Ways to Reduce Tension

Relax Yourself

Massage helps reduce muscle tension and stiffness in numerous ways, including increasing blood flow to your muscles. Some research shows that regular massage may also boost immunity by stimulating the production of white blood cells. Massage helps you relax and improve your mental energy. It may also make you more productive at work.

One University of Miami study found that a brief self-massage at work reduced stress and boosted job performance. After a 15-minute massage, workers were more alert and could complete math problems faster and with more accuracy.

Fortunately, you have your very own massage therapist with you at all times -- your hands! "Most people practice the art of self-massage without thinking about it, whether they are rubbing their forehead because of a headache, scrubbing themselves with a loofah sponge in the shower, or rubbing their feet after a long day," says Anna Walsemann, a yoga and Oriental healing instructor at New Age Health Spa in Neversink, New York. "These are all simple and natural self-massage techniques."

You don't have to take a class to give yourself a proper rubdown. In this article, you'll get the advice you need to reduce tension from head to foot -- within seconds.

1. Every morning and evening, hammer out the kinks. Using your fists, gently thump the outside of your body, starting with your legs and arms, working from top to bottom. Then move inward to your torso and thump from bottom to top. "Pummeling your muscles and bones will help strengthen the body, stimulate blood circulation, and relax nerve endings," says Walsemann. When done in the morning, this self-massage technique will waken and prepare your body -- and mind -- for the day ahead. When done before bed, it calms down the mind and beats out the stress and tension of the day. One warning: If you're taking any kind of blood thinner, such as Coumadin (warfarin), avoid this one; you could wind up with bruising.

2. Rub your belly after every meal. Most of us do this instinctively, especially after overeating. Place one or both palms on your abdomen and rub it in clockwise circles. This is the same direction food naturally moves through your intestine, so your circular massage will help to stimulate digestion.

3. Rub yourself down before and after exercise. Massaging your body before your stretching, cardio, or strength training increases blood flow to the muscles. Massaging your muscles after exercise may help encourage waste removal and speed muscle recovery. Before exercise, use a pummeling motion with your fists to bring blood flow to your leg and arm muscles. After exercise, rub along your muscles with your palm or fist, moving in the direction of your heart.

4. Give your hands a massage every day -- whenever you put on lotion. Start with the bottoms of your palms by clasping your fingers and rubbing the heels of your palms together in a circular motion. Then, with your hands still clasped, take one thumb and massage the area just below your other thumb in circular motions, moving outward to the center of the palm. Repeat with the other hand. Then release your fingers and use your thumbs and index fingers to knead your palms, wrists, and the webbing between your fingers. With one hand, gently pull each finger of the other hand. Finish by using your thumb and index finger to pinch the webbing between your other thumb and index finger.

5. Roll on a tennis ball whenever you feel tight. If your foot feels tense, stand with one hand on a wall for support and place the arch of one foot on top of the ball. Gradually add more body weight over the foot, allowing the ball to press into your arch. Begin to slowly move your foot, allowing the ball to massage your heel, forefoot, and toes. Note: If the tennis ball seems too big for your foot, try a golf ball instead.

You can also lie on the ball to get at that hard-to-reach spot between the shoulder blades or to soothe tension in your low back. For tight hips, sit on the ball, wiggling your booty around and holding it in any spot that feels particularly good.

Get on the Ball

6. Fill the bottom of a shoe box with golf balls and stick it under your desk at work. Whenever you need to take a trip to podiatric paradise, take off a shoe and rub your foot over the golf balls.

7. Whenever you take off a pair of high heels, sit on the floor and give your calves some attention. Elevating your heels all day long can eventually shorten your calf muscles. To release them, sit with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Grasp one ankle, placing your thumb just above your Achilles tendon. Press your thumb into the bottom of your calf muscle, hold for 5 seconds, and release. Move an inch up your calf and repeat the pressure. Continue pressing and releasing until you get to your knee, then switch legs.

8. Fill a tube-style athletic sock three-fourths full with uncooked rice, tie off the end tightly with a rubber band, and stick it in the microwave for 2 minutes. Remove the sock and rub it up and down your legs and arms for a gentle, soothing hot massage. Leave the sock filled with the rice; you can use it over and over. You can add spices to the rice if you wish to have a pleasant scent while massaging.

9. Use your hands to heel your neck. Once an hour, take a break from staring at your computer and clasp your fingers behind your neck, pressing the heels of your palms into your neck on either side of your spinal column. Massage the heels of your hands up and down in slow, deliberate motions. Then place the fingers of your right hand on your trapezius muscle along the left side of your neck just below the base of your skull. Press into that muscle, tilt your head to the left, and rub downward until you reach your shoulder. Repeat three times, then switch sides.

Finish by stretching your head back so the top of your office chair presses into your neck just below your skull. This also stretches out the front of your neck, which tends to get tight during deskwork. Hold for 20 seconds.

10. Open your sinuses with some finger pressure. If you have clogged sinuses due to a cold or allergies, rub them with your index fingers. Start just above your brow line. Place your finger pads just above your nose, press down and rub outward, tracing your brow line as you go. Repeat two or three times. Then place the pads of your fingers below your eyes and to the sides of the bridge of your nose, rubbing outward and moving downward with each stroke. Now use your thumbs to massage your cheekbones, making small circles starting at the center of your face and moving out toward your ears. Finally, place your thumbs on your temples and massage them in small circles.

11. When your eyes feel tired from staring at your computer screen all day long, give them some heat. Rub your hands together vigorously until you feel the skin on your palms begin to warm up. Then cup one hand over each eye, feeling the heat from your hands relax your eyes.

The Rubdown

12. When your feet are sore after a long day of standing, take off your shoes and socks, wash your feet, and give them a rubdown. Sitting on a comfortable couch or chair, thread the fingers of one hand through the toes of one foot, spreading out your toes and placing the palm of your hand against the bottom of your foot. Use your palm to gently rotate the joints of your forefoot forward and back for one minute. Then remove your fingers from your toes, hold your ankle with one hand, and gently rotate the entire foot with the other hand, starting with small circles and progressing to larger circles as your ankle warms up. Switch directions, and then repeat with the other foot.

13. Give yourself a bear hug to relax away shoulder tension. Cross your arms over your chest and grab a shoulder with either hand. Squeeze each shoulder and release three times. Then move your hands down your arms, squeezing and releasing until you get to your wrists.

14. Rub lavender oil onto your feet before bed. Lavender-scented oils are available at most health food stores. The smell of lavender and the gentle massaging motions you make as you work the oil into your feet will help you to unwind. An added bonus: The nightly oil treatment softens and hydrates any rough, dry spots on your feet. Once you're done with your massage, put on a pair of socks to prevent the oil from rubbing off onto your sheets.

15. After tennis, cycling, rock climbing, and other arm-tiring sports, give your arms a pinch. Place your right arm across your chest with your elbow bent. Reach across your chest with your left arm and pinch your right arm's triceps, near the shoulder, with the thumb and index finger of your left hand. Hold for a few seconds, release, then pinch again an inch lower on the arm. Continue pinching and releasing until you've made your way to your elbow. Then pinch your right arm's biceps near your armpit and work your way in the same way down to the elbow. Then switch arms. This will release the tension in your muscles and help improve blood circulation.

16. When you have a headache, stand up, bend forward from the hips, and place your forehead on a padded chair. The chair will gently place pressure on your head as you relax in the forward bend. Hold about 30 seconds. When you rise, sit down and spread your fingers through your hair, making a fist. Gently pull the hair away from your head. Hold 2-3 seconds, then release. This stretches the fascia along your scalp, releasing tension. Continue to grab different clumps of hair all over your head, working from the top front of your head, progressing to the sides, and then to the back of your head. Once you have grabbed and released your entire scalp, return to work, feeling refreshed.

17. Keep a tennis ball on your desk and squeeze it regularly. The squeezing motion helps rejuvenate tired fingers and hands, and strengthens your hands for other self-massage techniques.

Storage Ideas


Attic sense. Since the basement and garage are usually easier to get to than the attic, store frequently used items in those more accessible spaces. Save all the seasonal items, or those items that you will probably never use but can't bear to throw out, for the attic.

Plastic storage bins are the best choice for storing clothing in an attic, and not just because they allow the contents to be seen at a glance. Cardboard boxes and trash bags make a good home for vacationing mice.

Miles of aisles. Don't just heap stuff in piles in the attic. Instead, make boxes and bins more accessible by arranging them in rows perpendicular to the attic ceiling. Leave enough aisle space between rows for easy maneuvering. And label everything so that when a container is needed, it can be easily identified.

Highs and lows. Temperature swings tend to be more pronounced in the attic, since it is usually above the house's insulation. These fluctuations will devastate books, videos, and photographs, so find another place for them.


Stud space. Use the empty spaces between wall studs in a basement to house narrow shelves for small items. Place the shelves on wooden cleats nailed to the studs. Since moisture can be a problem in many basements, don't store things there that can be damaged by dampness.

For deeper, wider shelves between studs, notch out a piece of 3/4-inch plywood to fit around two or three studs; then support the plywood with brackets made from 2 x 4's. Be sure to use drywall screws to secure the whole assembly.

Dampness protection. To protect a storage cabinet in the basement from moisture, elevate it on blocks of pressure-treated wood. In addition, attach 1 x 2 furring strips to the concrete wall, so the cabinet will not be nailed directly to the wall. Finally, place a sheet of polyethylene behind and under the cabinet before securing it in place.

Step-up storage. The under-the-stair area of the basement is often underutilized. Divide the space into bays; then equip each bay with organizers or drawers. Try to use the whole depth of the stairs.

Steps open at the back? Mount plastic bins or dishpans on wooden guides in the small spaces right underneath the stair treads. Use the bins to store small fasteners. Just make sure the front of the bin is set well back from the tread.

The long view. The space between basement ceiling joists is perfect for storing long lengths of leftover building materials. Nail racks, made from pieces of scrap lumber, to the joists.

Strip of tools. Organize tools in your workshop space on a magnetic knife holder. Press chisels and other small metal tools onto the holder to keep them out of the workbench shuffle.

Proper ID. A multidrawer organizer can hold all those nuts and bolts, but how do you know what is in each drawer? Just tape or glue one of the items to the outside front of the drawer, and the contents can be identified at a glance.

Staying put. If your perfboard hooks fall out of their holes easily, solve the annoying fallout with twopiece perfboard hangers. Constructed of a hook and an anchor, the improved hangers, available in home centers, stay put when the tools are pulled off.

Rules for tools. Those who do a lot of woodworking should forgo perfboard and open-rack storage systems and store those tools behind cabinet doors. Tools left out in the open pick up a coating of sawdust and need to be cleaned frequently.

Laundry logistics. If the washing machine is in the cellar, prevent loose buttons from becoming lost in the dungeon by storing them in a magnetic key box (available at auto supply stores). Stick the box on the side of the washer, and every time a stray shows up, pop it in.


Towel basket. If you have an empty corner in the bathroom, fill it with a large basket loaded with rolled towels. Not only is this arrangement pretty and convenient, it frees up lots of space in the linen closet.

Separate but equal. If several people use the same bathroom, assign each individual his or her own vanity drawer. This will keep clutter down and encourage everyone to be responsible for replacing his or her own possessions.

Overhead storage. Increase bathroom space easily with over-the-toilet shelving. Inexpensive units made of wood, wicker, plastic, or steel are perfect for holding towels and grooming products.

All hung up. Many grooming gadgets, such as electric shavers and hair dryers, have hooks for hanging. To free up drawer space yet keep the bathroom organized, install a rack made from a wood backing strip and cup hooks. Then hang up the appliances.

Store bathroom items in vinyl shoe pouches, wirecoated baskets, and shower caddies mounted directly on the bathroom wall instead of in the shower.

A paper trail. Buy a roll of paper towels or toilet paper in a color you don't use and place it at the back of a cabinet. If that roll shows up in the bathroom or kitchen, it's time to stock up.

Bag bath toys. If small children and adults share the same bathroom, store bathroom toys in a mesh bag with a drawstring. Hook the string of the bag over the shower head, and the water from the toys will drip right down the drain.


Down under. Install four rollers on an old dresser drawer, fill it up, and roll it under the bed.

Adding a bar. Install a rod on a bedroom door and hang your bath towel on it to dry. The rod eliminates clutter, reduces bathroom moisture, and humidifies the bedroom.

Head of the bed. For attractive, ample storage, move out a headboard and night tables and move in a combination of stock cabinets and open shelving units. Available through many home centers, the cabinets can be combined to meet individual needs and are less expensive than custom built-ins.

Going undercover. Store extra blankets or furniture throws between the mattress and the bedspring.


Plan first. Weed out a closet before reorganizing it. Measure everything that needs to fit back in, then translate these measurements into a design on graph paper. Then, and only then, go out and purchase a closet organizing system.

Hang time. Store holiday decorations out of the way by hanging them inside a closet, above the closet door.

Don't make the cut. Many wire shelving systems are based on a 12-foot shelf module. Don't try to cut down shelves that are too long for your closet with a hacksaw; you'll wind up with sharp, jagged ends. Ask your supplier to cut the units to the right length.

What's included? Not all closet organizing systems include the mounting hardware in the price. When comparing prices, find out exactly what you will get for your money.

Fold what you can. Folding clothing, in most cases, will save space. Fold all the clothing you can, stack it in piles, then measure the piles to determine the amount of shelving needed to accommodate them.

Smart hang-ups. Attach a piece of Velcro to the end of a hanger to keep thin straps from sliding off it. Sew a big loop at the neck of kids' jackets to increase the odds that they will be hung up rather than finding a home on the floor or a newel post.

The eyes have it. Save time by placing the most frequently used items in a closet at eye level.

A favorable reflection. Glue a square mirror tile on a closet's ceiling to inspect the top shelf without climbing a stepladder.

Relieving the load. When the clothes rod in a closet sags under too much weight, replace it with a length of galvanized pipe placed inside PVC piping. Remove the manufacturer's name from the PVC pipe with lacquer thinner.

Color-coded linens. Select a different color or pattern of bed linen for each family member. Whenever a fresh set of linens is needed, it will be easy to pick out the pieces for a particular bed from the linen closet.

Weatherproof closets. Cope with wet stuff in an entry closet by installing a boot tray over a plastic pan. Hang wicker or wire containers on the closet door; they allow ventilation for faster drying of damp gloves and hats. (Some baskets can be folded up when they're not in use.) Install a grille in the closet door to increase ventilation, or replace it with a louvered door.

Neat clothes. If you want to keep clothes uncluttered, file tiny notches about 1 inch apart in a wooden clothing rod; the hangers won't slide together.

Increase storage spaceby decreasing the number of things you have to store. Use the 2-year rule to help: If you haven't worn or used it in 2 years, out it goes.

Less luggage. Save space when storing luggage by placing smaller pieces inside larger ones.

Loaded luggage. Pack away off-season clothing in pieces of luggage and slide them under the bed. If you take a trip, temporarily unpack the clothing and stack it in laundry baskets.


Centralizing stuff. When tackling the next garage cleanup, don't just stick things where they happen to fit. Try reorganizing the space into "centers," the way a kitchen is organized. Group together all the items used for specific activities, like sports, car repair, gardening, and woodworking.

Overhead hooks made from glued-together pieces of PVC pipe make cumbersome items like gardening tools and fishing rods go up, up, and out of the way. Suspend a hook over a tie beam, or attach it to a rope from the ceiling.

Banking a bike. Store a lightweight bike off the garage floor with a couple of screw hooks attached to studs or joists. A long winter's nap on cold concrete could result in cracked, flat tires in the spring.

An old hammock strung over the car in a garage bay can be a clever resting place for sports balls, empty duffel bags, and other bulky lightweight items. Attach the hammock with screw eyes that are secured to the joists.

Reel organization. Cut two notches in a length of 2 x 4, mount it on a garage wall, push on a couple of hose reels, and there will be no more games of jump rope with long extension cords again. The cords unroll smoothly from the reels when needed, held in place by the notches. Or the reel can be popped off and moved to a new location.

Got a hang-up? Create space by hanging a shoe bag on the garage wall or on the inside door of a cabinet to store miscellaneous items. You can also use the spine of a three-ring looseleaf binder as a catchall: the rings can be opened and closed for hanging smaller, lighter items.

Velcro rescue. Sets of self-adhesive strips of strong Velcro are designed to hang various hand tools or larger items -- there's even a set made for gardening tools. Put up a few in the garage and watch clutter disappear.

Hosing reel. Turn an empty 5-gallon paint bucket into a garden hose reel. Just screw the bottom of the bucket to the garage wall; then wrap the hose around it.

Go-go storage. Mount heavy-duty casters on tool carts, workbenches, potting benches, and other in-garage cabinet modules. Snuggle those modules against the wall while the cars are inside, then roll them out for use after the cars have been driven out.

Corraling garbage cans. Prevent garbage cans from blowing or tipping over by securing them to the side of the garage with bungee cords. Install two screw eyes into the wall on either side of the can. Then wrap the cord around the middle of the can, hooking each end of the cord into the eyes.


Antique armoires make great storage units in kitchens with a period or country style. Make sure that the shelves within can withstand the new loads they will have to bear.

Wine cellar in a cabinet. Take out the shelving from an existing cabinet (pick one that's well away from any heat source or cooking appliance). Install in its place two pieces of plywood, each slotted halfway through and assembled diagonally so that they form an X. Each quarter of the cabinet can then hold bottles lying horizontally.

Cookbook collectors can save space by looking for visible -- but out-of-the-way -- places to store little-used volumes. One solution is to mount shelves above doorways and windows.

Avoid nesting. Stacking pots or mixing bowls within each other may save space, but it takes too much time to dig them out when any item except the one on top is needed. In the most efficient kitchens, containers are stored where they can be grasped immediately.

Proper placement. When stocking kitchen cabinets, think creatively. Why store all the cookware in the same place? Stash the pasta pot -- and any other pot routinely filled with water -- near the sink instead of the stove.

Custom fit. Can't find an appliance garage to suit your needs? Paint several small shutters, hinge them together, and hide the appliances behind them.

Light the way. In a tall, deep pantry closet, a door-operated switch is the ultimate convenience. The light automatically comes on when the door is opened. Best of all, when your hands are full, the closing door hits the button and automatically switches off the light.

Number it. Number-code those pile-ups of plastic container tops and bottoms so they can be put together in a flash.

Putting a lid in it. If pot and pan lids are creating a mess in a cabinet, mount an ordinary towel rack on the back of the cabinet door and organize the lids in a nice neat row.

Spin the wheel. For tough-to-reach corners in a cupboard, a lazy susan will do the trick. You won't have to pull out half the cupboard's contents to locate an item.

Free up drawer space by placing aluminum foil, wax paper, and plastic wrap under the sink in a six- or eight-pack plastic soda holder, or beneath an upper cabinet in a tilt-out drawer.

Drawer space at a minimum? Put utensils in a large heavy pitcher rather than in a jumble in the drawer. A lightweight pitcher will tumble over every time you remove an item.

Open up a drawer. Install dividers and organizers in drawers to keep things in order. Items won't shift around or get mixed up when the drawer is opened and closed.

Old kitchen cabinets are wonderful storage vehicles for attics, basements, or garages. The combination of drawers, shelves, and cabinet space will hold many different types of household items.

Declutter a hall or kitchen by storing children's school notices, bills, and other pending paperwork out of sight in a vertical file (or even in a retired napkin holder). Stash the file in a convenient base cabinet.

Wire wall storage. A vinyl-coated wire grid wall system is not only waterproof -- a handy characteristic in a kitchen -- it is snazzier than plain old perfboard. Equip it with a variety of handy hooks, baskets, and other clip-on accessories.

Bag it. Stuff those plastic fruit and vegetable bags from the grocer's into an empty paper towel tube. The tube looks a lot neater than a pile of bags, and you'll be surprised at how many it holds.

How to brown bag it? To organize a bevy of brown grocery bags, clamp them in an old wooden pants hanger and hang them in a closet.

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