Are you running around in circles and can’t find your center, like a chicken with its head cut off?
Busy traffic? Late for work? Argument with a family member or a co-worker right at the beginning of your day? No clean sheets ready when you get to work and you needed them, like, yesterday? Can’t find the oil and lotion bottles that you thought you’d left in a safe place the night before? Room too cold? Too hot? A cancellation or no-show or two at the last minute and you were depending on that income to meet your daily quota?
We all have those days when we can’t see the sunshine for the clouds. They are the Murphy’s Law days from hell, when we allow distractions to rob us of our peace and keep us on edge. A client should be arriving in 10 minutes and you feel way more stressed out than they are. Not to mention that they are relying on you to provide a centering, stress-relieving massage session that makes them feel like a new person.
But what about you? You need to feel like a new person too—and fast. What can you do?
Techniques to Calm Down
The following are some calm-down techniques for the utterly frantic, panicking, stressed-out and totally frenzied massage therapist. Most of the following techniques only take a few minutes of your focused, undivided attention. Practice them, and you will feel better in no time
1. Slow Down and Focus on your Breathing
Find a quiet place, be still and breathe deeply from your diaphragm. Continue this breathing before, during and after a massage.
It will slow your heart rate down, and if you deep-breathe while holding the Sea of Tranquility acupressure point at the center of your sternum (CV17). The combination will calm you down even more, because this point helps relieve anxiety and panic.
Holding and breathing into this point also induces calmness by sending circulation to the cardiovascular system. You can also press the Sea of Energy acupressure point point just below your belly button (CV6). This point is also called the dantien or hara, and is one of the most empowering points in the body. It develops vitality, strengthens the immune system and benefits the urinary system, the kidneys and reproductive system. So slow down, breathe, press in and let yourself relax.
2. Recite Affirmations
If you’re in a state of mind where you want to scream, go ahead. Just do so into a pillow, so no one can hear you. Seriously, it’s a great emotional outlet. Feeling angry is normal at times, we all experience it, but staying angry can ruin your day and you can ruin other people’s day by staying angry.
However, a little bit of anger channeled properly can help you more easily give that deep tissue massage―just be sure your client has asked for it.
Positive thoughts and words can help bring you back to center if you do so with focus and intention. I keep a set of Wisdom Cards close by for moments of quick guidance and mind-clearing. Each card contains words of wisdom concerning a specific subject, followed by an affirmation.
I recommend reading the card out loud and reciting the affirmation continuously until you reach a state of mental calmness. Reciting affirmations forces your mind to think about something else besides your anger, or whatever emotional feeling you are experiencing, and reduces the amount of mental energy you can use on the issues that are upsetting you.
Now that you have slowed down, focused on your breathing and recited affirmations, mediate. Slowing down and breathing helps put you in a meditative state and affirmations give you something to mediate on.
Meditate on the affirmation, focusing your intention on it fully until it becomes absolute and settled in your mind. If negative thoughts begin to surface, gently shift your mind back to the affirmation and your breath.
Meditation will help you not only understand your own mind, it can also help you change it, shifting from the negative to the positive. Meditate until you can separate yourself mentally from the situation, allowing yourself to observe that situation or those feelings objectively as an outsider rather than as an actor in the drama that seemed so overwhelming.
4. Use Tuning Forks
Tuning forks are used as a form of sound therapy to balance the body and the mind and bring them into harmony.
Striking a tuning fork and holding it up to the ears or placing the vibrating handle of a tuning fork on a painful area or a chakra can be both calming and energizing, and enhance a meditative state. There are many types of tuning forks to choose from, but for that centering pick-me-up I’d recommend using the OM tuning fork.
It’s easy to keep in a drawer or safe place at work for easy reach and convenient use.
5. Diffuse or Apply Frankincense Oil
Frankincense essential oil has a centering effect on the mind and the emotions. In addition to providing relief from respiratory and digestive issues and boosting the immune system, frankincense helps lower stress and anxiety levels.
It acts as a sedative and induces a feeling of mental peace and relaxation. It can open the breathing passages and reduce blood pressure.
Diffuse it throughout the room with an aromatherapy diffuser (if your client isn’t allergic to oils) or place a drop on your temples and wrists before starting a massage. Moving your mental state back to calmness with the pleasant smell of frankincense doesn’t take long.
6. Splash Cold Water in Your Face
Be sure it’s your face you splash cold water in and not someone else’s.
Sudden cold water on your face slows down your heart rate by indirectly stimulating the vagus nerve. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed or anxious, find a sink, fill your hands with cold water and splash it on your face.
While you’re at it, pour yourself a glass of cool, filtered water and drink it―you’ll want to stay hydrated during the course of a busy, hectic day.
7. Draw, Sketch, Color or Work a Crossword Puzzle
Busywork when you have a break will keep your mind occupied—especially if it’s something you enjoy—and you’ll soon forget what was troubling you.
Draw a face of whoever you’re mad at and use it as the target on a dart board later at home—but for best results, don’t let them see it.
Sketching or coloring is a great way to relieve stress and also tap into your creative side. Working crossword puzzles is a stress-relieving, mind- occupying tool, and it’s also a great non-internet learning technique.
8. Sip Green Tea
Instead of turning red with rage, get green with a hot cup of herbal green tea. Green tea contains L-Theanine, a chemical that helps relieve anger. It’s better that the water be boiling instead of you, so seep some tea and take some sips and unwind.
Green tea also has many other health benefits, such as improved brain function, lowering the risk of cancer, boosting the immune system and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
9. Eat Some Dark Chocolate
This is your chance to pamper yourself, so go ahead and have some chocolate. Make it dark chocolate and only one square (about 1.4 ounces should do it.) Dark chocolate regulates levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, and stabilizes the metabolism.
Cortisol is made by the adrenal glands and helps the body use glucose and fat for energy and helps the body manage stress.
10. Eat a Spoonful of Honey
Keep a small jar of honey in your drawer or cabinet and when that frenzied moment of despair hits you replace it with a spoonful of sweetness.
Honey is not only a great natural skin moisturizer and antibiotic, it also helps reduce inflammation in the brain, making it effective to fight depression and anxiety. So, bee thankful for the bees.
11. Bite into a Mango
Take a tropical vacation without leaving your massage room or break room. Bite into a mango. Mangoes contain a compound called linalool that helps lower stress levels. Mango also benefits skin, eye and digestive health, prevents cancer and lowers cholesterol.
12. Smell Some Coffee
Wake up and smell the latte or the espresso. Just the smell of coffee can help reduce stress hormones—no sipping required, but it won’t hurt you do to so. Drinking coffee has many benefits including increased fiber intake, relieves depression, lowers the risks of type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, heart disease, MS and cancer.
Laughter is one of the best medicines for the body and the mind. A good ole knee-slapping fit of laughter can actually increase blood flow and boost the immune system. So, tell jokes; sing silly songs even if you can’t carry a tune in a water bucket; try out that Zumba class even if you trip over your own feet; put that whoopee cushion in your co-worker’s chair (then hide); and find the silver lining behind every dark cloud.
After all, to your clients, you are the silver lining behind the dark cloud of their day. You create a safe place for your clients where they are accepted as they are without judgment, can freely express themselves and let down their guard.
You make their day. You are the reason they can relax and enjoy life. You keep them going on a troubled day when they are at the end of their rope. You revitalize and energize them for the daily challenges they face. You make them feel refreshed and alive and renewed. You rock their world.
So find what calm down techniques work for you then regroup, re-energize, and keep going—and keep up the good work.
About the Author
Vicki Sutherland, L.M.T. is a graduate of Tennessee School of Massage. She currently maintains massage practices in Tennessee and Mississippi. She specializes in Swedish, deep tissue, acupressure, cupping therapy and other various spa modalities. Teaching is her passion and she currently teaches National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork-approved courses in sports massage and stretching, acupressure, cupping therapy, reflexology, hot stone therapy, aromatherapy and hydrotherapy.
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