A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Beating Holiday Stress

The Holidays are coming! For many people, this could mean hours of planning, late night wrapping, the In-law’s shitsu (Sir Elton the Third) who pees on your brand-new carpet every time someone enters your house or driving in terrible conditions.  I could go on and on, but what I am describing is holiday STRESS! We all have it, but how do you keep your wits about you? There are a few different ways you can deal with stress.  A very easy and important one is breathing.  Not just trying to breathe through your blocked nose breathing, but breathing for relaxation. To really get a good relaxing breath, start by taking a nice deep breath through your nose.  First let your tummy expand all the way out as you breath in and allow your shoulders to rise slightly at the end of the breath and then slowly exhale.  You want to make sure you breath deep into your stomach because this is what is going to break that “Flight or Fight” response that was triggered by the  stressors.  After taking a few breaths like this, you should start to feel calmer.  

If you are the chef of the house, there is most likely going to be a turkey in your future, and by future, we mean oven. That 20lb beast can really do a number on those back muscles, going in and out of the oven. If you are feeling achy and stiff, you may want to use some deep moist heat.  10-15 minutes on the sore muscles will allow more circulation to the area and help to relax them.  

Maybe decorating is more your thing.  Hanging the stockings by the chimney with care, tossing tinsel and ornaments on the tree for hours may cause a bit of a sore elbow from all that repetitive movement.  Grab a bag of peas, or an ice pack (wrapped with a towel) and put that on your elbow for 5-15 minutes.   Another cool hint, if you have been wearing heels to all those festive parties, your feet might be aching, so get that frozen water bottle and throw it on the ground.  Roll the bottom of your feet over the bottle for 10-15, or until they start to feel better.  

We hope the only ones not sleeping are the kids waiting for that jolly old elf, but because of the stress of the holidays, sleep can be a sweet commodity for many parents.  To help you grab a couple extra zzz’s, start by putting away those electronic devices.  No, we don’t mean forever, but at least half an hour before you are ready to sleep.  The light from the phone or tablet tells the brain that it’s not night time yet, so it may take a long time for your body to go into shut down mode.  Essential oils are also great helpers to get to sleep.  Lavender is the best for sleeping and relaxation.  You can put a few drops into a diffuser and put it into your bedroom while you sleep.  A couple drops on to the underside of your pillow will also do the trick.  Exercise and staying hydrated are also important for sleep.  When you exercise, try to make sure you are either exercising a few hours before your bed time, or right before.  If exercise gives you a lot of energy, the first option is best.  A rigorous work out that drains all your energy is best for the later. Do make sure you are drinking water during and after your work outs.   

If you have tried all of these stress reducers, (or none) and are still stressed and achy, another amazing option is massage therapy.  A Registered Massage Therapist will help you with those sore and tight muscles.  A secondary effect of massage is relaxation.  A massage is a nice present you can give to yourself with all these wonderful benefits wrapped up in a big red bow (actual bow optional).  

Merry Christmas!

Abby Gauen, RMT