Words by Nell from Neon Sports Massage

Here are 8 strategies that I use regularly to cope with various situations. I wanted to create a health company that promotes relaxation, health and exercise. Having had severe anxiety two years ago (whilst qualifying in sports massage), my approach has been very focused both as someone who’s been working on their health and relaxation, as well as helping clients work on theirs.

As we go into the new year, setting resolutions can be a personal and difficult thing – will we have the energy, time or willpower to see them through? Perhaps we could try to just cope better with the many amazing and wonderful things we already do?

Set aside 10-20mins dedicated to stretching after exercise (depending on how many muscle groups you’ve worked). For every stretch, hold for at least 20 seconds per rep, to allow the muscle to properly relax, and flush out the lactic acid that’s built up during exercise. This help enormously in the long run (as those who’ve had crunchy lumps of lactic acid crystals will know!!). If you’re at home, put on a stretching playlist (mine starts with Disney ‘Under the Sea’) that you can look forward to, and will get you into the habit more easily. It’s also less boring to stretch if you’re listening to music, helping you hold stretched for the time needed. It also makes you feel super relaxed after exercise. 

Ok, I’ve been doing this on and off for years – I don’t have a 5am daily routine (!!) and sometimes I don’t meditate for a couple of weeks – but I use it when I need it, and when I need it, I’ll do it for up to an hour, or a few times a day. Sometimes just letting your mind slow down, even if you’re still having thoughts come in and out of your head, helps to make them move more slowly. When you can get to meditating with stillness without thoughts, it’s very refreshing to just give your mind a break for a bit. Once you are used to meditating, and you have a specific problem you want to solve, sometimes you can just sit down, ask the question, meditate in the ‘empty’ way, and suddenly a solution will just ‘pop’ into your head. Then you can be like ‘thanks!’ and carry on with your day.

When things get a bit stressful, sometimes it is just wonderful to book a yoga class and have someone guide you through the poses, meaning you don’t have to think about anything – just follow the routine. The act of just booking a yoga class can help you feel better and more in control because you know you have it to look forward to, and that you will have that relief and release in the near future. Even as someone who’s been doing yoga for a long time, sometime’s my balance isn’t so good if I’m thinking about a lot, or sometimes I’m a bit lazy – the good thing is that it really doesn’t matter how much or little you do in the session – it’s the showing up that counts.

Alternatively, when stressed or when someone’s made you feel angry (on occasion!) going on a run is a fabulous way to burn off that adrenaline and fury. There’s something so primal about putting on your trainers and sprinting out the door and along the coast, gasping in the fresh sea air and watching the waves crash as you move through the landscape. The pounding of your feet relaxes the shoulders and when you finally stop (in my case, a few hundred yards down the path), you just start to feel better. If you prefer running fast but can’t keep going (or if you just prefer it) – intervals is a great way to run; sprint, walk, sprint, walk etc. Other people find a steady jog great. Whatever works for you. Plenty is said about expressing your emotions but not about physically working them out of your system! Try going for a run next time you are furious. 

It’s good to get your stress out at the gym. When it’s rainy or dark, the gym is a good alternative (especially in winter!). The gym is also just good generally; sometimes I just go because I need to clear my head, and then whilst on a machine and staring out the window I’ll get an idea that hasn’t occurred to me before, or make a new connection in my head in between the cuckoos flying around. Sometimes I’ll come back from the gym and (still in stinky gym clothes!) knock out 5 pages of writing or design or work that needs doing. The more obvious reason for going to the gym for me is that I need to be fit and strong to keep doing sports massage – so keeping muscle strength and fitness is important for work. The gym, once you are over the scary initial phase (alien place of scary buff people), becomes a sanctuary, where you can just turn up, work out, and leave. Having a personal trainer can really help set you up and settle you in, using the machines safely and well, and putting a programme together for you to follow. Also nice to see a friendly face! Classes can also help to make it a friendlier place. People are also just generally friendly, and are mostly too focused on their workout to worry about you!

If you don’t feel good, happy, or comfortable with something – change it. Either through laziness, tiredness, fear, or often just unawareness – we put up with things that annoy, irritate, bring us down, upset us; from something as basic as letting a buzzing fly out of a window, to doing that annoying chore, to patching things up with a friend, or apologising for a minor thing that you did but still makes you feel bad. Some people are just more prone to being bothered by things – whereas others are happy to go with the flow and accept things or let things go. There’s a balance! But if you are someone who gets bothered by things – try to just deal with them straight away, and the more pro-active you get, the more used to it you become, and the easier it gets. And then life gets more relaxing.

It took me a long time to even feel comfortable about writing my feelings and thoughts down, but once you crack it, it’s a very liberating and helpful process. Again like meditation, I don’t always write everyday – sometimes I’ll leave it nearly a week, other times I’ll write two or three times a day. It’s a good way to just express something that’s happened or is on your mind, or to help you make sense of it – and then you can go on your way, and carry on with the rest of your day. It can be very helpful to clarify your thoughts about a situation – or even just record an incredible day that you’ve had! Sometimes it’s helpful to think of your diary as a person you are telling things to – sometimes I’ll even sign off ‘night xxx’! Just the process is  really helpful, and writing little and often can help stop things from building up or becoming overwhelming.

Nell far left showing the girl’s where massage helps the back and shoulders.

Ok, I nearly forgot this one! But getting a good massage really, really, makes you feel your better self again. For me, I need sports massages to keep looking after my upper body for doing treatments (and yes, it does hurt!) but afterwards the feeling is so good, you know how much your body needed it and benefits from it. Feeling so good afterwards is the reward. Getting mobility back in joints that are seizing up gradually, or removing the pain you’ve been feeling, and being able to put a t-shirt back on again yourself, or having relief during stressful times such as moving house, is truly powerful. Our bodies go through an awful lot and put up with a lot from us! (right now mine is making me feeling crappy for eating so much over Christmas!!). So the more we start to pay attention to what our bodies are saying to us – much as we listen out to the sound of our car engines to hear if anything is amiss – the more attention we pay to how our individual arms or shoulders or neck, or individual muscles are feeling – the greater position we are to help our bodies and ourselves feel better (see point 6!). The great transformation that I see in clients isn’t just them walking straighter, taller, looking calmer and happier, and telling me how much they’ve noticed a difference – but it’s also their own awareness of their own bodies that greatly increases. As treatments progress, clients begin to be able to pinpoint areas of pain, or exact muscle areas to work on – and as they become more confident of the process, will start to tell me what to do! It’s brilliant!! ‘a bit higher up’, or ‘you can go a bit firmer’ – shows how much more aware they are becoming, and this awareness leads to more effective and greater healing. It’s an incredible process and journey, and the transformation that can happen in a short amount of time is amazing.

I hope that this little collection of coping strategies helps you through in 2016! I know that my 2015 has been all the better for a daily and weekly dose of the above. My 2016 resolution is a secret thought 😉

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