The festive season is a recipe for stress and tension, and we all need to look ourselves and take a bit of time out at this time of year.
Easier said than done, but here are a few tips that will help…
1. And relax…
Just grabbing a half-hour to yourself will make all the difference. Why not try…
- Listening to music — while wrapping presents is a good time!
- Taking a long hot bath, preferably with some relaxing oils
- Going for a walk, or doing a bit of tidying in the garden
- Catching up with a friend (and not talking about how stressed you both are!)
- Simply sitting down and putting your feet up.
2. Sweet dreams…
When your to-do list is as long as your arm, it can start to affect the quality of your sleep and your ability to concentrate — and that just piles more stress on top of stress.
Get some help with the Brainwave series of apps from Banzai Labs. There’s a huge range to choose from, but the 30 Advanced Binaural Programs covers (among others) sleep, concentration, focus, relaxation and creativity. Highly recommended!
3. Relief for your neck and shoulders…
When you’re up against it and don’t have time for a full therapeutic clinical massage, try some of these self-help strategies to ease the stress in your neck and shoulders.
Use a source of heat — a wheat bag is ideal — to place around the neck and over the shoulders. Ensure the shoulder blade is covered for some of the time you’re applying heat.
De-activate trigger points in the Trapezius muscle. Although this muscle is located in the upper back, it’s the primary source of headaches, neck and shoulder pain.
You can find the first Trapezius trigger point by pinching a tiny roll of skin where the shoulder joins the neck. You should feel a firm strand or cord — it may be as small in diameter as a pencil led or as thick as a knitting needle.
Now place your thumb just above the clavicle bone and your fingers over the shoulder, and then massage by rolling the cord between thumb and fingers.
If that’s too sore, squeeze the fingers into the shoulder so pushing the thumb in deeper. And if using fingers and thumb is too tiring, try positioning a tennis ball (or a ball of similar size) on the trigger point and pressing the ball into a wall.
This process may well reproduce or exacerbate a temple headache, indicating that you have found at least one trigger point. Just press for 10–12 seconds until you feel some of the tension release, otherwise the area may feel bruised and sore. You should always work within a pain threshold of 0-10, with 10 being unbearable. Don’t go beyond 7 to ensure your muscles don’t go into spasm — let your body do the healing!
4. Soothing your sore back…
For this you’ll need your tennis ball, which should be placed between the section of the back muscle that’s causing pain and a wall. Move in a number of directions, across the shoulders, up and down and along the edge of the shoulder blade, up and down or across towards the spine.
You’ll almost certainly find more than one trigger point at each site, and they may well be very tender! Remember not to go above 7 on your pain threshold.
Have a look at this video to see how the ball should be used across the shoulders and for trigger points elsewhere on the body.
Now take a deep breath and enjoy your Christmas and New Year break!