one study found that women who received massages prior to and during labor had significantly less pain, plus their labors were on average three hours shorter and required less need for medication.
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Sheets and wrappings of connective tissue called fascia are considered an exciting frontier in massage therapy. Supposedly fascia can get tight and needs to be “released.” However, key examples of research either fail to support fascial therapy or actually undermine it — for instance, fascia is too tough to actually change. Fascia enthusiasm seems to be a fad. For more information, see Does Fascia Matter? A detailed critical analysis of the clinical relevance of fascia science and fascia properties. BACK TO TEXT
Negative thoughts and feelings usually stay away when you are a good time. Schedule some time with your closest friend(s) or family regularly. Go out to dinner, listen to music, take a walk or just sit and have a cup of coffee. The activity is not as important as the shared experience. Such activities often help you take your mind off your worries!
During the 1930s and 1940s massage's influence decreased as a result of medical advancements of the time, while in the 1970s massage's influence grew once again with a notable rise among athletes. Until the 1970s, nurses used massage to reduce pain and aid sleep. The massage therapy industry is continuously increasing. In 2009, U.S. consumers spent between $4 and $6 billion on visits to massage therapists. In 2015, research estimates that massage therapy was a $12.1 billion industry.
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The fact is, I do already do all those ideal things occasionally, but sometimes it feels as if being in the world is too much, and I need to disappear from it by losing myself in a screen. It is as if I crave that brain-dead feeling, even though I know it isn’t good for me. Having psychoanalytic psychotherapy is helping me to think about the reasons why I might do this – and for Morgan, therapy can be an important pathway out of being stuck in a screen-gazing rut, because it is somewhere a person is encouraged to use his or her mind. “The therapeutic space is the opposite of distraction – it’s concentration,” he says. “When people come into my consulting room, they often tell me it’s the first time they have ever felt they have had a space where they can’t run away from things.”
States (like Texas) that regulate massage generally require practitioners to graduate from massage school, pass a licensing exam, pay a licensing fee and earn continuing education units in order to maintain licensure. Most massage therapists purchase liability insurance as well. Strict codes of conduct must be adhered to, and therapists who are found to have acted outside the law can lose their license.
Craniosacral therapy is another classic example — popular for decades, it is a touch therapy, not “massage,” and it has never enjoyed any respect from the majority of doctors or scientists. It has even been criticized by many alternative health professionals.36 And yet it is sold with overconfidence by countless manual therapists as though it were proven effective.
Scientists theorize that things in our environment compete for the brain's attention. Essentially, the brain can only focus on a certain amount of input at once. Focusing on sensations other than tension and pain, or even introducing new sensations, can "close the gate" to pain. The pain doesn't go away, it just drops into the background. De-stress and counteract the downward pain spiral with these eight relaxation tips.
Middle-Ages: Medical knowledge, including that of massage, made its way from Rome to Persia in the Middle Ages. Many of Galen's manuscripts, for instance, were collected and translated by Hunayn ibn Ishaq in the 9th century. Later in the 11th century copies were translated back into Latin, and again in the 15th and 16th centuries, when they helped enlighten European scholars as to the achievements of the Ancient Greeks. This renewal of the Galenic tradition during the Renaissance played a very important part in the rise of modern science.
Before booking an appointment, ask questions about the therapist’s education and experience, like “What is your training?” “How many years have you been practicing?” and “Do you work frequently with runners?”, suggests Gammal. Seek referrals if possible, and ensure s/he is a licensed massage therapist. Rotenberger recommends a massage therapist specifically trained in orthopedic treatment and assessment, as s/he will know when to refer you to another healthcare professional, in the case that you’re experiencing chronic pain and discomfort not fixable via massage. You can find a reputable practitioner via www.orthomassage.net or www.NeuroMuscular-Reprogramming.com.
With possible benefits such as improved fitness endurance and performance, increased flexibility and recovery time, and injury prevention, sports massage is way more than just a massage for athletes! Traditionally, sports massage is a deep tissue massage that targets the deepest layers of muscle in order to stimulate blood flow. It is best done before or after the event as a means to later restore or rehabilitate. For more, see our Comprehensive Guide to Massage.
This seems like a fairly straightforward bit of good-news science about stretching. It’s not a surprising idea that movement would have some systemic regulatory effects (motion is lotion, use it or lose it), but it’s nice to see some corroboration of that common sensical notion, and it’s also nice to know that perhaps just stretching did this (to the extent we can learn anything from a single study). If true, it makes for nice evidence to support a general stretching habit, yoga, mobilizations, really any kind of “massaging with movement,” and probably even massage itself.
For instance, basic research has shown that touch is neurologically complex and probably has many physiological effects. Skin is fantastically rich in nerve endings — up to about 10,000 per square centimetre9 — and in 2009, Swedish researchers identified specialized nerve fibers that respond only to light stroking of a certain speed.10 This reinforces the obvious: massage can provide people with a rich and novel sensory experience, which could be a major mechanism for pain relief and other therapeutic benefits. If massage works, it’s mainly because of the neurology of touch (as opposed to, say, changing tissues).11
Massage has been shown to reduce neuromuscular excitability by measuring changes in the Hoffman's reflex (H-reflex) amplitude. A decrease in peak-to-peak H-reflex amplitude suggests a decrease in motoneuron excitability. Others explain, "H-reflex is considered to be the electrical analogue of the stretch reflex...and the reduction" is due to a decrease in spinal reflex excitability. Field (2007) confirms that the inhibitory effects are due to deep tissue receptors and not superficial cutaneous receptors, as there was no decrease in H-reflex when looking at light fingertip pressure massage. It has been noted that "the receptors activated during massage are specific to the muscle being massaged", as other muscles did not produce a decrease in H-reflex amplitude.
A 2014 Chinese review of studies by Li et al48 is a good example of what a shabby state massage therapy research is in. Let me be clear up front: I don’t think this paper actually proves anything one way or the other. I think it’s straightforwardly inconclusive. It has a positive sounding conclusion that isn’t really justified and there are major caveats. But it doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t go get me some massage if I had fibromyalgia. I probably would! But that’s another story. This is about the science, so here goes:
Really, stop and smell ’em. Certain odors can change our mood, and it’s hard to feel angry or upset with a nose full of roses The impact of natural odors on affective states in humans. Weber, S.T., Heuburger, E. Department of Clinical pharmacy and Diagnostics, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria. Chemial Senses 2008;33(5):441-7.. Keep a fresh jar of your favorite flowers near your workspace or in the living room, and take a whiff whenever anxiety strikes.
“What is an ice cream walk? Great question. The process is pretty simple. Step one: exit your abode to go for a walk. Step two: walk toward an ice cream shop — any ice cream shop. Step three: order an ice cream. Step four: eat ice cream. Impromptu walks are one of my favorite ways to clear my head, but adding ice cream into the mix makes it feel like an intentional way of treating myself, literally and figuratively. I recommend Van Leeuwen if you happen to be ice cream-walking in NYC.”
Seriously, walk away from the screen(s). In fact, once you finish reading this article, you can walk away from this screen, too. Today, there’s so much time spent taking in information. You read the news, have your most personal conversations, and work, all from the same little screen. So, leave it behind. Taking regular breaks from your phone and computer can help reset your brain and bring relief. And doing so before bed (at least 45 minutes before) will help you drift to slumber without a heavy mind.
Jason DeAntonis is an award-winning Bay Area artist, known for his sumi ink illustrations, and his fine carpentry and custom furniture. He has also worked in sculpture, costume design, glass blowing, painting, printmaking, and book illustration. His work has appeared in Mindfulness in the Garden, How to Sit, How to Eat, How to Walk, How to Love, and How to Relax. He lives in Berkeley, California.