Love on the Run

hearts

Hi, there! It’s Brooke here. Valentine’s Day is growing closer—will you be ready? By that I mean have you been treating yourself with loving kindness? Or have you been running yourself ragged moving at Mach 10, desperately hoping you don’t fall apart before you finish all the things that MUST BE DONE? I have absolutely no idea what that feels like—ha! With this craziness in mind, I’d like to share several of my favorite tricks on how to relax when your time is tight. As with any healthy relationship, not every caring gesture has to be grand. Little things can be profoundly powerful, as you will see.

breathe rock

Deep Breathing: You’d think we’d know how to breathe correctly, seeing as how we’ve been doing it all our lives. But we would be wrong. Most of us breathe shallowly from our chest, our shoulders naturally rising on every intake of breath. Yes, this gets the job done, but at a cost. We form the habit of shallow breathing and the muscles we use to do this (chest, shoulders, neck, and back) compensate by becoming stiff and tight. When we are stressed or worried, especially over a period of time, our body’s stress response causes us to take short, small breaths, which then causes our shoulders to creep upward toward our ears, when then causes those shoulder, upper back, and neck muscles to tighten up. Before we know it, we feel breathless and trapped, with burning, aching muscles and a raging tension headache. No, no. This won’t do!

Try It!

Start by putting your left hand on your chest and your right hand on your belly. Now, breathe in like you normally do (using your mouth or your nose), with your chest rising below your left hand. That should feel natural to you. Now, breathe in through your nose while expanding your belly below your right hand. Do you feel the difference? Try it again, noticing the way your breath slows down as you inhale through your nose and the larger capacity your “belly,” or diaphragm, has for expanding. This is called deep breathing, or belly breathing. This action floods your cells with oxygen, clearing up your muddled mind, and slows your heartbeat, lowering your blood pressure. Take another deep, slow breath in through your nose, expanding your belly, and then breathe out from your mouth. Do this 3-5 times.

love hand

Healing Touch: It’s nice to have a great massage therapist on your speed dial, but escaping to her quiet studio for an hour is not always possible. Luckily, you can enjoy the healing power of touch given by your own two hands.

Try It!

First, find a calm place. Then as you look at your hands, set your intention to spread healing through your touch. This doesn’t have to be weird or woo-woo. Just notice the warmth and strength of your hands as you work. Starting at your left hand, use your right hand to firmly squeeze the muscles of your left palm and fingers. Then let go and move up your wrist an inch, then squeeze again. Let go and inch your way up your arm the same way, firmly squeezing then moving up, all the way to where your shoulder meets your neck. Then switch hands, and work your way from your right wrist up to the top of your right shoulder. Gently place the palms of both hands on either side of your neck, resting your fingers around the back of your neck (but don’t squeeze!). Just rest your hands gently around your neck for 10 seconds.

occipital massage

If you have a tension headache, this is your go-to move: Take your palms and place them gently over your ears, then spread your fingers out. Your thumbs should be almost touching along the bony ridge on the back of your head. Now take your thumbs and move them outward along that ridge to the bony edge half an inch behind your ears. If you feel softness and not bone, keep moving away from your ear until you feel the bony ridge of the base of your skull. Hook your thumbs underneath that bony ridge and press upward firmly (according to your comfort level) and hold for 10-15 seconds. Then move each thumb half an inch toward the middle of the back of your head and press upward again and hold. Do this until your thumbs meet in the middle.

Now, press the heels of your hands into your scalp, moving around your head after each squeeze. Take your fingertips, and carefully press your temples (or rub in circles). You may want to wash your hands for this next part if your skin is prone to breakouts. Your face is delicate, so you will use just your fingertips now. Start at the middle of your chin and gently squeeze your skin along your jawbone between your thumb and first two fingers, working out toward your ears. Then, come back to the center and while keeping your mouth relaxed, squeeze your lips between your fingertips—it’s probably best that you do this move looking away from other people (or toward a mirror if you need a laugh!). Now, starting at the crease where your cheeks meet your nose, gently press two or three fingertips in place along your cheekbone, working in little increments toward your ear. Then come back to the center, and with one or two fingertips, do the same gentle press along the lower orbital bone (below your eye), working outward and around the entire bone (above your eyes). For an instant stress reliever: Starting at the inner edge of each eyebrow, squeeze and hold the eyebrow between your thumb and forefinger for 8-10 seconds. Then work your way outward, squeezing the eyebrow as you go.

lavendar bushes

Soothing Scents: Depending on your mood, you may lean toward calming scents or revitalizing ones. There are so many lovely possibilities when aromatherapy is involved, but we’ll explore just a few. If you are in need of peace and relaxation, try lavender or eucalyptus essential oils. These scents are classic choices for all manner of calming rest. If you need a little boost, peppermint, spearmint, or wintergreen are excellent choices. Another category of invigorating scents are the evergreens—cedar, spruce, and pine. You can find these essential oils in grocery stores, online, or my favorite massage supply store—Body Logic (www.ebodylogic.com) for $4-$15. These oils are very powerful, so if you want to use them on your skin, be sure to dilute them by adding them to a safe carrier oil or unscented lotion. You can also use these oils by making “smelling salts”—put ½ teaspoon of kosher salt into a little glass vial and then add 5 drops of your favorite scent and cover tightly. Anytime you need a whiff, just open the vial for a portable pick-me-up. You can also add a few drops of oil to a tissue or paper towel tucked nearby and enjoy. And if you don’t have oil, a nice fragrant (unused) tea bag unwrapped on your desk can transport you in no time flat (my favorite for tea-bag aromatherapy is Tazo tea in Earl Grey).

For Valentine’s Day and every day, may you find a few stolen moments to treat yourself to some TLC. Goodness knows we all need it!

XO, Brooke

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