Relax, you got this.

Relaxing is easier said than done sometimes. Whether it be work, school, parenting, pets, health concerns, or finances, sometimes daily tasks are simply overwhelming. Stress can be triggered by internal factors such as negative self-talk or external factors like major life events or daily hassles. Here are some helpful strategies to help us relax when we are feeling stressed and need to soothe our mind and body.

Change your negative self-talk to positive or neutral.

We are often our own worst critics. Negative self-talk is that critical inner dialogue that devalues us or puts us down and limits our potential. It may sound like “I can’t do anything right” or “my body is weak; I’m never going to get better.” Negative self-talk promotes feelings of helplessness and stress. These are cognitive distortions, persistent thoughts that aren’t grounded in facts or reality.

This harsh form of self-criticism can be managed. Practice recognizing these thoughts, acknowledge them when they arise, and take your power back. Try stopping those thoughts by saying “stop” to yourself, remind yourself that these thoughts are not facts, and replace them with a positive or neutral thought. For example, instead of telling yourself “I’m useless and it won’t get better,” try reframing your thoughts to say something positive like “I am having a difficult time right now, but I have dealt with similar challenges before, and I can handle this too.” Reframing those thoughts doesn’t mean lying or relying on false positivity. If you can’t think of a positive way to rephrase it, try something neutral like “It’s not going great, but I’ll handle it.” Identifying these thoughts and reframing them takes practice. The first step is becoming self-aware and understanding that there is a difference between your feelings and reality. If you have a difficult time recognizing these negative thoughts, ask yourself, would you be this negative and critical of a loved one if this was happening to them instead?

Massage Therapy

Massages are a great way of relaxing tense muscles, relieving pain, and reducing stress. It involves the manipulation of soft tissue, including muscles and tendons, to promote relaxation, pain relief, and improved circulation. Getting a massage with a professional massage therapist can be expensive, but luckily, self-massage can also give us some of the same benefits.

You may use your hands or tools to knead your skin and apply pressure to tense muscles. Rub massage oil or lotion on your hands and massage your shoulders, neck, head, and body. Focus on the areas where you feel tension and discomfort. You may use the palms of your hands to massage in circles and apply more pressure with your fingertips. Be mindful of the amount of pressure you are applying to avoid injuries. You may use specifically designed massage tools like electric neck and shoulder massagers and foam rollers, or you may use a tennis ball or other objects to help get those hard-to-reach areas in your back by placing them on the wall and using your back to roll the object.

Professional massage therapy can be effective for people affected by MS who are experiencing pain, but it may exacerbate symptoms for some individuals. MS can be unpredictable and affect individuals differently. It is important to consult with your healthcare provider before engaging in complementary therapy and seek a professional therapist who is trained and can accommodate your specific health needs, such as sensitivity to heat, bladder concerns, and mobility issues. You may visit the American Massage Therapy Association for assistance in locating a qualified massage therapist and information about your state’s licensing regulations.

Next time you are feeling overwhelmed, try these techniques to help soothe your body and mind. We might not have complete control over external factors, but we can control how we treat ourselves.

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