Massage Therapy

Compassionate Listening, Part Two

When I was in my reflexology certification program, several mornings started with a reading from a poem titled “The Unity of All Life,” by Evelyn G. Mulford. Notice how the first few lines make you feel:

“The carbon atoms that whirl and dance in me came from South Africa, and were the ones which chose to be me instead of a diamond.

My iron atoms lay for aeons in their bed in Minnesota, and the copper dancers within me came from Montana.

The salt in my tears and blood washed upon the shores on earth for billions of years, and prehistoric fish swam in my water.

My atoms were in one of the first flying creatures that dared to overcome the law of gravity.

Even now they whisper ‘Freedom.’”

Pretty cool, eh? But it goes on:

“I was part of the fire that consumed sacrifices.

My atoms were in the blood of wounded feet at Valley Forge and Gettysburg.

My atoms were in the hand that placed the ‘crown of thorns’ on the Master….

I was part of many weapons that killed in the name of love and peace.”

How did that make you feel? It made me feel uneasy. I don’t WANT to be part of the ugly aspects of life, but I am. We all are. We are ALL connected—all of humanity, all the elements in the universe, all of history. 

The carbon, iron, salt, and freedom, the inspiring things and the violent things that comprise me also make up YOU, and your loved ones, and also the people who stand firm for everything you or I stand wholeheartedly against.

The poem includes the lines, “I came from far reaches of infinity to become a part of humanness. … My own grandeur is more than I can contemplate. I am part of all that is or ever will be. … You are part of me and I of you, and there is only one Presence and one Power.”

It’s true. We are magnificent—I am, you are, and so even is the person who chooses in one heated moment to write something very ugly on a Facebook post. 

I hope we can try harder to live in the Middle Way—to listen with compassion, to appreciate someone’s passion and grandeur even when we vehemently disagree. 

Carrie Jones concludes her article with “I am loving everyone for the light energy they permeate and not the opinions they carry. I am a safe place and I will be listening, learning, and loving.”

May we all be!

Sources: 

“The Middle Way: When Clients Vent, by Carrie Jones, “Massage & Bodywork” Magazine, November/December 2018

“The Unity of All Life,” by Evelyn G. Mulford, originally published in the newsletter “Phenomena” as “Thoughts while Contemplating Teihard de Chardin.”

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy &Personal Growth

Compassionate Listening, Part One

Recently I read some comments on a Facebook post about an American athlete who chose to take a knee when our national anthem was being played at an international competition.

As is typical for these types of emotionally charged discussions, it escalated into an ugly exchange very quickly. When I read, “I hope you get hit by a truck,” I was so dismayed I had to move on to something else. 

I don’t know if we can ever get to a place of tolerance from our current divisiveness, but if we do, I believe it will be through compassion. I also believe we have to try.

In “The Middle Way: When Clients Vent,” massage therapist Carrie Jones states that more and more clients these days need to talk instead of zone out during their sessions. Many people have increased daily stress that leads to the need to vocalize their emotional turmoil.

How does a therapist best respond to that? I was taught in massage school that we allow the client to direct the session. If they want to be quiet, we are quiet. If they want to talk, we probably need to allow it. For some, venting is part of the “therapy.” Not that we are trained counselors—we are not! But simply being present and allowing the clients to express themselves can be more therapeutic than insisting they stay quiet and keep pent up frustration within. We don’t have to agree; in fact, it’s better if the therapist keeps her opinions to herself.

Jones challenges therapists to go one step further, to live in the Middle Way. This is a Buddhist principle that promotes a balanced approach to life. We are encouraged to take a long time and ask a lot of questions before we form an opinion on an issue—if we form an opinion at all. It’s imperative to research both (or all) sides of an issue from a neutral stance in the middle.

She shares, “It is only when we inspect both sides that we can truly form an educated opinion. Imagine for a moment if all the extreme thinkers stopped arguing and disagreeing and simply listened without the intent to respond or change others. Would they be more or less likely to have stress? Would this Middle Way unify such divided people?”

We can only hope. By seeking a greater understanding of WHY we feel the way we do, and why others feel they way they do, we can increase compassion and reduce the hate or anger or tension that can accompany having opposing viewpoints.

I have to admit, I feel very challenged by the idea of being so completely neutral that I agree to form no opinion one way or the other. Could I live that much in The Middle? Isn’t it important to take a stance and fight for what you believe in?

I think so! At least about the things that are most important to us. But we also have to find a way to be respectful and diplomatic. Perhaps we can remember that other people feel just as passionate as we do, and maybe we can even admire each other’s passion when we passionately disagree!

We have to get better at listening, at finding our commonalities so we can have compassion toward one another. To be continued next week…

Source: “The Middle Way: When Clients Vent, by Carrie Jones, “Massage & Bodywork” Magazine, November/December 2018

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy &Personal Growth

Being Appreciative

Steven Covey wrote in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” that “Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival: to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated.” 

Research suggests, in fact, that the most successful relationships have a ratio of at least 5 appreciations to every 1 criticism. The prevailing parenting advice when my kids were little included the suggestion to “catch” your kids being “good.” We are quick to reprimand and correct when we observe them doing something inappropriate; but are we a bit less likely to give them praise for any of the million things they do well?

In fact, criticism can do real damage to a relationship, but appreciations benefit everyone—kids, significant others, friends, co-workers, even strangers. Imagine giving (and receiving) five spoken positive pieces of feedback for every one critical message! 

In their article, “3 Ingredients to Mastering Appreciations,” Heath and Nicole Reed suggest that this practice is life changing, and recommend these three tips for making your mindful positive attention more effective:

  1. Keep it Brief. A one-sentence appreciation is more impactful than gushing on and on. 
  2. Speak Unarguably. Avoid hyperbole and focus instead on how you were impacted by the other person. For example, someone telling me, “That was the best massage ever!” is not as helpful as “I have less pain and so much more range of motion since you worked on my shoulder.”
  3. Be specific. Overgeneralizing is ambiguous—what does “You saved the day!” really mean? It’s better to say “I’m so relieved and happy that you’re helping me with this.”

The best appreciations, the Reeds say, “Focus on the inner nature, or essence of a person, like their integrity, patience, kindness, honesty, and how you were positively impacted.”

And there’s one person you must not forget to appreciate—YOU! We are usually our own worst critic, and that self-criticism is just as damaging as anything we might say to someone else. How much better to share appreciations with ourselves, at the same 5:1 ratio?!

Here’s the Reeds’ challenge: for one week, choose to start your day with appreciations about yourself. Say them out loud, maybe standing in front of a mirror. They have these suggestions for each day:

Day 1. Make contact with yourself and say, “I appreciate me.” Literally touch your face or give yourself a hug or put your hands over your heart and say “I appreciate ME” out loud.

Day 2. I appreciate my skill in ____________ (feel free to mention more than one skill!)

Day 3. Qualities I see and appreciate about me are __________ (this can be anything—be generous with yourself!)

Day 4. I appreciate how much I enjoy ____________ (what are your interests and hobbies and favorite things?)

Day 5. I see and appreciate my body, especially my ___________ (even if our body isn’t perfect, we can appreciate some aspect[s] of our physical selves)

Day 6. I appreciate how I love to discover _____________ .

Day 7. I appreciate how I easily communicate about _____________ .

This challenge is for one week, but the greater challenge is to switch gears when our inner critic shows up, and use appreciations to focus on what is “right” with us, rather than what is “wrong.” 

Your inner child is still in there. Catch her or him doing something “good,” just like I was advised to do with my old children 20+ years ago. I then tell yourself, “I appreciate you!” 

Source: “3 Ingredients to Mastering Apprications,” by Heath and Nicole Reed, “Massage & Bodywork” Magazine, November/December 2018

Category : Blog &Massage Therapy &Personal Growth

Healing Is a Collaboration

 

I recently read the most marvelous quote: “When ‘I’ is replaced by ‘We,’ even ‘Illness’ becomes ‘Wellness.’” (It’s been attributed to different speakers, most often Malcolm X.)

It made me think of my own profession immediately. People sometimes ask if I think of myself as a “healer.” I don’t. 

I believe that our bodies know how to heal themselves. But sometimes they need a little help because we have more stressors in our modern world than our bodies can handle. And also because we’ve lost touch a little bit with our intuitiveness and somatic sense.

So professionals like me can help. I’m not a healer, but a facilitator. I hope to be part of the “we” in “wellness”!

As I like to tell people: “Your body is trying to tell you something; I’ll help you listen.”

In his book, “In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness,” Dr. Peter A. Levine describes how our typical western medical model of seeing a doctor for “treatment” just doesn’t work in the case of healing from trauma. 

Of course, there are times when it makes sense for a doctor to stand as the authority figure, holding all the knowledge and “treating” the patient.

But in the case of stress, (trauma, PTSD), this power differential and sterile separation between doctor and patient tend to disempower and marginalize the sufferer, adding to their sense of despair. “Missing,” Levine writes, “will be the crucial collaboration in containing, processing and integrating the patient’s horrible sensations, images, and emotions. The sufferer will remain starkly alone, holding the very horrors that have overwhelmed him and broken down his capacity to self-regulate and grow.”

I like to think that massage therapy and reflexology both involve a lot of collaboration. There’s definitely trust. And there’s definitely communication that happens, both spoken and unspoken. People ask me, “How did you know that that was a problem area for me?” “Your body tells me,” I answer. I can feel tension and “knots” and heat in tissues, and “congestion” in the hands and feet that indicate an area is stressed.

I’m not suggesting that I can help people resolve horrible sensations, images, and emotions. That is way out of my scope of practice. But, the healing power of touch is a fantastic way to get back in touch with our bodies, replace tissue memories of hurtful events with supportive touch, and begin to heal mind, body, and spirit. It can help us self-regulate, as we calm stressed-out systems and restore balance (homeostasis).

Levine writes, “Trauma is a fact of life. It does not, however, have to be a life sentence. It is possible to learn from mythology, from clinical observations, from neuroscience, from embracing the ‘living’ experiential body, and from the behavior of animals; and then, rather than brace against our instincts, embrace them.”

Hm, healing involving neuroscience AND instincts—sounds amazing! Bodyworkers like me endeavor to effect change in the “living, experiential body,” and hold space for clients dealing with challenges, without judgment. I learned in meditation to be unconditionally present with whatever comes up, and I try to bring this to each therapeutic session.

If you’d like to learn more, here are some resources for you:

http://www.dailygood.org/story/2231/in-an-unspoken-voice-the-changing-face-of-trauma-peter-levine/

https://theconnection.tv/the-proven-healing-power-of-touch/

https://www.apa.org/monitor/julaug02/massage

https://www.himalayaninstitute.org/amrit-blog/vibrant-health/wired-touch-connecting-others/

http://pediatrics.med.miami.edu/touch-research

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy &Personal Growth

Quelling Winter Blues

 

If the shorter days and colder temps get you down, you’re not alone. SAD—Seasonal Affective Disorder—is a kind of depression that can occur when we don’t get enough sunlight.

Here are 10 strategies experts recommend to lift your spirits.

  1. Wake up to flowers. Put a vase of flowers where it’ll be the first thing you see in the morning—especially cheerful, bright hues like yellow, or whatever colors you associate with joy and energy.
  2. Do something fun. Laughter reduces stress and boosts the brain chemical serotonin. Watch funny videos. Or get out of the house and meet a friend who always cheers you up (you can look up jokes and tell them to each other). Go see a funny movie or live comedy show. Even forcing fake laughter can sometimes generate genuine laughter!
  3. Change your routine. Making small changes can yield surprisingly big results. If you don’t usually make your bed, just doing that one small task tells your subconscious that you are worth the effort! You know how good it feels to finally clean the garage or organize a closet. Plan a trip so you have something to look forward to.
  4. Exercise. Just 5 minutes of moderate exercise is enough to release the feel-good endorphins. Being outdoors is even better for clearing the mind and improving our mood. It’s nice here in Florida to get some sunshine while it’s not overly hot and humid! Try going for a walk with a friend if you want to add some socializing.
  5. Brighten up. Open the curtains and let sunshine into your home when you can. Wear brighter colors in accessories like scarves or fun socks. Buy a lime green pen, or a tangerine orange towel, or turquoise sticky notes. Seeing vivid colors can increase our feelings of vitality.
  6. Make a photo album. Positive memories can reduce depression! Sort through your photos and pick out happy ones. Put them in a book you can look through any time you feel down. (I’m no expert, but I would add that creating any kind of journal—writing, doodling, collecting pictures and little bits of art that make you happy—could lift one’s spirit. In fact, creating always makes me happy!)
  7. Use all your senses. This is part of mindfulness and really being aware in the moment. Notice “seasonal” sounds around you (the clacking of bare branches maybe), and things that you can only see or smell this time of year. I miss the hummingbirds, for example, but I delight in seeing other birds that only pass through here in January as they migrate. And soon the citrus will be ready to pick and enjoy—just think of peeling off that fresh rind and feeling/seeing/smelling the juice squirt out!
  8. Eat plants. Speaking of fresh produce, fruits and vegetables feed the “good” gut bacteria that helps regulate brain chemicals and mood. It’s so easy in the winter to justify eating comfort foods that are warm and heavy. But we have a better chance of avoiding the doldrums if we eat lighter and healthier.
  9. Pamper yourself. Carve out some “me time.” Read, take a bubble bath, watch a sappy movie, treat yourself to a pedicure (or a massage or reflexology session!), whip up a new recipe—do something you thoroughly enjoy. Do something that makes you happy at least once a week.
  10. Fake it til you make it. Research shows that people who walk as if they were sad actually start to feel sadder! Just walking with an upright posture and swinging our arms more can boost our mood. And, even if we don’t feel like it, forcing a smile with our eyes and our mouth can increase feelings of happiness. Before you know it, it won’t be a fake smile and our stress level will be reduced.

Sources: https://www.activebeat.com/diet-nutrition/10-lifestyle-methods-to-cope-with-seasonal-affective-disorder/

“Winter Mood Lifters to Try Today,” by Karyn Repinski, “Parade” Magazine, December 2, 2018

Category : Blog &Massage Therapy &Personal Growth &Reflexology

Giving Healthy Gifts

 

This is the time of year when many people are buying presents. While I don’t like how much emphasis our culture has put on shopping, it is nice to celebrate the holidays with a gift as a gesture of love.

So with that in mind, I appreciated a supplement in a recent “Parade” magazine—an “article” by Nicole Pajer to drive traffic to the site greatcall.com/gifts where you could get stuff for 50% off—highlighting healthy choices for gifts this year.

My own #1 recommendation would be to purchase a gift certificate for reflexology or massage therapy. Supporting relaxation and boosting wellbeing—presents don’t get any healthier than that!

My personal #2 recommendation would be to go to local galleries and shows that feature local artists. You might find a one-of-a-kind treasure that would be perfect for your unique loved one. Every time they see this piece, it will bring a smile. And you’ll be supporting an individual who loves to create rather than supporting the commercial engine of mass-produced merchandise.

Here are some of the recommendations from the article:

  1. A meal kit subscription. People are busy, and services like HelloFresh, Green Chef, and Blue Apron deliver ingredients needed to prepare healthy meals. The upside is that it’s convenient and there’s no waste because you receive exactly what you need for each meal. The downside is that there’s a lot of packaging that may or may not be reusable, and the shipping itself contributes to environmental stress.
  2. Popsicle maker. Using molds to create your own sweet treats allows you to use much healthier ingredients like whole fruit, Greek yogurt, nuts, honey, etc. There are “quick pop makers” that freeze the pops more quickly than putting them in your regular freezer. A fun endeavor like this can be a great family activity!
  3. Sponsor someone on a charity walk. This is a healthy gift that also gives people an activity to do together. A whole family or tribe of friends and neighbors can do a charity walk as a team.
  4. Pay for someone’s plot in a community garden.
  5. Host a dance party. Maybe your gift can be an invitation to a themed dance party—a fantastic way to have fun and get some exercise!
  6. Help someone connect to family. You could get a gift certificate to a DNA analysis service. It’s fun to learn about our own heritage, and some of the services will help participants find relatives they may not have known about.
  7. Give family-friendly games. Encourage game nights! Life gets busy and sometimes we need help making time/reasons to get together in person. Games can help multi-generational groups find common ground.

My hope is that we can find ways to keep joy in the holiday season, making wholesome choices that encourage togetherness, simplicity, and happiness. May your holidays be peaceful and healthy and fun! 

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy &Reflexology

Choose Happiness

 

Money can’t buy happiness. But we CAN use science—neuroscience—to cultivate happiness! We can deliberately choose to help our brains feel happier. Here are four practices to try—they’re pretty simple, and they don’t cost a thing.

1. Choose to be grateful. We have at least 50,000 thoughts per day, and 80% of them are negative! According to neuroscientists, this is because pride, guilt, and shame all light up similar chemicals in the brain’s reward center. In some parts of the brain, it feels appealing to heap guilt and shame upon ourselves. Even worry feels good because it registers as doing SOMETHING (“actively” worry), which feels better than doing nothing—for a while.

But too much of this negative activity starts to feel really draining after a while. So what can we do to reverse it? Deliberately ask ourselves what we’re thankful for.

Gratitude activates our brains to produce the feel-good neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. Even if we can’t think of anything to be grateful for, just asking the question and trying to think of things can stimulate happiness. And it becomes an upward spiral because we start to focus more on the positive aspects of our lives, and our social interactions and relationships improve.

2. Choose to acknowledge negative feelings. Usually, when we feel awful, we try to push those feelings away—who wants to feel yucky?

However, trying to suppress negative emotions is one of the worst things we can do. Because while we might appear better on the outside, on the inside the more primitive part of our brains are even more aroused and we become even more distressed.

Labeling negative emotions, on the other hand, takes their power away. Are we feeling sad? Anxious? Angry? Fearful? When we think about it for a few minutes, we activate the prefrontal cortex (executive thinking skills) and lessen the arousal in the limbic system (“monkey brain”).

Identifying emotions is a key component in mindfulness meditation. If you’re interested in a simple practice that is very powerful in handling difficult emotions, research the R.A.I.N. method of meditating developed by Tara Brach.

Brach’s practice, and others point out that not only is important to label our feelings, it’s also imperative that we allow them. Sometimes it’s completely appropriate to feel sad or angry or whatever we feel! Only then can we process those feelings, release them, and go back to striving for authentic happiness.

3. Choose to make a decision. Scientists say that making a decision reduces worry and anxiety, and each decision we make improves problem-solving skills—we create intentions and set goals. These processes engage the thinking part of our brain in a positive way that helps overcome the worrying and more negative patterns of the “monkey brain.”

If you have trouble making decisions, experts suggest taking the pressure off by allowing yourself to make a choice that’s “good enough.” Sometimes we get stuck trying to make the “perfect” choice. Hemming and hawing for too long can add to our stress level, whereas making a decision can make us feel more in control. The act of deciding actually boosts pleasure in the “reward” center of our brain.

If we choose something—like choosing to exercise, for example—we get more out of it than if we do something because we feel forced into it. And, the more choices we make, the more our happiness is reinforced. Neuroscientist Alex Korb explains, “We don’t just choose the things we like; we also like the things we choose.”

4. Choose touch. There have been many studies on the power of human touch, and the detrimental effects of not having enough touch (babies and elders, for example, can suffer from a phenomenon called “failure to thrive” if they don’t get enough touch—it can actually lead to early death).

People need relationships. Social exclusion (and rejection) can cause the same reaction in the brain as physical pain. This explains why we can actually feel a pain in our chest when we have a “broken heart” or are grieving.

And touch is an important part of relating to others. When we touch, we release oxytocin, which reduces pain, worry, and anxiety. Touch greatly improves our sense of wellbeing—touching has been shown to help people be more persuasive, improve team performance, boost our flirting skills, and even increase math skills!

One of the most effective forms of touch is a hug. Not a quick little squeeze, but a long hold. Research shows that getting five hugs a day for four weeks increases our happiness greatly!

And guess what neuroscientists recommend if you don’t have someone to hug—massage therapy! Massage decreases stress hormones (like cortisol) and releases all the feel-good chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin AND pain-killing endorphins.

If we can’t touch others, we need to at least connect through conversation. If your loved ones are far away, talking on the phone is far superior to texting according to scientists.

Choose happiness today! One simple thing we can all do right away that combines some of these elements is to send someone a thank-you email (connection + gratitude). This is enough to start an upward spiral of happiness—for you and for the recipient!

Here’s why, according to Alex Korb: Gratitude improves our sleep, and improved sleep reduces pain. Reduced pain improves our mood, and a better mood reduces anxiety and improves focus and planning. That helps with decision making, which further reduces worry and improves enjoyment. Enjoyment gives us more to be thankful for. It also makes us more likely to exercise and be social, which makes us happier—and so the spiral continues upward!

Source: “A Neuroscience Researcher Reveals Four Rituals That Will Make You Happier,” by Eric Barker, with material drawn from the book “The Upward Spiral,” by Alex Korb.
https://www.businessinsider.com/a-neuroscience-researcher-reveals-4-rituals-that-will-make-you-a-happier-person-2015-9

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy &Personal Growth

Daily Miracles

Albert Einstein may or may not have said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” (Sometimes good quotes are attributed to smart people who’ve been dead for a long time, and there’s really no way to verify for certain.)

When I first read that quote I thought, well that’s kind of dumb. Lots of things happen that are not miracles, but that doesn’t mean NOTHING is a miracle!

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it really depends on how you define “miracle,” doesn’t it? 

People come to see me every day and make themselves vulnerable, trust me with their care, and allow a sort of surrender to the almost inexplicable healing power of touch. Even people who don’t know me very well, or people who know me and know that they disagree with me to a high degree when it comes to politics or religion or things that matter to them. But there they are, in my office, allowing me to work with them—and I think that’s really a miracle!

Just getting into an automobile and driving on safe and orderly roads to an air-conditioned office is a whole sequence of miracles.

My being able to see because someone figured out how to make precision corrective lenses is really a miracle. Seeing a sunrise, or a sunset is a miracle. Looking into the ocean, knowing that it’s teeming with life that we can’t even see, is a miracle. 

Having clean warm or cold water flow into (and out of) our homes with the effortless touch of a handle is a miracle. 

The fact that you and I met, that our lives would intersect in some way that resulted in you reading this blog right now, is a miracle.

I could go on and on and on, and I’m sure you could too. This is starting to read like my gratitude list! And I am ever more grateful for the small and not-so-small miracles that happen every day.

I challenge you to pay attention today and see if you think nothing in your life is a miracle—or if everything is.

Category : Blog &Massage Therapy &Personal Growth

Maintaining a Healthy Brain


Exciting new research in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease suggests that even if a person is predisposed genetically to these conditions, it may be possible to prevent or at least delay the damaging changes from happening to our brains.

The key is prevention—working to change the progress of disease before symptoms even occur. Similar to heart disease and diabetes, we’re learning that lifestyle choices can delay the onset and minimize risk and severity.

There are only a few Alzheimer’s prevention clinics in the US currently since “prevention” is a new idea. They use technology, problem-solving tests, and blood work to assess the ABCs of Alzheimer’s prevention. A is “anthropometrics”—things like body fat, lean body mass, muscle strength, waist measurement and more. B is blood biomarkers—all the standard blood work plus tests for inflammatory and genetic markers that increase risk. C is cognition, measuring thinking skills and mental flexibility.

Some risk factors are beyond our control: genetic predisposition, gender (women are at a higher risk), age; but the exciting learning has been in just how much our lifestyle choices can affect our outcome. Modifiable risk factors include what we eat, how much we eat (abdominal fat raises our risk threefold!), how we sleep, our blood pressure, our overall fitness level.

Here are the things the Weill Cornell’s Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic recommends we start doing right now to lower our risk:

  • Get our baseline numbers for things like cholesterol, triglycerides, blood glucose, blood pressure, body-mass index and waist circumference.
  • Take a cognitive test. There’s a 15-minute “SAGE” test we can do at home; for a link, go to alzu.org.
  • Keep our muscle mass. We lose muscle over the years if we don’t work to keep it. Most experts recommend a combination of aerobic and resistance/weight training for best results.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight, especially carrying extra abdominal fat, increases our risk for Alzheimer’s and other medical conditions.
  • Eat “green, lean and clean.” Brains benefit from a plant-heavy diet (veggies, beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds) with lean protein (especially fish). Extra-virgin olive oil is their recommended go-to dietary oil.
  • Eat fatty fish twice a week: salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, lake trout or sardines.
  • Cut out evening snacking. At least a few times a week, try not to eat for 12-14 hours between dinner and breakfast. At least cut out carbs to encourage the body to burn stored fats.
  • Get some good quality shut-eye. Plan for at least 8 hours of sleep per night; turn off all devices for 30 to 45 minutes before bedtime.
  • Put some downtime on our to-do list. Every 4 1/2 years of work stress equates to a year of brain aging! Things like yoga, acupuncture, and regular vacations help. (I would add massage the reflexology, among other things!)
  • Find joy and connection with others. Hobbies and friendships can both relax and challenge our brains.
  • Play music. There’s a lot of new research pointing out the benefit of music to brain health. Listening to music is good, but making music is even better. Learning ukulele is achievable for most people, and more towns (St. Augustine among them!) have regular jam sessions for ukulele enthusiasts, which adds a social element as well.
  • Keep up with dental, vision and hearing health. Untreated tooth and gum problems cause inflammation that can lead to other complications. Vision and hearing loss can result in social isolation.
  • Don’t smoke. 
  • Consider genetic testing, if you believe that knowledge is power. There is no test that says definitively whether we will get Alzheimer’s, but if we find out that we are at risk genetically, it might motivate us to try that much harder to stave it off with lifestyle changes.
  • Join a clinical trial. If we want to take part in studies that might lead to a cure, we can search for studies at clinicaltrials.gov. In June, the Alzheimer’s Association is funding the largest ever lifestyle study on preventing cognitive decline. Learn more at alz.org/us-pointer.

Source: “Cheater’s Guide to Beating Alzheimer’s” by Paula Spencer Scott, “Parade Magazine,” April 8, 2018

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy &Reflexology

What Are Our Feet Trying to Tell Us?

 

 

Sometimes when I work on people’s feet, they’ll ask me “what does that mean?” if a particular area feels tender or extra sensitive.

All I can say is that it’s a sign of stress: either stress to that area of the foot itself or stress to the part of the body that the reflex point in the foot is related to. (Either way, it’s good to work on it!) Sometimes the client can kind of figure out what might be going on in their feet and/or in their body’s overall health.

I’m not able to diagnose. But I am continually astounded at how interconnected and fascinating we are anatomically—from our feet all the way up to our brains!

Along those lines (pun intended!) an article recently caught my attention, outlining several bodily conditions that might show symptoms specifically in the feet.

Spasms (or “foot cramps”). Muscle cramps can be a sign that there’s a deficiency in your body. Sometimes spasms are caused by dehydration when your cells aren’t getting enough water/oxygen. It could also indicate an imbalance of electrolytes or nutrients (calcium or potassium, for example). Cramps can be caused by overexertion and lack of stretching, poor footwear choices, or even circulatory problems.

Enlarged big toe. Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis and can cause the big toe to become red, warm, swollen and painful. Gout occurs when too much uric acid builds up in the bloodstream. This inflammation often occurs in the big toe and can flare up overnight. Risk factors include genetics, a diet high in purines (meats and seafood, for example), alcohol consumption, being overweight, certain medications (such as diuretics), recent trauma, and some other health conditions including high blood pressure, diabetes, and hypothyroidism.

Cold feet. A person who has perpetually cold feet might have poor circulation, diabetes, an under-active thyroid, or anemia. In a more severe case, when cold feet change color from red to white to blue, it could be a sign of Raynaud’s disease—when nerves overact to cold and cause a narrowing of the blood vessels in the feet (or hands).

Swollen feet. Swelling can be a sign of various health problems, some potentially serious. Poor circulation/heart problems, kidney or liver disease, deep vein thrombosis (blood clots), lymphatic concerns and cellulitis can cause swollen feet. It’s a good idea to seek a medical evaluation and not dismiss swelling if it’s severe or if it happens often.

Spoon-shaped toenails. Nails that are soft and sort of scooped out with a depression usually are a sign of a nutritional deficiency—too little or too much iron. It can also be associated with heart disease and hypothyroidism.

Yellow toenails. Nails turn yellow from conditions like infection and fungus, rheumatoid arthritis, jaundice/liver problems, lung issues/breathing problems and even sinusitis. If you have a sudden change in the color or texture of your nails, seek medical attention.

Tingling or numbness. Circulatory problems, peripheral nerve damage, an impinged nerve, multiple sclerosis and a range of other ailments can lead to numbness, tingling or “pins and needles” in the feet. Like swelling, this symptom is not something to take lightly if it persists.

Achy joints. Pain in the toe joints is usually a sign of local injury or trauma or a malformation in the bones of the foot like a bunion or hammertoe. But it can also be a sign of something systemic like osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.

Drop foot. If someone has difficulty lifting the front part of their foot, they could have a condition called drop foot—which is indicative of an underlying muscular, neurological or anatomical problem. Nerve or muscle weakness/damage in the leg, hip or spine can cause the foot to drag when walking. A combination of therapies is used to try to correct the problem including a brace, nerve stimulation, chiropractic adjustments, physical therapy or surgery.

Lingering sores. If you have sores that don’t heal, or you have an injury you didn’t feel or treat that led to a more severe wound, you might have nerve damage to the feet caused by diabetes. Nerve damage, or neuropathy, results in being unable to feel injuries, and when they go unnoticed, even little boo-boos like blisters can lead to bigger issues like ulcers and gangrene. Dry, cracked, peeling skin, calluses and poor circulation in the feet can all be signs of diabetes.

Our feet can tell us a lot about our health! We owe it to ourselves to keep our feet and our whole system as healthy as possible. Regular foot reflexology sessions can help!

Source: https://ia.meaww.com/read/health/10-things-your-feet-are-trying-to-tell-you-about-your-health

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