Raise your hand if you’re stressed. Us too. In fact, a recent Gallup poll found that Americans are some of the most stressed-out people in the world…and that was before COVID-19. Since stress can lead to different medical ailments, finding a way to deal with it on an ongoing basis should be at the top of everyone’s “to do” list.
When it comes to managing stress, the Mayo Clinic says that “massage can be a powerful tool to help you take charge of your health and well-being.” It’s literally all about relieving tension from our muscles and our minds.
But you’re not a massage expert? Neither are we. So we asked Amy LeBlanc, LMT, BCTMB – a nationally certified massage therapist and founder of Finding Balance – for some expert tips on self-massage that we can do at home.
Set the Scene
What do we love about going to a spa for a massage? The massage, of course, but the ambiance also plays a big part. Before you begin your self-massage, take the time to create the right scene at home. “Make your space relaxing,” advises LeBlanc. “Dim the lights. Play soft, calming music. Grab some pillows and blankets. And consider some aromatherapy with 100% natural essential oils.”
Which essential oil is right for you? It depends on personal preference – as well as what mood you are in (and what mood you want to be in). If your goal is pure relaxation, lavender is a good choice for a peaceful aroma. For a nice refresh, try the instantly recognizable citrus-scent of lemon. And there is nothing quite as invigorating as the refreshingly minty smell of peppermint.
Just open your bottle of essential oil and take a deep breath right before you begin your self-massage. “Smell is a powerful sense,” says LeBlanc, “and you’ll be amazed at how this one small action sets your frame of mind.”
Choose Your Massage Oil
Pretty much all massage oils feel good on your skin, but why not choose a massage oil that also does good for your skin – like Cococare All-Natural Vitamin E Antioxidant Body Oil? Vitamin E has antioxidant qualities help that fight off free radicals, which are unstable molecules that cause damage to our cells (including our skin cells). So using a massage oil with Vitamin E does more than moisturize – Vitamin E’s healing properties actually strengthen the skin barrier function. (It’s also ideal for everyday skincare, to soften, soothe, and condition the skin!)
Try adding a drop of essential oil to your massage oil for added relaxation. “I would uselavender if it’s been a particularly stressful day – or at night, maybe thirty minutes before bed,” LeBlanc says. “Lemon can be helpful if you’re having trouble focusing, or in the afternoon when the day starts to drag. Adding a drop or two of peppermint essential oil to massage oil can have a cooling effect – especially nice on tired feet and calves!” (Be sure to avoid using essential oils directly on your skin; these concentrated oils should be added to a carrier oil to help avoid skin irritation.)
Now you’re ready to start massaging! LeBlanc advises, “Start gently and build to more pressure. If you feel pain or discomfort, simply reduce pressure or move on to another area.”
Where should you start? Per LeBlanc, that’s completely up to you. Massage where it hurts, where muscles are tired, or all over. “Your muscles don’t need to be in pain to benefit from massage,” says LeBlanc, “and you can use different parts of your hand to apply different types of pressure.”
Here are her tips to help you get started:
- Shoulders and Neck Massage: (“This is the #1 reason my clients get massage – we store so much stress in our shoulders and necks.”) Bring your right hand across the front of your body to knead the left shoulder. Use the base of the hand for more pressure on any spots that need more attention. Use the whole hand, palm to finger tips, for longer strokes – all the way to the base of the skull.
- Scalp Massage: (“This is an easy area to reach, but one people often forget about.”) Use fingertips to apply gentle pressure to scalp. Move in small circles from temples to hairline and back to where the head meets the neck. Don’t forget to include the forehead and ears!
- Forearms Massage: (“We are on digital devices so much – and our forearms are feeling it!”) Rest the left forearm and hand on a comfortable surface. Use right hand to knead left forearm. Use the palm of the right hand or the right forearm for sweeping strokes from wrist to elbow.
Bonus Pro-Tip: You can use a tennis ball to massage harder-to-reach spots like the low back and feet! Just put the tennis ball on the floor and roll your body weight over it. Or for less pressure, try resting the tennis ball on a soft surface like the couch instead of the floor.
Things to Avoid
Remember: it’s not a race – and rushing actually takes away from the relaxation you’re seeking. “Take your time, even if it means doing smaller mini-massages instead of giving yourself one long full-body massage,” says LeBlanc. “You can still get real relief even from a 5-minute massage!”
It’s also not a strength competition. “Don’t press too hard, it should never hurt,” she says, “and never press on bones.”
LeBlanc also reminds us that massage is not appropriate for everyone. “If you’re injured or have concerns, it’s always best to check in with your doctor.”
Spa Serenity Gift Bundle
Can’t decide which essential oil to get? Don’t stress about it! To help battle the current pressures, Cococare has put together a limited-time Spa Serenity Bundle. It contains Vitamin E Antioxidant Body Oil and the three essential oils – lavender, lemon, and peppermint – at a reduced price of only $25. It’s part of Cococare’s commitment to #StickWithWhatMatters by making high-nutrient skincare accessible to everyone!