Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
We’ve all had those non-stop days where you’re bouncing from task to task. In the moment you may feel like you’re on a roll and feeling good about checking off your to-do list. But at the end of the day, when you have a moment’s break, you feel fried—in a daze. You end up feeling mentally drained as well as physically tired and exhausted even if you didn’t do much to move your body all day.
Foam rolling is an activity we turn to after our body has gone through a pounding on the pavement, but it’s also something you can utilize after a tough mental workout. Using smaller, more target movements with a soft roller you can address “stuck stress,” which causes aches due to connective-tissue dehydration, compression, neurological imbalance, and faulty body sense
The 10-Minute De-Stress Routine
These five moves will quiet your stress reflex and bring your body back into equilibrium. The sequence improves balance, gut support, and spinal stability, which are an essential part of preventing or reducing any type of body pain and maintaining optimal organ function. Drink plenty of water before and after.
Before getting started, make sure you have the necessary items (or something similar that you can find around the house) on-hand.
- Soft foam roller or towel. You can also use a traditional, firm roller wrapped in a towel, blanket, or yoga mat.
- Soft release ball. You can also use a cushy dog ball or paddle ball.
- Water. For this method to rehydrate cells and connective tissue, you need to drink water. Sip it consistently throughout the day.
- Yoga mat or blanket. Completely optional, but you may find it more comfortable when laying on the floor.
To start the routine, lay down on the floor, with your arms and legs straight and relaxed, palms face up.
Move One: Rest Assess
Close your eyes and take a moment to sense what you feel. Don’t adjust or touch your body—just take notice.
Concentrate on your upper body. Ideally, your ribs are resting on the floor and your arms and shoulder blades are evenly weighted.
Use your navel as a reference point. Does your back feel lifted off the floor from the navel to the shoulder blades? Ideally, that region of your back is relaxed on the floor and the area below the navel, the low back, is off the floor.
Notice your pelvis. You buttocks should feel evenly weighted from left to right. Are you sensing the tailbone on the floor instead of your butt? Does one side seem more weighted than the other? Take note of what you feel.
Imagine splitting yourself into a right and a left side. Does one side feel heavier or longer, or do they feel even?
Finally, take a full breath and notice what areas of your torso expand when your lungs fill with air. Does your belly move? Ribs? Both? Just sense what moves and what doesn’t.
Move Two: Gentle Rocking
Sit on one end of the roller with your feet flat on the floor, about hip-width apart, your knees bent. (If you need additional support, place towels, pillows or bolsters on either side of the roller.) Place your hands on the floor and then slowly roll yourself down along the length of the roller. Touch the top of your head to make sure it is fully supported on the roller.
Start gently rocking your body from side to side. You want a sense of falling and catching yourself on each side for about 30 seconds. Notice what you feel: Do you feel tremendously unsteady? Do you shift your body weight more easily to one side than to the other? Return to a balanced center place on the roller.
Move Three: 3-D Breath Breakdown
Imagine your torso is a six-sided box—front to back, side to side, and top to bottom. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly button. Take 4–5 breaths, allowing the diaphragm to expand in two directions—front and back—as you inhale. Focus on expanding your diaphragm.
Next, place your hands on the widest part of your rib cage, below your armpits. Take 4–5 breaths, allowing the diaphragm to expand between your hands.
Finally, place one hand on your collarbones and the other on your pubic bone. Take a couple of breaths between them, allowing your diaphragm to move downward toward your pelvis as your lungs fill to the top of your collarbones. Find the whole body length of your breath. Notice if your body shifts or the roller rocks a little during any of these directional breaths.
Move Four: 3-D Breath
Place both hands on your belly, and take a deep, focused breath into all six sides of your torso. During the exhale, make a firm shhh, seee, or haaa sound to heighten your ability to sense the reflexive action in your deep abdomen. Repeat 3–4 times. Then, without using the sound or forcing an exhale, see if you can use your body sense to feel that reflexive action.
Slowly come off the roller by straightening a leg and rolling to that side.
Move Five: Rest Reassess
Lie on the floor as you did before. Breathe and allow your body to relax into the floor. Close your eyes and take a moment to reassess.
You may notice these specific changes:
- Your upper body is more relaxed on the floor.
- Your breath feels fuller and more effortless.
- Your body feels more balanced from left to right.
And hopefully the stress of the day has melted away.