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Stress, Part One

 

You probably know that stress is bad for you. But do you know why?

A stress response in our bodies is normal and sometimes even helpful. If you have to make a presentation or do well on an exam, the stress you feel leading up to it can actually help you stay more keenly alert and actually perform better.

If we are facing an actual threat, our “fight or flight” response is actually necessary for our survival. Our pupils dilate so we can see a little better, our heart rate increases so we have more fresh blood delivering resources to our cells, more of that blood is diverted to our extremities so that we’re ready to run or fight for our lives.

The modern-day problem is that we can have a stress response when we’re sitting in a meeting, or sitting in traffic in our cars—when we don’t actually need more physical resources but our brains perceive that we do. When we are subjected to daily stressors we can get stuck in a perpetual state of imbalance—the part of our nervous system responsible for revving things up does its job well, but the part of our nervous system responsible for calming things down isn’t given enough opportunity to do its work.

And it isn’t only a response to a negative or threatening situation. Sometimes planning a fun vacation or celebratory event can cause people great stress. Biologically speaking, our bodies can respond the same way to the demands of “good” and “bad” challenges.

So we all feel stress from time to time and it serves a purpose. But when we experience chronic stress, when we constantly feel stressed out—it can cause real health problems.

Chronic stress diminishes our immune system, so people who are stressed out all the time tend to get sick more often. Our bodies divert energy and resources to fight or flight, and things like fighting viral infections (colds and flu) suffer.

Stress also causes our bodies to divert energy away from digesting food, so being stressed all the time leads to digestive issues including constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. Emotional eating and stress hormones can cause us to gain weight, especially harmful belly fat. And stress can interfere with our bodies’ ability to absorb nutrients even when we eat healthy.

Stress also leads to having a short temper, frequent headaches, tight muscles and body aches, and insomnia. And being sleep deprived just makes things worse! Stress has been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, and depression. Both men and women can lose interest in sex, and men can experience erectile dysfunction and a reduction in quantity and quality of sperm due to chronic stress.

Chronic stress can even lead to diabetes. According to WebMD: “When you’re stressed, your liver puts glucose in your blood to fuel the fight-or-flight response. But this can be released when you don’t need it—say, in a stressful meeting, for example. If you’re already at risk for high blood sugar and it happens too often, it can lead to diabetes.”

So how do we deal with stress? The first step is understanding and accepting it! If we have the mindset that stress is necessary and can even be positive when we need focus, it’s less likely to be physically or emotionally taxing.

Next week: ways to combat the ill effects of stress.

Source: http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/rm-quiz-stress-test

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy

Having a Stroke

 

How do you know if you or someone you’re with is having a stroke? And what should you do?

According to mayoclinic.org, the following are the telltale signs. If at all possible, notate when the symptoms began, because their duration can guide treatment options:

  • Difficulty speaking and/or understanding. People having a stroke can slur their speech and can have difficulty understanding words.
  • They experience confusion.
  • Paralysis and/or numbness of the face, an arm or a leg. People having a stroke can develop sudden numbness, weakness or paralysis is the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of their body. See if they can raise both arms over their head at the same time. Ask them to smile. If one arm begins to fall, or one side of the mouth droops, they may be having a stroke.
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes. People having a stroke can have sudden blurred vision, blackened vision, or double vision.
  • Headache—sudden and severe, which may be accompanied by vomiting, dizziness, or “altered consciousness.”
  • Difficulty walking. In addition to dizziness, a person having a stroke can stumble, lose their balance, or seem suddenly uncoordinated.

What should we do? Think FAST: Face, Arms, Speech, Time.

  • Face = ask the person to smile. Does one side of the mouth droop?
  • Arms = ask the person to raise both arms. Does one not go up, or drift back down?
  • Speech = ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or sounding strange?
  • Time = if you observe any of these, call 911 immediately!

Don’t wait to see if the symptoms go away. Every minute counts! The longer a stroke goes untreated, the greater the potential for brain damage and disability.

What Causes Strokes?

A stroke is when the blood supply to our brain is interrupted or diminished. The brain doesn’t get enough oxygen and nutrients, and that causes the brain cells to die.

A stroke can be caused by a blocked artery (ischemic stroke) like from a blood clot, or the leaking or bursting of a blood vessel (hemorrhagic stroke) like from an aneurysm. Some people have a temporary disruption of blood flow to their brain, which is called a transient ischemic attack or TIA. Sometimes folks refer to these events as “mini strokes” because the blockage is temporary and doesn’t leave lasting symptoms. But it’s still important to get medical help! It’s not possible to know if you’re having a TIA or a full blown stroke just from your symptoms. And having a TIA puts us a greater risk of having a more severe stroke in the future.

Risk factors include:

  • being overweight or obese
  • being physically inactive
  • engaging in heavy or binge drinking
  • using illicit drugs such as cocaine or methamphetamines
  • having high blood pressure
  • cigarette smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke
  • high cholesterol
  • diabetes
  • obstructive sleep apnea
  • cardiovascular disease
  • family history of stroke, TIA or heart attack
  • being 55 or older
  • race—African-Americans have a higher risk of stroke than people of other races
  • gender—men are at a higher risk than women.

Strokes can cause serious disabilities like paralysis, difficulty talking or swallowing, memory loss, difficulty understanding, and reasoning, emotional problems, pain and tingling, changes in behavior and self-care.

Even if these complications are temporary, it often takes a huge effort in rehabilitation to gets one’s faculties back to full strength. It’s worth it to do what we can to take good care of ourselves and avoid having a stroke.

For inspiration, here’s a fascinating account of a brain scientist remembering what it was like to have a stroke, and what she learned from the experience:


Source:http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/stroke/home/ovc-20117264

Category : Blog &Health

Heart Attack Primer

I think everyone knows that when it comes to helping heart attack victims, time is of the essence. But how do you even know if you’re having a heart attack? And what exactly should you do?

Our hearts pump blood to every part of our body. But even the heart itself needs blood for fresh oxygen. When arteries are blocked, heart tissue can be damaged and die. For the best recovery, blood flow needs to be restored quickly. It’s important to get immediate medical help if you even THINK you might be having a heart attack.

How does it happen? Over time, we can develop blockages on interior blood vessel walls made up of fatty material called plaque. Too much plaque constricts blood flow. According to WebMD, “Most heart attacks happen when a piece of this plaque breaks off. A blood clot forms around the broken-off plaque, and it blocks the artery.”

Symptoms can include pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest, shortness of breath, profuse sweating, feeling faint or nauseated. Some people feel pain in their neck, jaw or shoulders.

Men and women can have different symptoms. Men, for example, are more likely to break out in a cold sweat and feel pain radiate down their left arm.

Women are more likely to have pain in their back or neck, feel a sensation like heartburn, and experience shortness of breath. Women tend to have a stomach ache, upset stomach/queasiness and vomiting. We also can feel very tired, light-headed or dizzy. (In the weeks leading up to a heart attack, women can have flu-like symptoms and sleep issues.)

WebMD suggests: “If you or someone you’re with has symptoms that might be a heart attack, call 911 right away. If it is, you’re more likely to survive if you get treated within 90 minutes. While you’re on the phone, the person should chew and swallow an aspirin (unless they’re allergic) to lower the risk of a blood clot. Are they unconscious? Hands-only CPR can double their chances of survival.”

Locally, anyone can take a hands’ only CPR class through the St. Johns County Fire Rescue. They offer classes at their building on the First Coast Technical College north campus, and sometimes at local libraries. If you put a group together, you can even have someone teach a class at a neighborhood clubhouse or a civic group gathering. The American Red Cross offers classes as well. The more people in the world who know how to do CPR, the better!

Once a person is under medical care, a diagnosis is made via an EKG, which measures your heart’s electrical activity. It can even show which artery is clogged if there is a blockage! Doctors can also diagnose a heart attack with blood work that detects proteins that heart cells release when they die.

According to WebMD, “Doctors will quickly act to get blood flowing to your heart again. You may get drugs that dissolve blood clots. You’ll likely have a procedure called a coronary angiogram. A thin tube with a tiny balloon on the end goes through your artery. It opens up the blockage by flattening the plaque against the walls. Most times, doctors place a small, mesh tube called a stent in your artery to make sure it stays open.” Of course sometimes people need open heart surgery.

And while these procedures have been perfected and most people make a complete recovery, not having a heart attack is always preferable to surviving one!

Our risk of having a heart attack goes up as we age, and men are more prone than women. A family history of heart disease increases our chances. So does smoking!! Other risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, stress, a lack of exercise, and depression.

Prevention is key—and we can take important steps to lower our risk!! Quitting smoking lowers our chances of having a heart attack by a third! Losing enough weight to get out of the “obese” range drastically improved our odds as well. Eating well is important—fruits, veggies, and whole grains can help keep our arteries healthy. (Processed foods are believed to increase inflammation, a top factor in setting us up for trouble.) The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise for 5 days each week. We have to find positive ways to manage our stress. And if you’re at risk, ask your doctor if taking a daily dose of aspirin is right for you.

WebMD assures us that there is life after a heart attack! “If you’re in the hospital, you may come home after just a few days. You can get back to your normal daily life in a few weeks. Cardiac rehab can help you recover. You’ll get your own fitness program and learn how to keep up a heart-healthy lifestyle. Counselors give you support if you’re feeling down or worried about having another attack.”

So now you know—and I hope you never need this information!!

Source: http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/ss/slideshow-heart-attack

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy

Why Can’t We Just Get Along?

 

Many people who write about such things are opining that as a nation, we are more divided than ever before, with the possible exception of the Civil War era.

It seems that way to me as well. And it’s causing some real problems. It also seems like a lot of people are starting to get tired of it.

But how could we possibly resolve our differences? We are not ever going to all agree, nor should we. But there are two things we can do to get back to at least tolerating each other, and behaving with honor and integrity and civility rather than with anger and distrust and close-minded resentment.

Step one: compassion. A video popped up on my Facebook feed titled “The Importance of Empathy.” Critical to getting along with each other—even if we don’t see eye to eye—is our level of empathy, which actually can be improved with practice. Here’s how:
Be observant of others. It starts by putting down our devices and noticing each other. Watch people, and wonder about them without making judgments. Be curious.

Practice active listening. Too often we decide what our response will be without fully listening to what the other person is saying. We think we already know the other person’s position. We engage in a sort of verbal combat. It’s much better to stay fully focused on what the other person is actually saying. Pause. Ask questions to really clarify. Then think about how to respond. We don’t have to agree with each other, but at least we can try to understand and acknowledge each other’s point of view. And if we’re really open-minded, we might even allow one another’s ideas to more fully expand our own understanding.

Share. Equally important to listening to another person’s experiences and opinions, is opening up and sharing our own feelings and views. This can be scary because we don’t know how we’ll be received. But empathy is a two-way street. Both parties must share openly in order to discover commonalities.

Keeping an open mind is the best way to avoid the prejudicial classifying of people who disagree with us as “others.” When we experience a divide between ourselves and people who are different from us (liberal vs. conservative, for example), we cut ourselves off from a rich, shared experience. We really do have more in common than not!

Step two: service. Doing something helpful without expecting anything in return is perhaps the ultimate way to build goodwill and bridge the divide.

In addition to the “typical” volunteer opportunities that might be too time consuming, consider how even small things can have a big impact. One author has some unique and simple suggestions, such as:

inviting someone who needs help getting enough exercise to go on a walk with us
sharing flowers or veggies from our garden
offering to babysit or walk a pet for someone who needs assistance
donate pet food to a local animal shelter, or diapers to a women’s shelter, or donate blood
being open to learning a new language (in our area, American Sign Language for example) so that we can get to know more people, and be in a position to understand if anyone needs help while we’re out and about.

The point is, there are many ways to lift people up and beautify the world. This author suggests that when we do our morning meditation, we ask ourselves what can we do to be of service today? It doesn’t take much! How much better off would we be if each of us picked up at least one piece of litter each day? Or tossed wildflower seeds into a blighted vacant lot? Or smiled and offered a compliment to a stranger who seemed sad.

Maybe this is how we heal our country right now. We get to know each other a little better, and be willing to give of ourselves.

Sources:
https://lifehacker.com/the-importance-of-empathy-in-everyday-life-1791961488

http://dailyom.com/cgi-bin/display/articledisplay.cgi?aid=58605

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Fighting Evil with Love

 

Last week I attended the Rotary International Convention in Atlanta. Rotary is a huge, global organization devoted to service. Rotarians excel at pulling resources together to tackle challenges from small to so large that they would seem insurmountable. One such challenge is ending slavery and human trafficking.

Florida is a state with lots of coastline and many ports—a key entry corridor for trafficking people into the country. Of course, not all people are trafficked from foreign lands. I personally know of two gentlemen who were “recruited” from Maryland when they were homeless, offered jobs working farm fields in sunny, warm Florida for “wages” that would never cover the “living expenses” of staying on the farm camp and relying completely on food, clothing and other supplies sparingly, but not inexpensively provided by the camp boss. Of course, they didn’t know this when they accepted the “job offer.” Once on the truck to Florida, with no money or transportation or even a cell phone, they were trapped. They are now free, but the practice continues in our own county and communities across the country.

All over the nation, places as common as truck stops perpetuate the practice of selling sex falsely advertised as “massage” services. I’m proud of the work that the Florida State Massage Therapy Association and the State of Florida have done and are doing to combat this problem. Law enforcement does what it can, but they are busy, there are sneaky ways around most statutes to make establishments just barely legal on the surface and hard to catch in the act. And there seems to be a never-ending supply of people willing to buy and people willing to profit off of the victimization of others.

Even in Las Vegas where prostitution is legal, it would be a mistake to assume that the women participating in the sex trade are doing so of their own free will. One of the speakers at the Rotary Convention was a woman who was lured to Vegas by someone she thought was a love interest. He wooed her for over a year during a time when she was emotionally vulnerable, and she traveled with him to start a new life. Once in Vegas isolated from her family and support network, she was immediately sold for rape, beaten into compliance, repeatedly moved around and taken over by new handlers until she was rescued in a police raid some seven years later. Another aspect of ending this practice is helping the survivors. With physical and mental scars, a huge gap in employment AND a criminal record, these victims have a very hard time moving forward.

One of the panel discussions I attended at the Rotary Convention featured a law enforcement official, an elected government representative, and none other than Ashton Kutcher, an actor-activist who founded an organization called Thorn dedicated to fighting sex trafficking via the internet.

The law enforcement officer talked about seeing people at their absolute ugliest, and the need to devote more resources to combatting this challenge and imposing harsher punishments. The politician talked about working on tougher legislation and finding ways to fund services for survivors.

And while these are worthwhile efforts to be sure, it was Ashton Kutcher who inspired me the most. He acknowledged most honestly that we’ll never be able to arrest our way out of this problem. We have to go to the source, the buyers of sex. But how?

Kutcher admitted that when Thorn first started, and discovered a way to find online sex offenders, they badgered them with messages like “we know who you are,” and “we know what you’re doing.” But this was not successful. Instead of feeling ashamed or changing their ways, the perpetrators got angry and pushed back.

So Thorn changed tactics. Learning that it doesn’t help to get angry or frustrated in return, they decided instead to reach out with compassion.

They started educating the customers about what they were really buying. They shared images of battered women who had been forced into the trade. They shared resources for people to get help overcoming sex addiction.

And it’s making a difference! Here is a link to their page reporting all the progress they’ve made, and new programs they continue to implement: https://www.wearethorn.org/impact-report-2016/

Just when a problem seems too immense to tackle, the answer becomes beautifully clear—and this came up again and again in different presentations throughout the convention—the best way to fight evil is with love. My favorite speaker was civil rights activist Andrew Young, who preached a compelling message of love and personal responsibility in reflecting on how best to fight prejudice and end discrimination.

If you’re inspired to learn what you can do to end slavery and human trafficking, the State Department has a page listing 15 ways we all can help: https://www.state.gov/j/tip/id/help/

And here’s a link to many different agencies fighting this horrific issue: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_organizations_that_combat_human_trafficking

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy &Personal Growth

Improving Our Posture Is Worth It

 

Did your parents tell you to STAND UP STRAIGHT when you were a kid? It probably seemed like a pain in the butt if they did. But they were right! And we will get bigger pains in the neck if we DON’T work on maintaining good posture.

I’ve seen elderly folks so bent over at the top of their spine, that they literally can only look down. Imagine how that must feel, to have your whole view of the world limited to what’s at your feet. This doesn’t happen overnight. It happens gradually over time. And there are other ill effects of poor posture. So throw your shoulders back and take a look at these facts about posture from WebMD.

1. Slouching adds stress to our spine, and this puts a strain on muscles and other tissues that hold the spine in place. And in addition to being bad for our backs and support structures, slumping too much begins to smush internal organs together, making it harder to digest food or fill our lungs up with air.

2. Maybe the best way to prevent bad posture is simply to deliberately stand up tall. (A bonus is that we look better and it can even help us feel more confident!) Lift your head up and straighten your back as you would if someone were going to measure your height. Are your shoulders back? Are your ears over the middle of your shoulders? Engage your abdominal muscles and tuck your pelvis just enough that your backside doesn’t pooch out.

3. If we have to sit at a desk a lot, it’s tempting to slouch and/or lean back as we get tired. But this is not good posture. It’s far better to sit all the way back in your chair. Use a rolled up towel or small pillow for your mid back if you need it, to support the natural curve of your back. Bend your knees at a right angle and keep your feet flat on the floor. Good seated posture is equally important in the car!!

4. Looking down at our phones all day is really hard on our spines! Even if it seems like we’re only on our phones for a few minutes at a time, it really adds up. It’s much better to lift the phones up to where we can look down with just our eyes. And we need to be diligent about doing some gentle neck stretches and range of motion exercises daily.

5. High heels might look stylish, but they are horrible for healthy posture. They throw off our natural distribution of weight, our balance, and our gait. Wearing heels puts more weight on our knees and the balls of our feet and our toes. Pushing our hips forward causes over-arching our backs, and changes the alignment of the spine and puts pressure on spinal nerves. All of these factors cause problems, so save your back and save high heels for special occasions.

6. We can even support healthy posture while we’re lying down sleeping. Choose a mattress that’s not too soft. My chiropractor recommended getting an all-foam mattress to support every inch of the spine (not just wherever the springs happened to be). If you’re a side sleeper, use a pillow that supports the natural curve of your neck—you don’t want your head to be propped up or angling down. Also, consider sleeping with a pillow between your knees and ankles to support your hip alignment. If you sleep on your back, use a small pillow under the neck instead of a thick pillow under your head.

7. Many of us strain our backs because we carry too much weight around the belly AND our abdominal muscles are weak—so the back has to do too much work. It’s important to keep our core muscles strong to support our spines. Exercises like Tai Chi are also great for working on balance.
Source: www.webmd.com/osteoporosis/ss/slideshow-posture-tips

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy

Do You Believe in Mind Over Matter?

 

I just started a new book titled, “Cure: A Journey Into the Science of Mind Over Body,” by Jo Marchant. The “Wall Street Journal” writes about the book: “‘Cure’ is a cautious, scrupulous investigation of how the brain can help heal our bodies. It is also an important look at the flip side of this coin, which is how brains damaged by stress may make bodies succumb to physical illness or accelerated aging…’Cure’ points a way toward a future in which the two camps [mainstream medicine and alternative therapies] might work together.”

The author attempts to separate fact from opinion. She makes reference to another book I read called “The Biology of Belief” by Bruce Lipton. In his book, Lipton presents research showing actual physiological changes in our cells that occur when we think positively. This is good news, because it dispels the old belief that if a certain disease “runs in our family,” if a predisposition is carried in our DNA, then it’s basically pre-destined and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Lipton argues that there IS something we can do about it. Clearly we are products of nature AND nurture, and our DNA (nature) is only a set of instructions. Something (nurture) has to turn the instructions “on.” So even if, say, I had a hereditary predisposition to heart disease (which I do), if I eat healthy, exercise, avoid smoking, etc., the instructions for heart disease may never get switched on.

I’m a believer. And I would argue that even if the instructions were triggered, and a disease process was initiated, our attitude toward it would make a huge difference in our outcome.

I see it time and time again in my office. A positive attitude makes all the difference when a client is facing a major surgery, for example. Those who go in believing firmly that the procedure will go well, their recovery will be swift and complete, and who commit to doing everything in their power to support their own healing and rehabilitation, have a much higher success rate than those who worry and complain and make excuses or resist making healthy behavior choices.

Here’s an example of how much our attitude can affect our wellness. Let’s say someone experiences back pain and is diagnosed with something like degenerative disc disease. While it’s true that our soft tissues do deteriorate over time, and there’s nothing we can do about the fact that our bodies are not designed to function indefinitely, there IS something we can do about keeping our backs as healthy as possible as we age.

There is a big difference between “I have a bad back and there’s nothing I can do about it,” and “My back may be vulnerable, but I’m going to learn how to safely strengthen my core and stretch; eat well, stay hydrated and get enough rest; and recruit help like physical therapy, massage therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture and reflexology to stay active and support my strong, healthy back.”

The first attitude leads us to limit activity, be fearful and maybe even sad, and baby our “bad back”—which leads to a downward spiral of further diminished health due to lack of exercise, stretching and self care.

The second approach leads to increased vitality, even given a condition we must be mindful of.

Study after study is confirming that some of the most important factors to good health and long life are feelings of connectedness and purpose—healthy relationships, including being at peace within ourselves.

I can honestly say that I see this in my practice, and in my own life. My family is predisposed to heart health problems. We all tend to hold on to extra pounds, have high cholesterol, and develop high blood pressure. I went through a lot of therapy during my “mid life crisis,” and tried my hardest to come to terms with my baggage. I’m in a much better place now mentally and emotionally, and I’m changing a lot of old patterns. The weight is coming off. I’m the only one of my siblings not on high blood pressure medicine.

In my opinion and experience, there is truly a mind-body-spirit connection. Taking care of our mental health and nurturing our spirit is every bit as important as taking care of our physical being.

There is an old Cherokee legend of a grandfather teaching his grandson about our inner struggle between evil—anger, jealousy, greed, arrogance, etc.—and good (joy, peace, love, hope, kindness) as if the two forces were literally two wolves fighting. The boy thinks for a moment about this very human inner conflict and asks, “Which wolf will win?” The grandfather answers, “The one you feed.”

If you are facing a health challenge, you get to choose between feeling defeated and feeling empowered. I hope you “feed” the more positive approach (lots of healthy nourishment!). Please let me know if I can help!

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Too Much Technology?

Most of us love our gadgets and the allure of the online universe. Still, while technology is wonderful, having devices at our fingertips at all times does cause some physical and perhaps even emotional challenges.

Here’s a list of potential hazards and solutions, from a recent article in “Better Homes and Gardens”:

Your Brain. Electronic screens give off a blue light that stimulates our brains. Research shows that looking at a device at bedtime can interfere with our brain’s signal to wind down. This type of light even suppresses our bodies’ production of melatonin, a hormone that helps to regulate our sleep cycle.

Strategy: Give yourself a strict “last call” for checking email and social media—at least 30 minutes before bed. The best policy is to banish devices from the bedroom completely. But if you really enjoy reading from one at bedtime, see if your device has a night mode, where you can switch from blue light to a warm reddish shade.

Your Mood. According to the article, the average person checks their phone 150 times per day! It’s almost like an addiction—we get a little hit of dopamine whenever we look. It becomes a problem when we can’t NOT look, even when we’re with people live and in person. It’s distracting, and takes us out of the present moment and away from the present company. It can actually harm relationships and contribute to feelings of anxiety.

Strategy: First we need to assess honestly how much time we actually spend on our devices. If we’re over-doing it, one expert recommends shooting for at least 3 tech-free hours per day. They don’t have to be all at once. Aim for meal times and time spent in the bedroom. I would add that we need to force ourselves to turn our phones off and stash them whenever we need to be fully present for our loved ones!

Your Neck and Back. Looking down at our phones all day is causing real problems with our spines. Tilting our heads just 15 degrees forward can add as much as 27 pounds of pressure to hold it there. Over time, this stresses support structures, causing inflammation and pain, and can accelerate wear and tear on the discs in our spine. I have seen how it definitely changes the load on muscles that support posture, and causes imbalances that create discomfort. (People are starting to experience problems with their hands and thumbs as well.)

Strategy: Try to hold devices at eye level, or high enough that you can see them by looking down just a little bit with your eyes (without moving your head). Gentle neck stretches can help, too. Looking left and holding for a few seconds, then coming back to center, and then looking right and holding for a few seconds is a good move (repeat slowly a couple of times). You can also gently alternate ear to shoulder, and/or slowly roll your head from left to right and back again. Ask me if you’d like to learn other neck or hand exercises! We should all be doing these every day anyway!!

Your Eyes. We actually blink less often when we look at a screen, making our eyes feel dry and tired. Staring at something close up without mixing it up to look at stuff far away can cause eye strain. There’s an actual “Computer Vision Syndrome” that can lead to blurred vision and headaches. Yikes!

Strategy: Make sure screens are clean. And follow this 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds. If you tend to get wrapped up in what you’re doing, set a timer or reminder, or use an app to make sure you take the regular breaks you need.

Your Weight. Being too sedentary is not good for our wellness. Some research rates sitting too much right up there with smoking as a marker for ill health. Plus, if the blue light is denigrating our sleep, that can interfere with the healthy balance of hormones that regulate appetite and metabolism, making us more likely to gain weight.

Strategy: Here’s where we can use technology to our benefit! There are apps for tracking what we eat, and apps for tracking our activity. If you’re a competitive person, start a challenge with a friend or family member to see who can eat more veggies, or who can take the most steps in a week.

Source: “Your Body on Tech,” by Alyssa Shaffer; “Better Homes and Gardens,” April 2017

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy

Muscle Cramps

 

When I played volleyball in a weekly league, I used to get painful cramps in my feet and legs—especially when positioned in the back row where you have to squat to be ready to return serves.

lt was troublesome enough that I asked my doctor about it. “I can’t eat any more bananas!” I told him. (I had heard that a potassium deficiency causes muscle cramps, and eating bananas could help because they’re high in potassium.)

He laughed and said it’s probably not a potassium deficiency, but a signal that I needed more calcium. Every muscle contraction requires calcium. He recommended I take Tums—2 each morning and 2 each evening—as a calcium supplement. It worked!

How smart are our bodies?! They figure out a way to tell us when they need more calcium! Because if we don’t have enough calcium in our system, our bodies will take it from our bones. And that’s not good.

Important disclaimer: this is not meant to serve as medical advice! I’m not a doctor and I don’t prescribe anything, not even supplements. Some people would not like to take Tums if they don’t need it for its primary use of soothing upset tummies. Some people would not like to take Tums at all because it contains trace particles of aluminum. I think most nutritionists would recommend trying to get as much of the calcium we need as possible from the food and drinks we consume.

And calcium vs. potassium isn’t the whole story. These are two of the electrolytes—along with magnesium and sodium—that help keep our systems balanced. The electrolytes are charged molecules, and the positives and negatives do a dance across the cell membranes all day every day. If they get thrown off, it can interfere with muscle function (among other things). This includes cardiac muscle. I’m sure we’re all familiar with stories of someone drinking so much water, throwing their electrolyte balance so completely off kilter, that their heart stopped beating and they died.

According to WebMD.com, many things can trigger muscle cramps, including:
• Poor blood circulation in your legs
• Working calf muscles too hard while exercising
• Not stretching enough
• Being active in hot temperatures
• Muscle fatigue
• Dehydration
• Magnesium and/or potassium deficiency
• A problem such as a spinal cord injury or pinched nerve in your neck or back

Also, some medications cause muscle cramps as an unfortunate side effect.

What can we do to relieve muscle cramps? Leg stretches can help. WebMD says:

“For a charley horse in the calf or a cramp in the back of the thigh (hamstring), try this stretch: Put your weight on the affected leg and bend your knee slightly. Or, sit or lie down with your leg out straight and pull the top of your foot toward your head.

“For a cramp in the front of the thigh (quadriceps), hold on to a chair to steady yourself and pull your foot back toward your buttock.

“You can also massage the muscle, ice it, or try taking a bath with Epsom salt.”

Can muscle cramps be prevented? It’s a good idea to eat more foods high in vitamins, magnesium, and calcium, stay hydrated, and stretch before and/or after you exercise. MayoClinic.org says these steps may help prevent cramps:

• “Avoid dehydration. Drink plenty of liquids every day. The amount depends on what you eat, your sex, your level of activity, the weather, your health, your age and medications you take. Fluids help your muscles contract and relax and keep muscle cells hydrated and less irritable. During activity, replenish fluids at regular intervals, and continue drinking water or other fluids after you’re finished.
• “Stretch your muscles. Stretch before and after you use any muscle for an extended period. If you tend to have leg cramps at night, stretch before bedtime. Light exercise, such as riding a stationary bicycle for a few minutes before bedtime, also may help prevent cramps while you’re sleeping.”

If you’re having problems with muscle cramps that are alleviated by these self-care steps, ask your doctor about it. It will be interesting to learn what she or he recommends.

Sources:
http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/muscle-spasms-cramps-charley-horse
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/muscle-cramp/manage/ptc-20186098

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy

My Secret Love of Rocks

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When I was little, I had rock collections.

Usually, it was stones I found wandering around the creek by our house or exploring on vacation. Anything that caught my eye—a smooth stone with an unusual color or interesting pattern, or a quartz that had some crystal sparkle to it. Once I even found a piece of pyrite or “fool’s gold.” Of course, I convinced myself it was “real” gold!

I never gave too much thought as to why certain stones appealed to me. As I grew up, I developed a love of jewelry, and beads made out of semi-precious stones. It amazes me how a rock can be cut out of the ground at random, cut again into smaller pieces, and tumbled smooth to reveal a gorgeous work of art in its own right. Honestly some of the jaspers I’ve seen look like little paintings. And then artisans take those and craft amazing wearable creations!

So now, I still have rock collections! Most of them are beads and finished jewelry. But I’m learning more about crystal healing. Some people believe that stones have healing properties based on their color and mineral make-up. Many believe this is hogwash because there’s no scientific proof, and that any benefit is probably just a placebo effect.

The believers might tell you that it IS proven that the earth contains electromagnetic energy and that perhaps when a stone is removed, it retains that vibrational energy. Is it possible that the energy can have a beneficial effect on our system?

Scientists do actually acknowledge that many minerals have nutritive qualities that are good for us (calcium, magnesium, iron, etc.—the very components that stones are made of!). Don’t people drink mineral water? Some folks pay top dollar to soak in natural hot springs that are filled with mineral-rich water. Others will add supplements like Epsom salts to their own bath water. Some therapists believe that performing hot stone massage is more than just a way to deliver heat into our tissues—they believe that there is some therapeutic benefit from the minerals within the stones themselves.

So it’s really not too far fetched to believe that holding stones or placing crystals against our skin, or placing them in water and then drinking the water, could potentially deliver some healing benefit.

If it crystal healing works for someone, does it matter if it “only” works because they believe it works? If it provides some benefit, isn’t the end result what counts? I know someone who swears that Lapis Lazuli helps ease her migraines better than any medicine. Maybe it’s because the stones are cool and soothing, and the ritual of placing them on her head gives her peace of mind that helps her relax. Or maybe every person who has a migraine would benefit from placing Lapis on their head because there is really is some healing quality that we don’t fully understand. I put a beautiful piece of Amazonite under my pillow one night, and I believe it helped me sleep better. Is it just because I set myself up for that outcome with the power of positive thought? Does it matter?

I like having stones around. (I definitely like wearing them!) I like thinking about how stones been around for a long, long time—much longer than we have. Maybe they store information. Maybe they store vibrational energy. Maybe they can help us along our journey.

Crystal healers say that stones choose us. Maybe that’s why certain ones have appealed to me over time. Maybe there is some kind of energetic connection. And if not, that’s OK with me. I just like having them around because I think they’re beautiful. And that beauty, along with the mystery and even a potential for healing, makes me happy!

Category : Blog &Massage Therapy &Personal Growth