Try this on your next date night.
When you think of a massage, you probably imagine receiving one (and inevitably falling asleep). That makes sense, in part because there are few things better than having the knots in your back worked out. And it doesn’t just feel good; a meta-analysis of research on massage therapy found that just one session can lower your anxiety, blood pressure, and heart rate.
But when you’re a parent, time is at a minimum, and a spa day probably isn’t in the cards. So instead, offer your partner a stress-melting massage right in your own house—and then trade places. Even just 10 minutes can make a big difference. Not sure how to get started? Follow these easy steps from an expert:
Choose the Oil
Oil can help lubricate skin, making the massage both easier and less intensive on your part. But the oil blend’s aroma can offer mind-body perks, too. “I personally like lavender oil because the scent is very calming,” says Rachel Richards, a licensed massage therapist based in New York, New York. Some research has also found that the scent of lavender may help with anxiety. You can buy oils specifically made for massage online or in beauty supply stores.
Set the Mood
Just because you can’t go to the spa doesn’t mean you can’t make your bedroom feel like one. Dim or turn off the lights, light some candles, and play some soothing music (new-age tunes not necessary—pick a genre you both enjoy!).
Switch Up the Strokes
You don’t have to have to bust out fancy moves to give a good massage. Richards recommends alternating between two basic Swedish massage strokes. “Effleurage involves light, relaxing strokes, and petrissage means kneading, which is what we usually think of when we think of massage,” she says. Still not sure what to do? Ask your partner what feels good.
Know Where to Massage
Odds are, your partner knows which area needs the most attention. But if they want to zone out and relax, no problem: Just focus on the most common areas of pain or tension. According to Richards, most people complain about their low back, neck, and shoulders. Try starting at one and make your way through all of them, checking to make sure you get both sides of the body. And if you’re expecting your period, when you swap roles, you can have your partner massage your abdomen to help ease your cramps.
Remember to Relax
Yes, you! Unless you’re giving massages on a regular basis, your hands and arms may tire out after a few minutes. First, alternate between using your fingers, palms, soft fists, and forearms, so your hands don’t run out of steam quickly. Then, make sure your body is relaxed. Focus on what you’re doing, rather than thinking about the lunches you have to make or the permission slips you still need to sign. “Tense muscles will tire more quickly,” Richards says. “When you are relaxed, it feels better for both the giver and the receiver.”
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