Personal Growth

Sleep: A How-To Guide

elderly lady sleeping

I’m sure you’ve heard of “sleep hygiene,” a practice that encourages doing the same routine each night to try to encourage good quality sleep: turn off electronics, have a warm bath, drink a warm beverage (something without caffeine!), avoid a big heavy meal or alcoholic beverages too close to bedtime, have enough quiet time at the end of the day to allow ourselves to wind down.

Still, many of us struggle with getting enough shut-eye. A blog on improving sleep appeared recently on WebMD, and in the latest issue of Parade Magazine there’s an article entitled “Sleep: You’re Doing It Wrong” by Paula Spencer Scott. Both of these sources provide some good reminders, and a little bit of new (to me) information. The main idea is that sleep is a skill that can be improved with practice.

For many of us, the number one culprit is stress-induced anxiety that can keep us from sleeping. Nancy Foldvary-Schaefer, director of the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center, suggests treating ruminating about a stressful situation like any other stimulation—do everything you can to keep it out of your bed. She recommends keeping a “worry journal” that you write in during the day, but literally closing the book on those thoughts before you go to bed. (Some people also recommend keeping a little notepad by the side of your bed—not to journal in, but to jot things down that you need to remember so you don’t fret all night about remembering them!)

Experts also recommend being deliberate about sleep time. It’s best to decide what time you need to wake up, and work backwards from there to make sure you get the hours you need. Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep per night. We can learn to get by on the less sleep, but we can’t train our bodies to NEED less sleep! The best plan is to be consistent. In the best case scenario, we would have daily routines of eating meals at the same times, exercising at the same times, and going to bed and getting up at the same times. And we’d have a routine nightly ritual that signals our brain it’s time to hit the hay (brush teeth, pray/meditate, snuggle, sleep).

We can’t make up for lost sleep by sleeping in on the weekends—in fact, sleeping in can actually disrupt our body clocks! And as for napping, most people find a SHORT nap refreshing. But if you have chronic insomnia, a long nap too late in the day can decrease the brain’s “sleep drive,” making it even harder to sleep at night.

One tip from Scott’s article was to make sure we are comfortable in our beds. Do you really love your mattress? Pillow? Or does either cause you pain or stiffness? Are your sheets and blankets inviting and comfortable? What about what you wear to bed? Usually natural fabrics like cotton, silk or bamboo—or wearing nothing at all—will help keep us cooler. And cool—and DARK—rooms are best for sleeping.

Another piece of advice from Scott that may be hard to hear, is that our pets can disturb our slumber. A recent study showed that 63 percent of respondents who let their pets sleep with them had poor quality of sleep. Especially dogs, because they take up more room and their sleep cycles are so different from ours. Scott challenges readers to sleep with a device like Fitbit while sleeping with your dog for two weeks, and then while sleeping solo for two weeks and compare the results. Chances are you’ll see that you’ll get much more sound sleep when the dog is not in bed with you.

Both WebMD and the Parade article state that if we truly cannot sleep, it may be best to go ahead and get up for a little while. Try this: remind yourself that if you’re not sleeping, even resting is really good for us. Try thinking dull, pleasant thoughts. Count sheep if you like that, or walk every hole at your favorite golf course in your mind, or mentally bake something you like to create. Try consciously focusing on and deliberately relaxing each part of your body from your head and face to your toes.

If none of that works, get up out of bed rather than lie there and watch the clock and worry. Read, water your plants, do some ironing. WebMD says, “A quiet activity can help you relax and feel sleepy. Staying in bed may lead to frustration and clock-watching. Over time, you may associate your bed with wakefulness, not rest. Serious health conditions have been associated with severe, chronic lack of sleep, including obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, and stroke.”

Yikes! On the other hand, good quality sleep helps us live longer. While we are “resting,” our bodies are actively digesting, repairing, detoxing, lowering blood pressure and reducing inflammation. And of course sleep is also necessary for us to focus and be more productive during the day, and also to stay alert while driving.

While stress is the #1 reason why people have trouble sleeping, it’s not the only cause. Illnesses, medication side effects, chronic pain, restless leg syndrome, and sleep apnea are other reasons people have insomnia. Massage therapy and reflexology can help us relax and get a good night’s sleep. Regular exercise, healthy diet and proper hydration, and sleep hygiene habits are important. But if you feel like you are doing all the right things and you still don’t get enough quality sleep, don’t be afraid to discuss it with your doctor and ask for a referral for a sleep study. Sleeping well is a key ingredient to living well!

http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/living-with-insomnia-11/slideshow-insomnia?ecd=socpd_fb_nosp_3640_ss_cm497

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Is It Time for Spring Cleaning?

trunks in the attic

There’s nothing like an unwelcome odor in the kitchen, which may or may not be coming from under the sink, to get me to take everything out of the cabinet and do some detective work—and the deep cleaning I should have done months ago!

As so often happens, I discovered some items under the sink that were decrepit and needed to be pitched, or belonged somewhere else, or were duplicates that could be consolidated, etc. I know that I need to do this in every cabinet, closet and drawer in my house. Do you?

And don’t even get me started on what filth might lie under the bed in between under-the-bed storage containers! Dog hair seems to gravitate to that dark hiding spot, and because it’s hard to clean, guess what—I put off cleaning under there!

Do I even remember what’s in each of the under-the-bed storage containers? Maybe there’s some stuff that can be tossed or donated rather than stored. Because I know that if I didn’t have bins under there, it would be a breeze to sweep and keep it much cleaner.

I recently read an article about the link between clutter and depression. Previously I had learned that the environment we create around us is a reflection of what’s going on internally. So if we feel inner turmoil, our house, car, yard, storage areas are likely to look and feel chaotic as well. This article suggests that the opposite may also be true—that having too much clutter around us can cause anxiety and stress.

Here’s a link:
www.houselogic.com/organize-maintain/cleaning-decluttering/clutter-depression

There are lots and lots of ideas about how to declutter and get better organized. This particular article suggests some simple steps, like consistently picking up 5 things each time your get up from your desk or have to walk across the house. Or just committing to keeping your kitchen sink clear and clean as a way to boost your mood.

Here’s a website that offers other simple ways to begin the process of decluttering, like giving one thing away each day (at the end of a year, that’s 365 things purged!):
www.becomingminimalist.com/creative-ways-to-declutter/

You’ve probably heard of the book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” The author recommends decluttering by type of thing, rather than by room or area. So, for example, you might start with clothes. You hold each object and honestly identify which ones bring you joy. If an item doesn’t bring you joy, you let it go so that it can bring someone else joy. Here’s a fun article about one woman’s journey inspired by this book, and the wonderful lessons learned:
www.onekingslane.com/live-love-home/marie-kondo-book-declutter/

As with my kitchen cabinet, the trick is just to start somewhere and do one manageable organizational task. Turns out the odor was coming from the disposal, which was easily cleaned with vinegar and baking soda. Still, having the cabinet underneath clean and organized is nice!! And I feel inspired to clean and organize some more. Hey, if I start with my clothes, that will include those cumbersome under-the-bed storage bins. Bonus!

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

What Clients Do For Me

hands statue

I spend a great deal of time thinking about what I can give to my clients. I hope that every time someone comes to see me, they have a truly amazing session. I want to give all of my attention and energy, knowledge and training, intuition and intention to facilitate relaxation and overall wellbeing, focus on trouble spots and, for regular clients, build on progress made and continue to peel away layers of imbalance while improving health and function.

It occurred to me the other day that I don’t spend a great deal of time acknowledging all that my clients give to me. I have the best clients! They give of themselves so freely—trust, ideas, affection—I don’t take it lightly and I never take it for granted. Occasionally I am filled with awe.

Sometimes clients will bring me actual gifts. One week I received a beautiful sachet of lavender from one and a box of healthy muffins from another—both from our wonderful Wednesday farmer’s market. Then the next week a client shared some amazing pieces of fish he had caught, along with a bag full of Altoid tins his wife sent along after learning I’m making little shrine art or “nichos” with them. One client brought me a box of her favorite incense cones, just because she felt inspired by the soothing aroma and she wanted to share it with me. People’s thoughtfulness is just astonishing, and the words “thank you” do not seem sufficient.

One of the best presents is the gift of a referral. I feel so honored when a client is pleased enough with their care that they would pass along my information to someone who is looking for a massage therapist or reflexologist. Other times, a client will share a referral with me—for a great stretching program, or a physician specialist, or a wonderful place to go hiking or kayaking. Some of my favorite nutritious recipes have come from clients.

But really, the most treasured gifts are not tangible. I always hope that a client will leave my office feeling better than they did when they arrived. The flip side is that I always feel better, too!

Even on the rare day that I feel kind of blah when I arrive at my office, once someone comes in and asks how I’m doing with genuine interest, and allows me to “enter their personal space” and begin this phenomenal exchange of healing energy, I feel better physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Some clients are talkative and we share ideas and funny stories and personal challenges. Sometimes we delve into the world’s problems. Other clients are quiet, and I enjoy the nonverbal communication that happens naturally. Often the session becomes a moving meditation, and ideas and creative solutions come to me that sometimes are just small nuggets, but other times seem quite profound!

Even if no new information is revealed to me, I always enjoy the process and the tremendous feelings of well-being that result. So here’s to gratitude: to my clients for their faith and support and generosity and kindness, and to the universe for allowing giving and sharing and goodness to transpire in my office and in my work.

Category : Blog &Massage Therapy &Personal Growth

Think Fast!

brain superhero

I recently read an article that had some great ideas for keeping our minds sharp, maybe even improving our mental agility so we can think faster and better.

The first piece of advice was to get aerobic exercise—30 minutes of moderate working out three times a week, for 6 months, is shown to promote the growth of brain cells and connections in the brain that are important for learning and memory.

Here are the other tips:

Get enough vitamin D. Check with your doctor or nutritionist on this one—some experts recommend a little time in the sun, and some recommend supplements if you need them.

Trust your gut. According to researchers at Columbia University, mulling over our options for too long can cause us to make the wrong choice. They recommend writing a simple summary of the choices available, listing the pros and cons for each, quickly evaluate which one is best and acting on it.

Read. Choosing reading material on a wide variety of interesting topics, and focusing on our reading comprehension, helps improve our comprehension and reading speed.

Adopt a new mantra: “I Can Do Better.” The power of positive thinking—this phrase actually can speed up our brain’s reaction time. Repeat this phrase to yourself quietly, “I can do better.” Apparently, world-class athletes do, and it helps their performance!

Drive. Researchers in the UK found that the concentration needed to drive on the highway, especially changing lanes, clears the mind so completely that it helps us think better. If you’re stuck on a problem, it might be worth a try.

Exercise 4 hours after learning something new. Researchers in the Netherlands found that if we need to memorize something, a well-timed workout helps the brain store the new data in the hippocampus—the part of the brain associated with memory.

Yawn. A yawn is our body’s way of telling us it needs fresh oxygen. So don’t stifle it. Yawning is good for the brain, making us more mentally efficient.

Rap. Research shows that rapping—or performing musical improvisations—requires us to really think on our feet, which helps improve our thinking speed overall.

Read. Enjoying good literature boosts not only our imaginations but also other connections in the brain that help it function better.

Stand up. We already know that too much sitting is bad for us. Just changing positions from sitting to standing shifts our attention and helps us refocus. But working at a stand-up desk is shown to improve time management, fact retention, and comprehension.

Chew gum. Chewing increases blood flow to the brain, enough to help us remember words faster.
Learn. It’s healthy to push ourselves to learn new things at any age. The brain needs to be worked. If we don’t use it, we lose it!

Source: “12 Ways to Think Faster,” by Lisa Mulcahy, Parade, February 5, 2017.

Category : Health &Personal Growth

Give Peace a Chance

girl on hammock in nature

 

As I write this, I’ve decided to take a day off from Facebook and from trying to keep up with every urgent news update.

It’s not that I don’t care about what’s going on or how people feel about what’s going on. It’s just that I need a little break.

These are tumultuous times, politically. I’m worried, and I’m more engaged than I ever have been. And shame on me for not being more active prior to this!

But what is the best way to be involved? It gets overwhelming sometimes, doesn’t it? Well-intentioned friends on both sides of the political spectrum post outrageous headlines from dubious sources, and the reaction is an escalation of outrage. Accusations fly, people get defensive and emotional, and sometimes ugly.

And it occurs to me that if everyone is outraged and yelling, who is listening?

I tried an experiment a couple days ago. I entered an online conversation where the exchanges had already gotten heated. I responded to someone with opposing views from mine. I let him know that I believe his concerns are valid, that his voice is being heard. And yet, I suggested, the “other side” makes solid points as well, and perhaps the best solution to the problem is a combination of what he was proposing AND some of what others were saying. He calmed down. He agreed! We reached consensus.

I have strong feelings and beliefs, as most people do. I will keep fighting for what I think is right and decent. But the “fight” needs to be based on real information and rational stances on issues. It’s helpful to take the crazy-making emotions out of the equation.

So I’m backing off for a day, to reclaim my inner peace. Sometimes being angry is absolutely appropriate, necessary. But clarity is always appropriate and necessary. Sometimes we all need a moment (or a day) to quiet the noise, and to appreciate what is good and beautiful around us.

I love this quote from Peace Pilgrim: “My inner peace remains in spite of any outward thing. Only insofar as I remain in harmony can I draw others into harmony, and so much more harmony is needed before the world can find peace.”

This does not mean everyone needs to agree. We probably never will. And, of course we can’t remain passive when we believe injustice is being done. Some things truly are unacceptable.

But sometimes it’s good to acknowledge that differing points of view can be a positive thing. However challenging, at least some of the time, we can help each other see things from a different perspective.

Maybe if we start from a place of inner calm, we can find better paths toward solutions. Maybe at least we can stop yelling at each other! And take turns listening.

May what’s unique and sacred in me recognize and honor what’s unique and sacred in you. (Even if I vehemently disagree with you.) Namaste.

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Give all the Love You Can

model-956676_1280

I recently met a woman who was born and raised in a not-so-prosperous part of Mexico. To her credit, she went to a state-funded university and earned a law degree.

Her career path led her to practice some form of immigration law. She didn’t like it. The other lawyers were conservative and competitive, judgmental of each other to the point that she felt she had to look a certain way, act a certain way. She tired of pushing papers around and longed for something more fulfilling.

A friend encouraged her to use what little discretionary income she had to buy a camera and pursue her love of photography. She did, and she’s tremendously talented. As of our meeting, she was taking a break from her professional photographic work to create a program voluntarily teaching her craft to persons with deafness. She had reached a point where she needed to go back to work to earn funds to keep the program going.

She had gained some insights that made her reconsider whether she would enjoy practicing law again–perhaps now being better able to distance herself from the pettiness she saw in other lawyers, and do her work with more genuine intention. Her words were: to give people who need help all the love you can.

She smiled when she learned I was a massage therapist/reflexologist, and commented that this is exactly what I get to do every day: give people love.

I don’t think she was motivated to return to law to make more money. I think she realized, in the newfound maturity that her 30s provided, that it’s best to do the work of our highest calling and greatest good. With compassion. With love. For her, maybe that will be photography, or maybe it will be practicing law but keeping her free program going for people with disabilities.

I feel blessed every day to have the opportunity to do work that is my highest calling and allows me to give people love. It’s so tremendously rewarding! What a blessing, too, to connect with this compassionate young woman on a seemingly random snorkeling adventure that she could scarcely afford, but went with a more affluent friend who just happened to be visiting for the weekend. Sometimes it takes a stranger to remind us of the gifts we might otherwise take for granted.

So whether it’s in your professional life, a hobby you feel passionate about sharing, or in meeting a stranger, I wholeheartedly encourage you to give all the love you can. I predict you’ll receive it back many times over!

Category : Blog &Massage Therapy &Personal Growth &Reflexology

Happy New Year!

I hope you’re enjoying the holiday season! All best wishes for a safe, happy, healthy New Year full of love and abundance.

pink-purple-tree-in-sunset

Category : Blog &Personal Growth

Is It Better Today?

adventure-1807524_960_720

I read an article recently about how to stay motivated to stick with long-term goals.

It can be daunting to think about the end result you wish to achieve, and if you’re not seeing (or appreciation) the incremental progress because the steps seem too small to matter, it’s easy to get discouraged.

So, this author recommended adopting this mantra: Is it better today?

His particular question was: is it better today than it was yesterday? He deliberately tried to keep it vague enough to use in any situation. Whether it’s a work goal or a weight loss goal, was your effort better today than the effort you made yesterday? Was the tiny step you took today a little better than the tiny step you took yesterday?

I like the idea, but I would change one thing. My question would it be: Is it better today than the day that you started?

Let’s say you’re trying to lose weight, or trying to eat healthier or work out more. It’s possible that you had a “bad” day today, right? So if you asked yourself: is it better today than it was yesterday, your answer could conceivably be “no.”

But if you look back to when you started, even if you had a “bad” day today, I bet if you asked yourself—is it better today than it was the day that I started?—the answer would be yes!

Even if you slipped up in your plan today, you’re still way better off than you would’ve been had you not started at all! You’ve probably lost some pounds that one “bad” day is not going to affect. You’re probably building muscle and burning fat—you probably have better endurance and more muscle definition than when you started. You’ve probably eaten far more vegetables and far less junk overall since you set out to do so—even if today was a “bad” day.

And the best part is that tomorrow can be even better! If today was a “bad” day, then for sure if tomorrow you ask yourself “Is it better today?” the answer will be yes!!

So try to remember if you’re feeling like you’ll never make it to the finish line, you are getting there. You are better off and further along today than you were when you started.

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Old Years Absolutions

Are you making New Years Resolutions this year?

I think most people do make plans for the “new year.” Maybe flipping the calendar over to a crisp, fresh new year is a good time to start (or renew) our resolve to meet our goals.

But is January really a “blank” page? Don’t you already have some appointments set up? Aren’t most plans ongoing—such that January doesn’t really look all that different from December in terms of taking one step after the next in an effort to reach a desired outcome?

People all seem very busy to me. I see a lot of effects of stress in my office!! So maybe this year, instead of ADDING more things to do, maybe we can endeavor to subtract some things instead.

What baggage can we let go of?

Is there anything that’s no longer serving us—something blocking us from achieving the goals we already have—that we can offload?

Can we forgive ourselves for something (including not keeping last year’s resolutions!)? Is there something we can forgive others for? Can we let go of fear—maybe fear of failure? Or maybe fear of success! Can we let go of worry? Or any other mental or physical clutter?

Can we absolve ourselves of guilt or doubt or resentment or regret?

I have a feeling the resolutions are already there. This year, instead of being stuck in a repeating loop of not keeping resolutions made because of some arbitrary timetable, maybe we just need to free ourselves of whatever it is that’s holding us back.

sparkler-677774_960_720

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Thinking Vs. Feeling

In a conversation the other day, a gentleman reminded me of something I learned from Eckhart Tolle’s book “The Power of Now.”

This particular conversation had to do with food choices—specifically, that this gentleman had purchased a delicious doughnut during a weak moment, but after a quick, clear-headed reflection on his weight loss goals, he ultimately decided to throw away 50% of the delicacy and enjoy eating just half of it.

But the technique he used was a really good one, and is applicable to any situation in life. It’s along the lines of “act, don’t react.”

He described imagining himself up on a balcony, literally looking down on himself with his coffee and doughnut. Up on the balcony, he just observes without emotion. He allows his higher-thinking self to assess the situation.

The part of him sitting with the doughnut was caught up in the drama of WANTING the pleasure of indulging. Don’t we all have that one voice in our head that cries out for instant gratification?

But we have other voices in our head, too, constantly. One is always the voice of reason.

One is the inner critic, insisting on negative self-talk. One is the inner cheerleader, encouraging us as we go.

One voice is the judge, continuously making judgments. Sometimes we really need that voice to save us from doing something regrettable! Other times, it’s entirely appropriate to shut that voice down.

I like thinking about the voice of the observer, the one who notices without judgment. Like when I’m trying to meditate, and focus on my breath, and some random thought pops into my head. I just notice it. Mm hmm, that’s me having a thought. Not good timing, thought! Just float on by now, and I’ll revisit you later. Breathe……

Or when I’m tempted to eat some empty calories like a doughnut. I can step back (or up to “the balcony”) and think, Mm hmm, that’s my inner three-year-old demanding gratification. I acknowledge that she wants some attention. What else would help her feel nurtured? Does she really “need” a doughnut? Or does she really need a hug? A bubble bath? An adventure? Someone to talk with to sort something out?

Oh, that’s the inquisitive voice!

Have you ever had a conversation with yourself about getting out of exercise? I’m just not feeling it today. I don’t have time. I’m really tired. I think a little headache is coming on.

Try stepping back and observing. What is really going on? What are you feeling? (I feel like skipping it today!) What are you thinking? (I think it would be a good idea for me to get my heart rate up, and then I think I will feel a lot better afterward. In fact, I think I’ll feel proud of myself! And that’s a really good feeling! I can do this!!)

The great news is that we get to decide which voice in our head to listen to. We get to climb up to the balcony and observe before we make a decision. We don’t have to “react” to the emotion. (This is true, too, for confrontations—in person and on social media!)

I was so happy to have this reminder the other day. I’ve been “thinking” about it a lot ever since!

img_4756

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth