Self-Massage as Emotional Regulation

We hear more and more about mindfulness as a way of staying present and regulating emotion.  But finding an inviting way to connect to your own body can be a great tool to add to your toolbox.  Staying connected to our bodies can help us maintain calm, move away from distracting thoughts, and feel good.

Self-massage can be a great way to come into contact with your body.  No matter what your current connection is to your body, self-massage can be tailored so that you feel comfortable and soothed.  After all, you’re the one in control!

It’s easy and free and can provide the type of grounding that is often helpful in relieving symptoms of emotional dysregulation, including anxiety and depression.

The beauty of self-massage is that you get to come up with whatever technique works for you and focus on whatever area needs the most attention.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

·       Hands: Start by massaging your thumb and the palm and joints near the thumb.  As the tension there starts to release, start to transition to the wrist, and then work your way through each of the fingers, massaging and wiggling each finger.  Maintain calm breath throughout.

·       Forearms: Place your hand palm face-up on your thigh.  Press the heel of your other hand down the forearm and slide the heel of the hand from the elbow to the wrist.  You might also try using the forearm of one arm to press against the other, again sliding the forearm from the elbow to the wrist of the other arm. Repeat as needed.

·       Scalp: Use your fingers to massage all around your scalp and upper neck.  Try to find the area of your scalp that feels most beneficial for you, and stay for a while if you are finding a spot useful.  You can also cross your hands and place the thumbs at the base of the skull and pull lightly upward for a gentle neck release.

·       Temples: Gently place the heels of your palms at your temples and press upwards for about 5 seconds.  Repeat as needed.

·       Face: Use your fingers to draw little circles along your hairline, temples, cheeks, and jaw.  Pause in any spot that feels like it needs some extra attention.

·       Neck and shoulders: Drop your shoulders and slowly tuck your chin.  Take your fingers and start massaging your neck, then move to your shoulders.  If you find a tender point, pause there and apply additional pressure as needed.  Try holding your fingers at one spot and rolling your shoulders before moving on to the next point.

·       Thighs: Make your hands into fist and gently tap the thighs to loosen the muscles.  Press the heels of your hands down the thighs toward your knees.  For additional pressure, use your forearm instead of your hands.

·       Calves: Take your thumbs and rub the inside of your calves, pausing in any spot that needs extra care.  For more pressure, try using the heels of your palms or pressing the calf of one leg into the knee of the other.

·       Feet: Grasp each toe and rotate it a few times clockwise, then counter-clockwise.  Use your thumbs to press into the soles of the feet.  If you are home, try rolling your foot on a tennis ball.

Self-massage can be a great way to use your body to help your emotions and mind.  Go ahead and give it a shot!  You might learn that your body can be a useful tool in your overall healing.

Allison is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist and an Associate Professional Clinical Counselor with the Center for Mindful Psychotherapy. She views therapy as a collaborative process that helps you understand how to be the truest version of yourself. She works with adults, couples, and families.  She helps people work through anxiety, depression, relationship issues, career challenges, and trauma. Visit her website, to learn more or reach out via e-mail at to schedule a consultation call.

Associate Marriage and Family Therapist #107189
Associate Professional Clinical Counselor #5316
Supervised by Trisha Rowe, LCSW #13444

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