• Strange Relaxation Methods WTF?!?

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    MSN.com reports: According to the 2009 Stress in America survey, published by the American Psychological Association, 24 percent of more than 1,500 adults polled said they’d experienced “high stress” levels during the preceding month. Participants rated their stress as an eight, nine or 10, on a 10-point scale.

    Here are some of the most bizarre de-stress methods people are trying in order to calm down:

    1.) Snake massage
    Strange: Some people like the feel of non-poisonous reptiles slithering across their bodies in spa-like settings, with larger, heavier snakes providing a deeper kneading as they crawl across flesh. But how effective are these creatures at reducing stress? Even snakes’ general pressure on the body can be relaxing, says Kriota Willberg, a licensed massage therapist and an instructor at Swedish Institute, in New York. But what’s missing is a snake’s ability to systematically and selectively apply pressure, and to respond to the body’s feedback.

    But True: When a patient is stressed out, the neck, shoulders, lower back and lower extremities are often especially tense, says Willberg. Within these areas of tension, multiple layers of muscles are often involved. By incorporating different muscle-relaxing techniques, such as tempo, expertise at palpating, and varying the pressure—skills that are not part of a snake’s repertoire—massage therapists customize their work to patients’ needs. The result is a modality that’s both stress-reducing and therapeutic.

    2.) Beer bath
    Strange: If a mug of beer calms you down, maybe bathing in a tubful of the stuff—one European brewery offers this service in a beerarium—might destress you even more. Fans of suds-immersion cite beer’s healthy ingredients and skin-softening qualities. But even if you could afford the amount of beer it would take to fill a tub, are the benefits worth it?

    Beer warmed up to hot-tub temperatures is likely to have calming and muscle-relaxing effects, simply because of the heat of a liquid, which simulates a regular hot-water bath, says Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council, and editor of HerbalGram, a peer-reviewed publication. And, because the heat allows the pores to open, some of the beer’s sedating alcohol content can be absorbed into the blood stream through the skin.

    But True: Beer’s most calming ingredient is hops (Humulus lupulus), an herb known for its sedative qualities, says Blumenthal. However, he says, most of the hops’ bitter acids, which contain these stress-fighting properties, evaporate during the brewing process. However, you can get the benefit of hops without going to a beer spa.

    3.) Needling
    FB974332A942126CB0B6236F3DEStrange: Stress typically causes tension in the body, resulting in blocked energy flow. Acupuncture is a more than 2,000-year-old healing system using needles on energy paths called meridians. And when you penetrate certain locations on these channels that may be blocked, the needling improves blood flow to that area, which helps release endorphins, the body’s feel-good substances, says Raupp.

    But True: In a person suffering from stress symptoms, the liver meridian is generally affected. “The liver channel is associated with anger, irritability and frustration, emotions that we associate with stress,” says Raupp, the author of Chill Out & Get Healthy (New American Library, 2009). Every patient with these symptoms may receive different needling. However, she notes, a key point on the channel is Liver 3—it’s between the webbing of each foot’s big toe and second toe—referred to at “Big Rushing,” because of the surge of energy associated with it. Raupp suggests people with stress symptoms work that often tender point with their fingers.

    4.) Dry brushing
    Strange: When you’re under a lot of pressure, the body releases hormones that cause the sympathetic nervous system to go into a stressful fight-or-flight mode. But simply brushing the skin with a dry brush, before you bathe, can help reverse the upheaval, says Laurie Steelsmith, a licensed naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist in Hawaii.

    But True: Dry brushing stimulates the superficial nerve endings in the skin. This stimulation activates the parasympathetic nervous system which, in turn, can then restore calmness, says Steelsmith, the author of Natural Choices for Women’s Health (Three Rivers Press, 2005).

    There’s another benefit. Dry brushing moves the lymph, which carries the body’s cellular debris into the blood stream for eventual delivery to the liver for detoxification. When people are laden with toxins, they tend to be sluggish, agitated, and prone to headaches and bad moods. The less the toxic load, the better a person can cope with stress. A quick brushing in the morning—with a dry natural-bristle brush, and using upward or circular strokes toward the heart—can be great way to keep stress at bay. Steelsmith advises using a brush that’s soft enough to encourage habitual use.

    5.) Jaw massage
    Strange: Stress usually takes its toll on the emotions. When those feelings are repressed, the body—especially the jaw—often clenches. It’s as though you lock down the body part that’s associated with giving voice to your feelings, says Willberg.

    But True: Massaging the jaw area to help release muscle tension can be a real stress reliever. The key muscles involved with closing the jaw are the masseter, pterygoid and temporalis (the temporalis is attached to the skull at the temple). If, because of stress, the muscles associated with the jaw remain contracted over time, the result can be headaches and other pain syndromes. For self-massage, Willberg suggests placing the four fingers of each hand (don’t use the thumb) over the temples and making light circular motions for about a minute. Then do the same at the jaw area. Increasing pressure according to preference can lead to additional relaxation.

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