If Holiday Stress Comes For You, Rub Yourself The Right Way

Photo: Ikon Images/REX Shutterstock.
It's been in the back of our minds for weeks now, building to a crescendo, taking a toll on our wallets and our moods. The holidays, as wonderful as they may be, can be a huge source of stress. How do you manage the social obligations requiring you to show your face, big-ticket items to purchase, extended family members to visit, and everyday work stresses and personal life pressures? Our heads hurt just thinking about it!

What we need is a good massage. But who has time for that? Well, if you've got two working hands, you do! While professional massages are never a bad thing, you can perform one on yourself. Your very own healing hands are all you need to effectively stave off anxiety and dropping energy levels, according to New York City's Dr. Dot. Known as the "rock 'n' roll masseuse," Dr. Dot (born Dorothy Stein) married her musical obsessions with her lifelong massage practice, earning her PG-rated, working backstage access after her favorite bands' concerts. Over the last two decades, she has become the backstage massage therapist of choice for pop music's top talents — think: Katy Perry, Kanye West, Mariah Carey, Mick Jagger, and Robert Plant.

Dr. Dot walks us through four of her signature self-healing moves that we can use in the check-out line, while stuck in traffic, or in the bathroom at your in-laws' house (and you can watch her demonstrate them on YouTube!).
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Head & Scalp

The most blatant signs of holiday-related tension will come in the form of headaches and fatigue...and it's not solely due to office-party boozing. According to Dr. Dot, the scalp tightens, "preventing oxygen flow." That, in turn, makes you tired and a total cranky-pants. She suggests that you try a head and scalp massage on your next lunch break as a means of lowering blood pressure and lifting your spirit. "Think about how wonderful it feels when you are at the hairdresser or barber as they wash your hair and massage your scalp," she says. "It's never long enough, is it? Because it feels divine." (We're there with you, Doc.)

The How-To:

"Place your palms on your temples, and at the same time, rest your fingers on your head. Then, slowly massage in a firm circular motion a few times clockwise and then counterclockwise, while simultaneously using fingertips to massage and loosen scalp with enough pressure to move the skin over the underlying bone. Continue on, covering your whole head. Don’t be afraid to dig in, keeping your hand in a rake position, but avoid using fingernails at all costs. Gently grasp handfuls of your hair and tug it outwards, as if you were pulling the stress out of your head. Hold the hair for a few seconds and release. Repeat this motion all over scalp, time permitting."

Neck

So many of us (author included) hold serious tension in our necks. And after an afternoon of gift-grabbing, the neck can really start sounding like bubble-wrap. What it needs is some TLC, from you to you, and frequent massaging throughout the day will get some nice blood flowing to the brain, Dr. Dot says.

The How-To:

"Lay your head back...this will relieve your neck of bearing some weight — as the average head weighs between five and 10 pounds, which is a lot for your neck to carry around — and, in turn, make it easier to knead the neck muscles. Place all of your fingertips vertically at the base of your skull and firmly press into the muscles along each side of your cervical spine, a.k.a. the upper spine.

"Then, slowly run your fingers down your neck while rubbing back and forth, covering all areas between the base of your skull and the top of your shoulders. With your left hand on your right elbow and right hand resting on left shoulder, push right elbow up while using right hand to 'rake' muscles between left shoulder blade and spine — your traps and rhomboids — and back over the shoulder in one slow, strong movement. Repeat using the opposing side — right hand on the left elbow to push the left hand over the shoulder, to rake muscles on right side."

Ears

We don't know about you, but there are more things to look at, worry over, accomplish, avoid, and ponder than ever before. Is it any wonder that we get a little foggy, confused, or...disoriented in Nordstrom Rack when the holiday pressures mount? Get your focus back, grasshoppers, with an orienting ear massage. "This technique is fast and easy to do and calms you immediately," Dr. Dot assures us."

The How-To:

"Squeeze and pull your ears with your thumb and forefinger, as firmly as possible without pain — 'ironing' out the folds of your ears with your finger tips. Fold your ears forward and hold for a few seconds, then release. Then, place a palm over each ear, and use your hands to move your ears up and down in a circular motion, easing pressure on the upward movement. This cupping movement should sound like the ocean and is very relaxing. Take your pointer finger and middle finger, open them like a big V, and go along both sides of your ears. Slowly, but firmly, go up and down a few times."

Face & Jaw

You may think you've got a grip, but your clenched jaw and grinding teeth suggest otherwise. Give your visage a chance to unclench, will you? "This can cause headaches and fatigue," Dr. Dot says.

The How-To:

"One hand should hold your head sturdy. With the opposite hand, place your fingertips at the top of your jaw and firmly 'rake' downwards until you reach the bottom and repeat five times. Then, take the knuckles and rub them in a circular motion, slowing inching your way south. Repeat five times. Do both sides.

"Now, take your pointer finger and middle finger tightly together and make firm figure eights around each temple simultaneously five times. Then, take the pointer finger and thumb and squeeze the eyebrows tightly, going from inner eye to outer eye. Repeat five times. Take all the finger tips and rake the forehead, north to south, five times. Then, do the same from the middle outwards, five times."
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