The Best Massages to Relieve Stress, Anxiety, and Depression

The Best Massages to Relieve Stress, Anxiety, and Depression

Try to recall the last time you sat down to truly relax. If you’re drawing a blank, it might be a good time to take a step back and reset. Self-care is a practice that falls by the wayside, as we often overextend ourselves without making room in our busy schedules for a real break. Taking the time to stay healthy, both mentally and physically, can prevent you from experiencing burnout, physical injuries, and other health conditions.

Massages aren’t just for soothing sore muscles– they can work wonders on your stress, anxiety, and depression, too. Read on to find out which massages can help you offload the most stress and how they can improve your overall health, both inside and out:

Chair Massage

Chair massages are brief compared to others on this list, yet very effective at providing a quick burst of relief. This type of massage focuses on the shoulders, neck, and back– the primary areas where we carry our stress and anxiety. If you spend a lot of time in front of your computer, smartphone, or tablet, a chair massage can also help relieve “tech neck,” the sore neck, shoulders, and back; you experience after a long day spent on your devices. A quick massage can also improve your circulation and blood pressure, making you feel more alert and putting you in a better mood overall.

A chair massage usually lasts no longer than 30 minutes at a time and doesn’t require you to lay down or disrobe, making it easier to find time for one in a busy schedule. Getting a quick lunchtime chair massage, for example, can help you refocus so the last half of your day remains as productive as the first.

Aromatherapy Massage

For 6,000 years, aromatherapy has been used to improve sleep, relieve anxiety and stress, promote positive emotions, and much more. This holistic method uses natural oils that are extracted from healing plants and applied as a topical oil or diffused into the air, activating their various therapeutic properties. In conjunction with massage, aromatherapy can provide valuable emotional health benefits that help round out the entire experience. Scents like lavender, basil, and rosemary can soothe stress and anxiety, while cinnamon, ginger, and lemongrass can help relieve pain.

An aromatherapy massage is done either entirely unclothed or in undergarments, and can take up to an hour and a half to complete. A massage therapist will gently rub the oil into your skin as you inhale a diffused version, allowing you to receive the physical and mental benefits of both methods. While not especially rigorous, an aromatherapy massage works on multiple levels to alleviate tension and stress from the body, as well as easing the emotional symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Swedish Massage

This basic form of total-body massage uses gentle kneading and stroking motions to loosen stiff muscles and promote stress relief. Swedish massage can help quickly soothe everyday muscle aches, like those that set in after a workout or work day, and relieve stress that causes additional muscle tension. If you’re new to massage therapy or find firm massages less enjoyable, Swedish massage is the perfect method to help you find relief within your comfort zone. 

Lasting from an hour to an hour and a half, Swedish massage is conducted lying down, unclothed or in your undergarments. Your massage therapist will cover you with a clean sheet as they rotate between different muscle groups during your session. They may also use oils or lotions, which can be combined with aromatherapy for added benefits, to properly complete some techniques.

Hot Stone Massage

During a hot stone massage, smooth, heated basalt stones are used to apply therapeutic warmth to your muscles. The massage therapist may use the stones instead of their hands to apply gentle pressure in a stroking, kneading motion, or will strategically place them on your body to release muscle tension. This type of massage is quite soothing and helps melt away feelings of stress, anxiety, and pain; it can also improve your circulation, as the warmth encourages blood to flow through your body as your blood vessels expand, making you feel more awake and refreshed.

A hot stone massage is enjoyed unclothed or in your undergarments and covered with a sheet, and usually lasts for an hour and a half. During the treatment, your therapist will use a combination of Swedish massage techniques, heated stones, and sometimes cold stones to ease away your worries and physical discomfort. 

Shiatsu Massage

This Japanese massage therapy method is known for its use of pulsing, rhythmic, finger pressure techniques across the entire body. It combines muscle-soothing massaging with acupressure to provide focused relief to problem areas. Shiatsu massage can even help alleviate headaches, ease joint pain, and relieve emotional stress. Because of the focus on pressure points, Shiatsu massage is said to help restore balance and vital energy to the body.

Getting a Shiatsu massage may result in a little soreness both during and after for some, as pressure points can be tender when manipulated, but the discomfort is often described as stimulating. Your massage therapist will allow you to guide the level of pressure they use in their technique to make you as comfortable as you like, and you may remain clothed throughout the session.


If you’re opposed to being massaged by someone else or don’t have the time to book an appointment, you may appreciate using self-massage methods to relieve muscle tension and stress. Self-massage is easy to do and can be just as effective as visiting your massage therapist, especially in a pinch. Using your hands or a massaging tool, you can carefully knead and rub sore muscles and pressure points with your preferred level of firmness. Including aromatherapy, lotions, or oils in your routine can also improve your experience and provide another level of stress relief that’s entirely customizable. Additionally, self-massage can effectively bridge the gap between visits to your massage therapist.

Allowing yourself to take breaks and applying self-care techniques will prevent you from losing focus, motivation, and happiness while keeping your body and mind sound. Massage therapy is a healthy way to relieve stress and improve your wellbeing, and can help you continue to maintain a successful mindset.

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