Massage Therapy

Today Is Special

 

“Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.” — Regina Brett

We’ve all heard the quotable quotes: Seize the day! Tomorrow is promised to no one! Enjoy life now, this is not a rehearsal!

When you hear these sentiments, how do you feel? Does it go in one ear and out the other? Or do you pause to think about it, but dismiss the thought? Live more fully—who has the time? I have to … (work, take care of the kids/grandkids/parents, clean the house, work in the yard, organize the garage, do volunteer duty, etc. etc. etc.)

We do have to be practical. But I can share with you a few observations. I sometimes see people at their worst: stressed out, in pain from overdoing and self-neglecting, tired and frustrated and irritable.

I also get to see people at their best: looking forward to or retelling about a vacation or special event. One client delights in sharing plans for each next trip off the “bucket list.” One details with a smile how the fishing has been since his last appointment and any new venues visited for dinner and dancing. One client lights up describing art projects in progress, music concerts coming up for the community band she plays in, and family gatherings being organized.

Do you have something you’re looking forward to? How/when will you make it happen? My mom and dad were always going to go to Hawaii when my dad retired. They talked about it often. Then my dad died suddenly of heart failure at age 59. He never got to retire, and they never made it to Hawaii.

If you have a trip you’ve been wanting to take, some china you’ve been waiting to use, a class or new hobby you’ve been curious to explore—I encourage you to do it now!

I’ll always remember the words an elderly client said to me once. She had been a caretaker for her husband, many years her senior, as he declined in his final years. She had injured her back lifting and helping him. By the time I met her, she was older, too frail to travel and do her bucket list items, and alone, missing her travel companion/life partner.

She looked at me with sad eyes one day and said, “I always thought I’d have more time.” Meaning, more time to be vibrant, to move around with ease, to explore all that life has to offer.

We don’t know how much time we have. Let’s not wait to take the trip, to wear the fancy lingerie, or use the nicest sheets, china, or candle!

I love this quote from an unknown author: “There are 7 days in a week, and ‘someday’ isn’t one of them.”

Here’s another: “Many great things can be done in a day if you don’t always make that day tomorrow.” —Unknown

Today is special! What great thing can be done today?

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy &Personal Growth

Increasing Our Resilience

 

Virtually every day we have to deal with stress. Clearly too much chronic, day-in-day-out stress is bad for us, and we’ve learned about the physical and mental repercussions of that and strategies for managing them.

But unexpected things happen, and usually bring stress. How do we build the mental fortitude we need to deal with it? Believe it or not, we can practice skills to increase our resilience, so that when a major life event causes stress, we can cope. If we can deal with stress better mentally and emotionally, the physical effects will be lessened as well.

An article in the “New York Times” titled “How to Build Resilience in Midlife,” by Tara Parker-Pope gives us techniques to “stretch our resilience muscle.” Professor and author Dr. Adam Grant says, ““There is a naturally learnable set of behaviors that contribute to resilience,” and he claims that adults—because of the perspective that comes from life experience and (hopefully!) the ability to regulate our emotions—are in a great position to deliberately boost our emotional survival skills.

Here are the tips Parker-Pope recommends:

1. Be optimistic. As with most traits, optimism is part nature and part nurture. So even if we’re not natural born optimists, we can still work on increasing our positivity. That doesn’t mean we deny the reality of challenges or negative events. But we can always choose how to react to situations. The example she gives is when a person loses their job. An optimist would replace dire thoughts like “I’ll never recover from this,” with “This is going to be difficult, but it’s a chance to rethink my life goals and find work that truly makes me happy.”

More and more research confirms that reframing how we look at things, and changing our internal dialog to more positive self-talk, really does improve our outlook and our ability to cope with the inevitable hurdles of life. So does surrounding ourselves with more positive, optimistic people.

2. Don’t take it personally. We are quick to blame ourselves when something bad happens, and ruminate about what we could have done differently. To build resilience, we can remind ourselves that even if we did make a mistake, there were likely numerous factors that contributed to the situation. It’s rarely ever ALL one person’s fault. Practice self-compassion (forgiveness!), and shift into problem-solving mode: what can we do now to repair any damage and prevent similar mistakes from happening in the future?

Smart companies have a corporate model of looking at mistakes as procedural, not personal, and they use the opportunity to refine processes and training.

3. Recall previous triumphs. We get a resilience boost by remembering challenges we have overcome in the past. Although a common strategy is to be grateful that things aren’t worse (and even calling to mind someone who has it worse than ourselves), a better exercise is to look back and say—I’ve made it through something even worse than this in the past. This is not the toughest thing I have ever faced or will ever face. I know I can handle this!

4. Be of service to others. While it’s really important to have a support network, it’s even more empowering to BE part of something larger than ourselves. Studies show that gratitude, altruism, and a sense of purpose lead to greater resiliency. Experts say a key component of being resilient is taking responsibility for our lives—creating a life we consider to be meaningful and finding our purpose. It doesn’t have to be a grand mission, but even if our purpose is to support our own family, that focus can see us through all kinds of adversity.

5. Make peace with stress. Stress is an inevitable element of life. Some would even argue that a little bit of stress is good for us and necessary. (Think how boring life would be with no challenges whatsoever!) So rather than resist it or dread it, one expert suggests we just welcome it as an opportunity for personal growth, AND create concrete opportunities to recover. Taking a walk, meditating, laughing with friends—we can schedule breaks from stress just as we schedule breaks from strenuous workouts.

6. Commit to a challenge. We can build resilience by pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones. Take an adventure vacation. Climb a mountain! Or go skydiving. Or finish a half marathon or triathlon. Or share your writing at a poetry night. Or sing karaoke. Each time we rise to the occasion, our bodies become better at processing stress hormones. If we live our lives with regular opportunities to overcome stress, we get better and better at it. Then we are in a better position to cope when a crisis arises.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/25/well/mind/how-to-boost-resilience-in-midlife.html

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy &Personal Growth

Stress, Part Two

 

Are you, or is someone you love, the type of person who is always feeling stressed out? Last week we learned how chronic stress can be really bad for our health.

Here are some ideas for quick ways to reduce the negative impact of stress:

  • Chew gum. Studies show that chewing gum lowers anxiety and stress. Some researchers think the rhythmic act of chewing may calm us and improve the blood flow to our brains, while others believe the smell and taste of gum help us relax.
  • Go outside. Being active is best, especially in a setting that you find beautiful. But even close to home, just quietly being outside is sometimes enough to achieve a respite from stressors.
  • Smile. Even if you don’t feel happy, keeping a genuine smile on your face (including the muscles around your eyes as well as your mouth) reduces the body’s stress response. It helps lower our heart rate quicker once the stressful situation is over. Turns out “grin and bear it” is actually pretty good advice!
  • Smell lavender. One study demonstrated a significant reduction in stress when nurses pinned a vial of lavender to their clothes and sniffed it throughout their shift. WebMD cautions that lavender can intensify the effect of some pain killers and anti-anxiety medications, so checking with your doctor for possible interactions is always a good idea. If lavender doesn’t do it for you, there are other essential oils that can provide calm, such as chamomile, frankincense, and vetiver.
  • Listen to music. Sometimes listening to music you like is even more calming than listening to trickling water or other relaxing sounds. One study showed a positive benefit from listening to Latin choral music such as “Miserere” by Gregorio Allegri.
  • Take some deep breaths. Focusing on our breathing distracts us from negative thoughts and quiets the body’s fight-or-flight response. Sit or lie comfortably and take in a full, deep breath that makes your belly move. Really engage the diaphragm! Breathe out slowly—it should take a few seconds. You can say a word or phrase as you exhale that helps you relax. If nothing else, think: inhale relaxation, exhale tension. Repeat ten times.
  • Practice self-compassion. We have something like 50,000 thoughts in a day, and a large percentage of them are negative. We tend to be especially hard on ourselves. Using more positive self-talk helps us calm down and come to better terms with our situation. Self-compassion includes gently talking to ourselves with as much encouragement as we’d offer to our best friend. Try reassuring yourself with “Everything will be OK,” for instance, or “I can figure out how to handle this.”
  • Journal. This one has helped me so many times! Sometimes we just need to write our thoughts and feelings in a free stream of consciousness, either with pen and paper or electronically. Once we have it in front of us, it’s easier to make a plan. And you can write the plan down, too! But the most important thing is just to give yourself an outlet to be honest and let stuff flow out of you.
  • Talk with a friend. When we’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s nice to share with a good listener we trust. If you have a friend who’s dealing with the same worries that you have, even better! You can share ideas and concerns, and feel less isolated.
  • Exercise. When we work up a sweat, we improve our mood, clear our head, and take a breather from whatever is stressing us out. Go for a hike or a swim or a bike ride, hit the gym, dance as if no one is watching. As long as we don’t overdo it, moving always helps us feel better!
  • Play. Be silly. Do something joyful!
  • Enjoy a reflexology session. Human touch is powerful, and there’s almost nothing better to get our nervous system out of fight-or-flight mode than relaxing foot reflexology.

Source: http://www.webmd.com/balance/ss/stop-stress-now

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy

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

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

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

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

pebbles-1090536_1920

 

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