An image of a person holding what looks like a tangled string hovering above her like a balloon is clipped with a scissors, in order to illustrate the concept of relieving stress.

Massage therapists offer one of the best stress-relief services in a relaxation massage. It seems obvious we, as therapists, would use massage as our own stress reliever, but what if it’s not enough? Have you ever taken the time to find your best stress relief, the one that is most effective for you at this time in your life?

Let’s look further into what makes a stress-reliever effective and how to identify your best stress relief.

What is Stress?

Stress causes mental or emotional strain or tension from difficult or demanding circumstances. Stress has been used interchangeably with words like strain, pressure, anxiety and tension. We have all experienced stress in large and mild doses.

 High stressors are things like divorce or the death of a child or spouse. A more mild example may be moving, and even milder may be client complaints.

Think about stress you’ve experienced in your life, big or small, and recall how it made you feel in your body. Some common stress physical symptoms are:

• Difficulty breathing

Anxiety or panic attacks

• Blurred eyesight or sore eyes

• Sleep problems

• Fatigue

• Muscle aches and headaches

• Chest pains and high blood pressure

• Indigestion or heartburn

The goal is to find your perfect stress-relief activity to counteract these physical symptoms.

Stress is individual, so your stress-relief techniques should be unique to you. We can agree what stresses one person out may be a mild stressor for another. Consider why this is.

For one thing, personality and past experiences both determine how the body and mind respond to stress. Your personality is innate and not something you have control over, but understanding its role in what stresses you is helpful. Personality makes introverts and extroverts, for example. Extroverts may thrive in crowds, while a crowd can be stressful and exhausting for introverts.

Your past experiences, while they may be helpful in understanding why certain stressors affect you, can’t be changed. They are in the past. Focus on what brings you relief from stress right now.

A common way to find your best stress-relieving activities is to think back to when you were a child. What activities did you enjoy? Were you the type who gravitated outdoors, thrived around animals or stopped to listen when music was playing?

Any of these places is an excellent start to finding your best stress relief. Also, we are constantly changing as we go through life, and what stress relief worked five years ago may not be the most effective today, so reevaluating can be advantageous.

What is the Best Stress Relief?

What makes something an ideal stress-reliever for you? Consider these questions with your preferred stress-relief activity in mind:

• Does it make you feel peaceful?

• Do you feel a sense of calm or rejuvenation afterward?

• Do you find joy in the activity?

• Does your stress reliever calm such stress symptoms as anxiety, headache, shallow chest breathing or indigestion?

An example to consider when deciding your best stress-reliever is massage. Massage is usually high on the list when stress relief is the topic of discussion. An effective stress-reliever should benefit the body and the mind. If you can’t relax the mind during a massage, your body can’t get the full benefit. In this case, massage isn’t your ideal stress reliever.

Effective Stress-Relief Techniques

If you’re going to do something, you might as well get the most out of it you can. I’ve experienced a 10-minute meditation that worked better than an hour at the gym.

It is worth your time to explore different stress relief options and see which most positively affects your body. Rather than listing a bunch of ideas you can do for stress relief, let’s take a feel-good approach. What makes you feel alive, joyful, peaceful or whole? That will be your go-to stress relief.

As a personal trainer, I get two main categories of clients: the ones who want to look different and those who want to feel different. Guess which group succeeds more often? Yep, the “feel” group. That is because when our body gets a feel-good response, it’s a strong motivation to get it again.

Your mind can think about the feeling, which is a stronger motivator than anything else. You will do the stress relief technique or activity to get the feeling of calmness, less anxiety, peace or whatever your desired feeling is.

7 Best Stress Relief Techniques

1. Be active. Movement of any kind is good for stress relief, but know which type of movement suits you best. Are you a run-five-miles type or a hot yoga type? Take time and explore what works for you. Maybe being out in nature on a hike is the best stress relief for you.

2. Take control. I heard a great quote about taking control of your life; otherwise, it will take control of you. Life can happen to us unless we purposefully take steps to live the life we want. Find what relieves your stress, fills your cup, and then add that into your daily life.

3. Connect with people. Humans are naturally social beings, and finding people you connect with can be immensely stress-relieving. These are the people you feel calm and connected with when you are around them rather than the draining people you should avoid. The people around you either add to or help reduce your stress.

4. Schedule some me-time. Some people need more of this than others, but everyone’s stress will benefit from some me-time each day. This time appeals to my personality, but others may avoid me-time at all costs. Challenge yourself to find which type you are and how much me-time benefits your stress levels the most.

5. Avoid unhealthy habits. Unhealthy foods, people and substances can seem like stress relief at the time but usually leave further stress afterward.

6. Help other people. Many massage therapists were attracted to the career because they could help people. Helping others may come as a stress relief for you. Think of other ways to help people by volunteering or donating to worthy causes.

7. Work smarter, not harder. For massage therapists, this can be put into a physical care category and a business category. Working smarter at the massage table might look like using tools and techniques to make the work easier on your body. Using heat, cups, topical analgesics and tools can save your body.

Working smarter in your business may mean incorporating products to sell or classes to teach that supplement your income in addition to your hours of hands-on work, which takes the stress out of finances. Having policies and procedures in place reduces stress with client interactions, and having good professional boundaries avoids the stress of overbooking yourself.

Your Best Stress Relief

Have you found your best stress-relief techniques? If you are unsure, are you ready to explore your options? Use the ideas presented here to find one that relaxes the body and the mind, leaving you feeling rejuvenated and joyful.

Angela Lehman

About the Author

Angela Lehman is a massage therapist of 25 years turned online educator, promoting fitness and nutrition for massage therapists. She runs The Fit MT. With her kinesiology degree specialized in nutrition, she trains therapists in healthy eating, exercise and body mechanics to prolong their careers.