It’s no secret that Americans are stressed out to the max. We work too hard, take too few vacations, and fight through illnesses to avoid taking sick leave, all while other cultures, like the French for example, stop to smell the flowers. When was the last time you stopped to smell a flower?
According to The American Institute of Stress, stress has been on the rise, with a huge spike in the stress levels of Americans in 2022. While the reason for each person’s stress varies, the fact remains that we, as a society, are practically running on fumes and there are only so many anti-stress medications a doctor is going to prescribe before they point you in another direction. Like, perhaps, face massages. We already know that practices like meditation and yoga help with stress and anxiety, but so can face massages because they focus on acupressure points and blood circulation.
“Facial tension is usually a sign of physical or emotional stress we are holding,” skincare expert Annee De Mamiel tells Bustle. “This can result in physical symptoms such as things like headache, TMJ problems, neck stiffness and issues… Inflammation is a defense mechanism in the body. When something harmful or irritating affects a part of our body, there is a biological response to try to remove it.”
While scientists have yet to find a cure for stress (but let’s hope they do someday!), in the meantime we can practice face massages at home that will help relieve some of that stress that can be so hard to shake.
A lot of times we see people pinch their eyebrows after a long day, but why do they do this? Because it’s an acupressure point and feels good to give it a gentle pinch.
“By lovingly grasping your eyebrows between your thumbs and index finger, you can send love and relief to your heart as well as your kidneys and gallbladder,” skin therapist and healer Julie Civiello Polier tells TZR. “Begin in the middle where your eyebrows meet just under your third eye, gently pinching and work your way out to the ends of your eyebrows. Repeat this movement three to five times while breathing deeply and continuing to release your jaw.”
Releasing your jaw is key while doing this because we hold a lot of tension in our jaws, hence the reason why so many of us clench all day, then grind our teeth all night. After three to five times, you’ll feel a difference almost immediately. Granted, you will not have ridden your life of all your stresses, but you will have provided some well-needed relief.
Although this technique is called skin rolling, it doesn’t mean you need to jump online and buy one of those fancy jade or rose quartz facial rollers — although they do feel very relaxing. In fact, when it comes to skin rolling, all you need is a product-free face, so your fingers don’t slide around on things like serums and moisturizers, and your thumb and pointer finger. To get started, pinch the skin along the jawline, then begin to gently roll upward to the eye and temple region. Make sure to do it on both sides of your face.
“Lift the face tissue with the thumbs while guiding it with the pointer finger grip,” licensed massage therapist and esthetician Liz Aigner tells Well + Good. “As you roll, you’re pushing and pulling to create that ‘roll’ or ‘wave’ effect on the cheek.” This wave effect won’t just release tension but increase circulation which also aids in stress relief.
Although tapping the face, also known as Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), might not seem like it’s going to make a major difference when it comes to stress, science says otherwise. According to research published in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, tapping has been found to reduce cortisol levels, therefore allowing those experiencing stress or anxiety to manage it better.
“Because tapping is a gentle and easy-to-follow technique, anyone struggling with stress, anxiety or pain can benefit from it,” EFT tapping expert and founder of The Tapping Solution app Jessica Ortner tells The Well. “Having a technique that utilizes the power of the mind and body together is incredibly powerful. When we release this stress, we can be more creative and resourceful when we confront challenges and a better help those around us.”
Ortner suggests identifying the point that seems to be the cause of the stress, then to start tapping the hand first, while moving your tapping technique across various points of the body while repeating what part of the body is being tapped and why. For example, as you tap your chin, say “this jaw stress,” or whatever is the cause of the stress you’re experiencing. Saying the stressor out loud helps in combating it.
Pulling your earlobes
Sometimes our stress can be so intense and all-consuming that we no longer feel like ourselves, it’s as though we’re sort of floating and at the whimsy of our anxiety. When that happens, turning to a massage that includes not just the face, but the neck and ears too will help bring you back into the moment.
“Pressing on the earlobes is a fabulous way to activate the lymph fluid in the face and neck to drain and carry away the toxins for cleaning and release,” skin therapist and healer Julie Civiello Polier tells TZR. “Pulling downward on your earlobes while breathing deeply is very grounding and can invite you to be more centered and more calm.” This technique can be used several times a day throughout the day whenever you feel like your center is wavering because of stress, and you need to get back to it.
One of the simplest face massages to master when it comes to relieving stress is the grounded friction technique. For this massage, you want to rub your hands together for 10 to 20 seconds until they’re sufficiently warm, then apply them to whatever part of the body is holding the most tension, which is usually the forehead and neck area. The warmth from your hands will get your blood flowing and give you a feeling of not just being centered, but being present. Similar to pulling on your earlobes, you will feel grounded with a sense of peace.
Again, release your jaw when doing this so your tongue is resting. “When your tongue is down, you get downward tension,” face yoga instructor Koko Hayashi tells Popsugar, adding that tongue posture is extremely important to face massages and should always rest comfortably against the roof of the mouth. This is called “mewing,” according to Hayashi.
We’ve been hearing the word “buccal” a lot lately, especially in regard to buccal fat removal, but this massage has nothing to do with that and everything to do with relieving stress.
“Massage of the temporalis, masseter, and lateral pterygoid muscles [all muscles that help control the jaw] can reduce tension and provide pain relief for patients experiencing muscle pain,” dental director of Park Slope Dentistry in Brooklyn Angelique Freking, D.D.S., tells Shape. “For patients experiencing limited opening of their mouth during an acute TMD (temporomandibular disorder) flare-up, massage can help release the muscles and allow for full opening.”
A well-massaged and relaxed jaw will contribute to the relief of stress-related pain in the face, neck, and even upper back. However, while all of these can easily be done at home on your own, the buccal massage is one you want to be wary of if you’re not schooled in the muscles of the jaw and mouth. So, before you dive into this one to relieve your stress, talk to a professional first.
BY AMANDA CHATEL