Before the Halloween candy has been cleared from grocery store shelves, Christmas decorations are already going up and you’re still trying to figure out Thanksgiving plans.
The holidays rush in like a tornado, turning life upside down for several months. If by some superhuman ability you actually make it to all of the holiday events hosted by friends, work, and family, it’s a miracle if you squeeze in a few workouts and avoid gaining weight in the process.
You know stress is bad for your health and waistline, but the word “relax” seems like a joke. Who has time to go to the spa or spend an afternoon at home reading and catching up on Netflix?!
This hectic time of year with high expectations and little time to take care of yourself can turn you into a big ball of stress. Literally.
Why You Need to Relax Your Body
Even if you don’t feel stressed out, your body may carry stress by way of tight shoulders, back pain, tight hips, lack of sleep and irritability. This muscles tension creates knots, or little bundles of tight muscle fibers, which prevent us from functioning properly. Even exercise, as important as it is for health, can create stress throughout your body if you’re working out intensely on a regular basis.
Taking time to soothe your muscles helps you move easier, relax your mind, and reduce stress.
The following de-stressing activities are ones that you’re unlikely to find in other “How to Relieve Stress” articles. That’s because these practical recovery techniques can be stealthily calming when used properly. Even better, you’ll save time by combining post-workout healing with rest – it’s double-duty for both mind and body.
So yes, try yoga, meditation, essential oils and long baths – ideas you’ve probably heard before – but start adding these to your list to make this holiday season feel a bit more manageable.
1. FOAM ROLLING
Self-myofascial release, or self-massage with a foam roller, is a technique used to apply pressure to knots by getting muscles to relax and get them back into proper alignment. This is great for tight shoulders, back, and legs. Foam rolling daily keeps muscle fascia in a healthier state, reducing the chance of injury and making it easier to move without pain.
Even better, when you foam roll you’re forced to slow down. When done correctly, it should take a good 5-20 minutes, depending on how many knots you have and how many muscle groups you want to work on at a time. Don’t roll up and down muscle groups in a matter of seconds. Instead, you should spend 20-30 seconds (or more) resting on each and every knot you find in each and every muscle. Because it can also be painful, it helps to breathe deeply as you wait out the discomfort for the ultimate sense of relief.
Rather than simply sit and meditate with deep-breathing for 20 minutes, take that time to foam roll the tight areas of your body. Try turning the TV off, playing some soft music, and use the time to process through your day and slow your mind as you unwind tight muscles. Ideally, do this right after a workout or at the end of the day.
Here are a variety of rollers to try:
Flex Foam – gentle and flexible, great for beginners and sensitive users
High Density – firm pressure for any level of user, particularly beginner to intermediate
Rollers with Bumps – from spread out, flexible bumps to firm spikes, ProSource offers multiple variations of firm, textured foam rollers for intermediate to advanced users. The dig much deeper into tough areas like around the shoulder blades and calves for better relief.
Massage Stick – great for runners and anyone who needs a lot of work on their legs, with a thin design and handles that make it super easy to use. Works well with a partner so they can apply pressure for you in harder to reach areas so you can relax.
Lacrosse Ball – the smallest, simplest way to massage away knots. The ball can be taken anywhere and is great for getting tights spots that a foam roller can’t maneuver around, like glutes, shoulders and neck.
Not sure of the proper way to foam roll, or how to even use it? Read here to get all the info you need.
2. ACUPRESSURE MAT
A truly great way to start or end your day is by lying on an Acupressure Mat and Pillow. Sure, thousands of sharp points in your back might not sound relaxing, but take our word for it, it’s a perfect way to reduce stress. After a few moments, your body adjusts to the sensation as it applies pressure all over your back to increase blood flow and provide a sense of massage.
You can’t fidget around on the mat because of the sharp points, so you’re forced to be still and breathe. This is a great time to practice deep-breathing and meditation, or sift through the swirling thoughts in your mind before bed so you can rest easier. Acupressure mats are known to help you fall asleep faster and reduce insomnia, but it can also be rejuvenating in the morning after getting out of bed. This can also be a great time to think through your to-do lists and set intentions and expectations for the day.
Additionally, the acupressure mat stimulates blood flow which also helps with recovery after workouts. Just 10-20 minutes is all you need, so it’s not a major time commitment and your body and mind will thank you!
3. YOGA BLOCKS
Restorative yoga is growing in popularity as a way to relax and stretch your body. Using yoga blocks is a great way to relieve tension and make stretching easier, safer, and more effective. Again, the slow nature of this practice is very calming, meditative, and leaves you feeling great!
Check out this awesome restorative routine using our yoga blocks for a practice you can start implementing right away.
There you have it! Three easy techniques that take less than 30 minutes out of your day to help you de-stress while improving your body’s functionality. Now you can feel better, look better, and actually ENJOY this holiday season!
Comment below and tell us your favorite ways to de-stress!