Self Massage – While you are warm, clean and peaceful, it is a great time to perform some self-massage techniques. You can make your own massage oil, but be careful to avoid using stimulating blends by mistake or just because they are the only ones you have to hand. Try this aromatherapy blend to encourage the onset of slumber:
- 4 drops of lavender
- 3 drops of chamomile
- 3 drops of clary sage
- Carrier oil such as olive, sunflower or almond oil (25 ml/1 fl oz of carrier oil should have only 12-15 drops of essential oil added).
Making a ritual of your bathing experience will create a trigger in your mind. This will help start the relaxing process as soon as you head towards the bathroom.
Our shoulders are often the area that holds the most stress and tension, especially if we spend the day hunched over a desk. You may want to sit in a comfy chair or on the floor for the following two massages. For the first massage, use the first two fingers of each hand.
- Begin by placing them in the hollow just inside your collarbone, at the base of your neck – you will know when you have hit the right spot, and you will feel the tension. Press gently once, and release.
- Repeat the pressing action along the shoulders, outwards and towards the shoulder joint.
- Repeat the whole Process five times, then change hands and work on the other shoulder.
For the next shoulder massage, you will start by using the middle three fingers of your right hand to work on the left shoulder, and then switch sides.
- Use a firm pressure here, not enough to feel painful, but enough to release the build-up of tension.
- Find the large triangular-shaped muscle where a lot of tension is stored, just below the shoulder.
- Starting from the outer edge of the shoulder and working towards the spine, use your fingers to massage in a circular motion.
- Repeat for as long as you need to, before using the same technique, with the left hand, on the other side.
Self-massage techniques are easy to learn and can provide comfort for a tired body. Invest in some massage tools to help you to achieve the feeling of having had a professional spa massage.
A great deal of stress and tension can be held in the hands. This technique is especially beneficial if you use a computer as part of your everyday routine. Your thumb and index finger will do the work here. Start with your right hand working on the left, and then switch over.
- Make a gentle pinching movement along each finger in turn, starting at the base and moving along towards the fingertip.
- Repeat three times on each hand, before returning to the left palm.
- Loosen the palm with your right thumb, working in a circular motion. Repeat with your other hand.
- Return again to your left hand, loosening the back with your three middle right-hand fingers and working from the base of the fingers to the wrist. Repeat on the other hand.
They carry us around all day, but feet are often neglected. A simple foot massage can relieve tension and ease aches. A foot massage benefits the whole body, stimulating the many thousands of nerve endings there.
- Use a little foot cream or olive oil to nourish the foot as you work.
- Hold your feet with your thumbs facing inwards towards the sole, and gradually work around it, kneading firmly but gently.
- Rub in small circular motions on the sole, and then work on the upper part of the foot. For a great boost to circulation, carry on working up the calf, towards the heart, in gentle pressing motion.
- Press the inside back of the ankle (the slight hollow) with the thumb to promote circulation further.
Bedtime rituals are known to help children to prepare for a good night’s sleep. The repetition of the same routine gradually unwinds the mind and body and indicates to them that nearing bedtime can be wonderfully soothing and achieve effective results. It’s obvious, but easy to forget, that creating a slightly more sophisticated version can have the same success for adults.
A Bathroom Retreat
One of the most effective routines is to have a nightly bath. The calming properties of water have clear effects on our senses and can be used to refresh and revive, or improve our mood and calm us. Creating different atmospheres in your bathroom will help achieve both ends, and using different fragrances will enhance the effect.
A warm, but not too hot, bath works by increasing the body temperature, which then begins to drop, mimicking the body’s reaction to the onset of sleep. For many of us who share a home, have a chaotic work schedule or even work from home, it is a great way to change the pace of your day by signifying some time specifically for yourself and your relaxation needs. Even preparing your bathroom for your soak can be restful. Research has shown that low-level tasks, such as cleaning or organizing, can help balance the mind and relieve stress. If you repeat the same process nightly, you will start to relax as soon as you hang your towel on the radiator.
Almost any bathroom can be turned into a mini spa retreat with clever storage, plants, evocative scents and lighting. A lock on the door can also keep the rest of the world at bay.
First, you need to eliminate all the unnecessary clutter in your bathroom. This may seem difficult as many bathrooms tend to be small, but there is room for improvement in most situations so invest in some stacking boxes that won’t take up much floor space, and pack away children’s toys or the products you don’t use every day but would like to keep. Before you simply put things away, though, ask yourself when was the last time you used them – a lot of perfumed products go ‘off’, so as a rule if you haven’t used something in two months you should use it up quickly or throw it away.
If you are not disciplined enough to keep them tidy, replace open shelves with slim cupboards with doors. If you don’t want to get shampoo or conditioner from the cupboard every day, swap half-empty, sticky bottles for more aesthetically pleasing pump dispenser containers that go with your color scheme. Getting rid of a multicolored chaos of plastic junk will immediately make a space more calming. Don’t forget to look up – a shelf above a door utilizes often ‘dead’ space and can be used to house clutter-containing baskets or rolled up towels; you could even put your homemade relaxation kit up there, out of the way of small prying hands.
Once de-cluttered, you should put together a kit designed especially for you. A sumptuous bath sheet to wrap yourself in when you emerge is essential, but tries not to use fabric softener on your towels as it coats the fibers with a substance that tends to stiffen them.
Candles that contain aromatherapy oils, or oils in an oil burner, will provide a soothing, flickering, melatonin-triggering low light and a calming fragrance. Finally, include something scented in your bath to promote rest. As you become accustomed to your ritual, the evocative nature of scent, which is known to generate memory recall, will make you associate this daily routine with calm and peace. Try one of these relaxing, stress-balancing recipes:
- The color and pretty daisy like shape of chamomile flowers are lovely to look at; sprinkle the heads into the bath and sip a cup of chamomile tea while soaking.
- A combination of Dead Sea salts with a few drops of sandalwood and lavender essential oils will rest both aching muscles and a tired mind. For a choice of other calming scents and their properties, search or read on our website on aromatherapy.
Treat yourself to some huge, soft bath towels so that you can feel warm and safe after a mood-changing and restful bath. The scent of flowers, such as rose and chamomile, can help ease away anxiety and worries. Use them in their flower or petal form as a visual treat, too. Put together a kit of your most effective and relaxing aromatherapy or bath-oil scents. Reach for this emotional first aid kit whenever a day has been long and difficult.
Before you go into the bathroom, deal with annoying stresses so that you don’t lie there fretting. Put the washing machine on, have any chats about the day’s demands with those who need filling in, then make it clear that you are not available for the next 30 minutes. You may even want to hang a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door; someone knocking to ask if you’ve paid the phone bill can be very disruptive.
Bath time might be the time to get out your notepad. Write down any of the stresses that have happened during the day, errands you feel you need to deal with, or things that worry you. Writing them down will help you put them aside while you sleep, and sleeping well will allow you to cope with them much better the following day. You will often find that half of the things you are worrying about don’t actually need any attention; they are just the product of an overwrought mind. If you don’t want to write them down in the bath, keeping a notepad by the bed is also a good way of ‘doing’ something about worries that may cause insomnia. You also need to grant yourself ‘permission’ to go to bed, and not feel that you are shirking responsibilities.
Pep Up the Passion
Use music and scent to quickly change the energy in your bedroom after a long, demanding day. Choose something sultry, rather than distracting, for background noise (yes to easy jazz, no to heavy rock, unless you want your partner to break off to do a guitar solo halfway through). Scent acts very quickly to alter an atmosphere: try ylang ylang in an oil burner, as the flickering light will also enhance the mood. A row of candles standing on a long mirror will also add a sense of occasion. lf your partner still can’t shake off the stress of the day, get them to try this simple ‘state breaker’, which will instantly encourage them to release themselves from their mood. Sit straight with your eyes closed, then breathe in deeply through the nose and out slowly through the mouth; repeat three times to attain a more relaxed state.
The bedroom is more than just a place to sleep. By using lighting, scent and music you can change the mood to one for getting in the mood.