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Aahhh. That hit the spot.

Like an ice cream cone on a hot day or a steaming cup of cocoa on a cold one, the benefits of massage can satisfy both physical and emotional needs. But how frustrating it can be to feel your tension return the moment you step outside the treatment room.

So, when you invest in your next massage, take steps to make that post-massage feeling last as long as possible.

1. Schedule smartly. While getting a massage can be a great way to spend a lunch hour, sometimes the beneficial effects of a midday massage are instantly erased by a hectic workday. "I realize sometimes you just have to fit one in when you can," says Laura Allen, a massage therapist and author of A Massage Therapist's Guide to Business andPlain and Simple Guide to Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork Examinations. "But I try to schedule my massage at the end of the day so I can go home and rest."

Allen suggests making your appointment for after work or on your day off-when a noontime appointment is perfect. "That way, you don't have to fall right back into your busy life," she says.

2. Pump down the volume. When you get into your car after a massage, avoid loud rock music and opt for relaxing tunes, Allen suggests. Skip the news, too. Stories about the economy can raise your blood pressure - which you just spent an hour bringing down.

3. Watch your diet. "When you've just had a massage, don't go and eat a heavy meal," Allen says. "Have something light like veggie sticks." Heavy meals can make you feel bloated and sluggish, rather than reenergized.

4. Stay hydrated. Some studies question the benefits of drinking water after a massage, Allen acknowledges. But most massage therapists still encourage hydration to help flush waste and prevent next-day soreness. And at least for those first few hours after a massage, avoid caffeine and alcohol, which are dehydrating.

5. Dress the part. Want to feel relaxed after your massage? Bring comfortable clothing to change into. "People coming from work might be in suits and heels," Allen says. "If you're coming straight from work, bring along some sweat pants to change into after your massage, so that comfortable feeling lasts a little bit longer."

6. Invest in regular massage. Overextending yourself financially won't leave you feeling relaxed no matter how experienced your massage therapist is. With a Massage Envy membership, your monthly massage and spa services are affordable and accounted for. "It's easy to waste money on frivolous things," Allen says. "Cut down on that spending, and budget for a professional massage."

7. Avoid strenuous activity. Immediately after your massage, take it easy. Forgo hiking and running in favor of yoga or light stretching, Allen says.

8. Extend your "me" time. Schedule other just-for-you appointments on the same day, Allen suggests. Schedule your Massage Envy massage and facial back to back to relax a bit longer.

9. Avoid stress. As much as possible, avoid stressful situations before and after your massage. "If you know it stresses you out to talk to your mother on the phone, don't talk to her right before or after you get a massage," Allen says.

10. Keep it going. Want to keep that post-massage feeling? "Go home, dim the lights, put on some nice music, rest and relax," Allen says. "And treat yourself to a nice bubble bath."

- By Stephanie Conner

- Photos by Jeff Newton