The holidays are upon us, whether we’re ready for it or not. With the uptick of events and obligations during the next two months, it’s important to remember to loop in self-care even in the midst of family dinners, travels, deadlines, shopping and everything else that makes the season merry and bright.
If massage is one of your sanity savers, be sure to get a session scheduled. And while massage therapy can have benefits that last days or weeks at a time, that doesn’t mean you can neglect your body every day in between appointments. To help the effects of your massage last longer and simply to feel better, you’ll need to practice some self-care, which is no easy trick during this busy time of year.
So here are 7 easy self-care tips you can start using today to get you through the holidays until your next massage appointment.
#1: Take breaks
Whether you’re working at a desk all day, standing in one spot, or doing hard manual labor, your body needs a break. Ideally, you’d want to take about 10 minutes for every hour of work, but I know not every work environment accommodates that sort of schedule, so take a break as often as possible. And I mean a real break. Don’t grab lunch at your desk while you keep working, or go from a computer screen to your phone screen scrolling through social media. A real break, one that’s going to benefit your body and mind, is one in which you do the opposite of your work. So if you sit at a desk all day, take a break by going outside for a 10 minute walk on nice days, or at least walk around the office and chat with coworkers about things that aren’t work related. If your job is more physically assertive, take a break by sitting back, kicking up your feet and closing your eyes for a few minutes. Whatever it is you do, give your mind and body a true rest from those tasks, or you won’t feel like you’ve had a break at all.
During that break, or even while you’re working, move your body and stretch! Focus on the areas that tend to bother you at the end of the day, even if they’re not hurting right at the moment. Incorporating some small stretches throughout the day will often prevent that pain you may be feeling by the time you’re ready to clock out.
Back massagers, foot baths, Thera Canes, and more…while there’s all kinds of specific tools designed to help you reach those hard to massage areas, a tennis ball can be just as good. You can use it for just about any area with only your bodyweight as leverage to get pressure. For example, try lying on your back on the floor, with the tennis ball placed under your back (if this is too much pressure, try leaning against a wall instead). You can use your feet to rock yourself left and right, up and down, letting the ball find different areas of tension. When you find a good spot, try to relax and breathe into it until that tension melts away.
While these tools don’t replace the skilled hands of a trained massage therapist, they can help to relieve the daily tension that can build up between appointments.
#4: Get Outside
Fresh air does a body good, and this is actually backed up by science. Research suggests that spending time outdoors helps you to clear your mind, improve your focus, and just feel happier. So whether it’s taking a break during work or making a day of it on a weekend, spend time outdoors.
#5: Meditate / Breathe
Meditation has been shown time and again to help reduce stress and ease tension in the body, but I know it seems like a daunting task for many. Meditation isn’t just about clearing your mind completely (that’s impossible for most of us), but is instead about focusing your mind on something. Some prefer guided meditation to keep them focused, and others enjoy just some quiet time breathing. Find what works for you. There’s no right or wrong about it. To start, try taking just 5 minutes somewhere quiet to breathe. Close your eyes and focus your attention on your body. What sensations do you feel? Focus on slowly relaxing each and every muscle from the top of your head all the way down to your toes. Making even a short exercise like this a normal part of your daily activities not only helps you relax, but it builds your body awareness – your ability to perceive where you are in space, and to recognize the sensations of your own body. This can, in turn help you recognize when your body is close to injury and prevent you from pushing too hard, or help you to isolate a problem area you may need work on.
#6: Turn up the music
Music is good for the soul and can help to take your mind off daily stresses. Studies have shown that playing music causes dopamine, a feel-good chemical, to be released into the brain. This is the same chemical that’s released when we eat chocolate and fall in love. It’s pretty powerful stuff! So while you’re driving to and from work, crank up the tunes and rock out. If you can’t stand the music they play at work (if any), bring your own and put in some headphones. It’ll help you to concentrate and feel good all day.
#7: Get plenty of sleep
Sleep is absolutely crucial to keeping your body in tip-top shape. If your sleep is suffering, everything else will suffer as well. Most adults need a minimum of 7 hours of sleep a night, but many people are far below that. Everyone’s needs are different, so you may be perfectly fine with less than that, or you may need more. The best way to determine this is to go without an alarm clock for at least 1 week and go to bed at the same time every night. This allows your body to fall into a rhythm of what it really needs instead of what it’s been forced to do for so long. You’ll soon see just how much sleep your body requires when you allow it to wake naturally.
And no, sleeping in on the weekends doesn’t make up for a week of lost sleep. Sleep deprivation (those who get less than the recommended 7 hours) can result in a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and a decreased immune system. Not to mention the smaller side effects like loss of concentration, decreased productivity, and irritability. So if you want to feel good throughout your time between massage appointments, make sure you’re getting enough sleep.
#8: Get Important Self-Care Events on Your Calendar
Make the appointment. Whether it’s a hair appointment, workout, drinks with friend, a massage, or that much needed outdoors time we talked about in #5. Just make the call, text, go online or do whatever you need to do to get the appointment on your books — even if it’s weeks in advance (especially if it’s weeks in advance!). From there you can build your calendar around that date and know that among all of the things you need need to take care of, you’ve already made a plan to take care of yourself.