Do you feel run down from managing your daily to-do list? Acupuncturist Karen Johnson says simple techniques can relieve stress, relax muscles, and help you gain a healthier head space. T
he former nurse, who earned a master’s degree in acupuncture from the Traditional Acupuncture Institute in Silver Spring, Maryland, sees non-traditional remedies and approaches as complements to Western medicine.
“I love combining different traditions and approaches to get the best overall effect,” says Johnson, who moved to Evansville in July to be closer to family members.
For everyday pain, acupuncture and massage techniques can work wonders. One issue that aggravates pain, Johnson says, is stress, but there are some easy, safe, gentle, and calming exercises anyone can perform to help alleviate stress.
In a technique called box breathing, envision breathing around a box. Move through the exercise in three-second intervals: Breathe in, hold, breathe out, and hold. Repeat as often as needed to help lower your heart rate and regulate emotions.
Simply humming to yourself also can relieve stress, Johnson says, adding that the resulting vibrations are surprisingly effective at creating calm in the mind and body.
“Find a comfortable position and hum up and down a little scale until you find a note that feels right to you, and literally hum for three to five minutes,” she says.
Another technique is bringing mental attention to specific parts of the body. Johnson recommends starting with the jaw, then moving attention to the shoulders. Do not make any effort to change anything.
“It has a ripple effect on the whole body,” Johnson says. “You don’t have to do anything, just bring your awareness to an area.”
A technique called progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing various muscle groups — but not to the point of pain — for five seconds and then releasing that tension.
“Squeeze groups of muscles, from the feet to the head. Squeeze each muscle group, hold for a count of five, and then relax,” Johnson says. “When the muscles relax, you get this really nice, tingling sensation. It’s really very pleasant.”
She also recommends massaging specific areas of the body called acupoints — which feel like little concave areas on the skin surface — which can help with digestive problems, headaches, energy, tiredness, and more.
She also says that massaging feet and rubbing hands, specifically the webs of hands and fingertips, can also provide relief and relaxation.
Johnson assures these techniques are “super safe; you can’t hurt yourself.” They simply help “get you back to your center so you can take your next steps with a little more ease and grace,” she says.