Summer is here. And with it comes a whirlwind of activities: graduations, kids transitioning out of the routine of the school year, barbecues, weddings, vacations and so much more. After a seemingly endless winter, summer is a welcome change. We herald its arrival with a collective cheer.
And yet somewhere amid the hectic dash between events and packing for a long-awaited trip, do you ever feel a little overwhelmed? The holidays have the reputation as the most stressful time of year; however, summer can also cause its own type of stress. The sheer volume of commitments throughout the summer can make you feel overwhelmed and overstimulated. While this can show itself as physical discomfort, such as tense shoulders and headaches, it can also take an emotional toll. I see this often with clients who have such packed schedules that they can’t seem to turn off their minds.
Helping a client mentally relax is one of my toughest tasks because it requires a conscious effort on the client’s part. If your back feels tight, I can use a variety of techniques to relax muscles, working through the layers one by one until all of the knots are gone. But the mind is a muscle I can’t physically touch.
Many of my clients have to juggle busy schedules to make time for a massage therapy appointment. I can see the weight of their stress when they walk in. And they aren’t always able to turn off their brains when I start their massage. As I focus on eliminating their physical tension, they slowly allow themselves to forget about the tasks they have to tackle after their appointment. When they leave, they move freer and lighter because a physical and emotional weight has been lifted, even if only temporarily.
Sometimes, however, a client simply cannot stop thinking – mentally running through her calendar, calculating the time left in the week versus the commitments she has made, making to-do lists and recalling deadlines. Instead of allowing herself an hour to think of mental quietude, she torments herself with responsibilities. I may be able to greatly alleviate her physical tension, but there is still an emotional heaviness.
Just as you must allow your body to relax in response to the techniques I use during massage therapy, you also must make an effort to turn off your brain during the session. This doesn’t mean you can’t think about anything at all, but rather that you should give yourself permission to let your mind wander.
For those with high-stress or tightly scheduled lives, letting your mind rest can be difficult. It takes practice. Here are a few ways to let your mind rest.
- Focused Breathing
Lie down or sit in a comfortable position. Close your eyes. Slowly inhale for three counts, then slowly exhale for three counts. Focus on your breathing. You should fill your belly with air when you inhale, your chest and belly falling as you exhale. Continue until your mind feels relaxed.
- Daily Ritual
Do you have daily ritual that is so simple you don’t have to think about it? Perhaps it’s making a pot of coffee each morning or brushing your teeth. As you perform this task, think through the steps. Whenever an unrelated thought starts to creep into your mind, dismiss it and turn back to your task. Engage all of your senses to fully experience this task. What does it sound like? What does it smell like? How does it feel? By focusing solely on this task, you are allowing your mind the space to (briefly) forget everything except what is directly in front of you.
- Get a Massage
Massage therapy is proven to reduce both physical and psychological stress. Before the session begins, tell yourself it’s time to give your brain a break. During the massage, focus on the muscles being worked by the massage therapist. Think about how you feel. Can you feel the knots and twists in your fascia unwinding? Or are you tensing your muscles in response? Are your limbs starting to feel looser? Is there any spot on your body that feels like it needs more attention?
Being able to turn off your mind lets you mentally reset, which helps to ease your stress. Massage therapy is one way to relax physically and mentally. I work with my clients to help them relax during their appointments, and I can teach them self-care methods to practice relaxing their minds between appointments. If you’re feeling overwhelmed this summer, schedule a massage therapy appointment.