Even Life's Big Changes Happen Little by Little

Just as it takes a single drop of water, multiplied many times over, to nourish a forest for the season, when it comes to self care it's the little things that add up to become the big changes.

ForestRainDrops.jpg

Most of the ways that we take care of ourselves are not a “one-and-done” situation.  If you only showered once, brushed your teeth once, only cut your hair once in your lifetime (or even once a year) you just wouldn’t get the same results that you do by incorporating all of these things into your regular care routine.  

Self-care should be no different.  Changes that we may want to make to our posture, sleep quality, or general stress levels are most likely not going to be achieved overnight.  The good news is that this means that once we make a commitment to “life-improvement” we can never truly fail. Even if we’ve neglected ourselves for a period of time, every day is a new day to start over fresh.  Every day requires the same level of care that all our other days did. Once good habits are established, they become easier and easier to perform.

The 21st century lifestyle means that a vast majority of us are walking around with poor posture (shoulders scrunched up and rolled forward, head and neck forward, mid-back in a forward curve - for an extreme example think hunchback of Notre Dame).  These postural dysfunctions create all kinds of health issues and make tension an ever-present issue. BUT - it can be improved, AND will only happen little by little. Baby steps people!

Try standing with your feet about hip-width apart.  Stand firmly, with your feet planted solidly on the ground with the majority of your weight in your heels.  It also helps of the weight is mostly held up by the outer edge of your heels. Roll your shoulders up, back, and then down, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Engage your lower abdominal muscles and look straight ahead with soft eyes.  How do you feel?

Chances are that your spine will feel straight and supported, your lungs will be able to expand freely and easily as you breathe, and you will be expending less energy overall to keep yourself standing.  

Just like everything else, maintaining good posture takes practice.  If your muscles are not accustomed to holding this posture, they will likely tire easily at first.  But keep at it. The more you do it, the easier it will become. Before you know it, it will start to feel weird when you’re NOT in this posture.  With reduced tension and deeper, easier breathing, other things in your life may also start to fall into place, little by little.

XmasPlaceSetting.jpg

The Dueling Forces of Flexibility & Stability

Ozites.jpg

Life is about balancing the dueling forces of the universe.  Good vs. evil, Batman vs. Superman, moving forward vs. staying still.  The forces of flexibility and stability must be balanced to create and maintain healthy body mechanics, healthy finances, healthy boundaries and relationships.  Some things must be stabilized or shored up, while others must remain flexible.

It’s easy to see how having any one of these dynamics out of balance can cause some real havoc.  For a physical example, if one were to stabilize every joint in the body you’d be stuck without much room for change or movement.   You may find yourself to be very strong and sturdy, just like the Tin Man from “The Wizard of Oz”. You’d also have a problem. You’d be just like the Tin Man!  You’d be very stiff and stuck, with limited range of motion in your neck, arms, back or hips. As in his case, your jaw may be very stiff, limiting chewing, or even your speech.  When experiencing maximum stability, flexibility is compromised. How would you propose to move through your day if all the joints in your body were resisting all movement? It would certainly make life difficult.

Now take the other extreme.  If you had maximum flexibility in every joint, you wouldn’t feel any stiffness at all.  You’d be able to move fluidly through every situation, taking life as it comes. However, you’d also probably find it hard to stand, or move against gravity through space.  Walking, running, even sitting would be very difficult. You’d slide right off your chair! Going back to “The Wizard of Oz” we have the example of the Scarecrow. He has no stability in his joints after spending so much time hung up in the field.  All of his muscles have atrophied and at first he cannot walk at all, instead he ends up crumpling to the ground.

Humans need stability.  We need to know, with some measure of probability, what we can reasonably expect from life.  However, life is rarely consistently predictable, and thus we also need to be flexible, bending to what comes.  

If your body has stopped bending to what comes, we may be able to help.  Come into Mantis and let your therapist know what has become stiff and immobile.  We’ll do what we can to get you moving again. After the massage, you will likely feel much looser than you’ve been for awhile.  At this time, it’s good to stop, slow down, and take a few deep breaths, grounding yourself before moving on with your day.

Reeds.jpg

Treat Yourself (For the Sake of Others)

Walking.jpg

It may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes the best way to take care of other people is to first take care of ourselves.  Doing our best to meet our own needs is actually the most efficient way to go about it. Think about it, you know just what you need, just when you need it, without even needing to ask yourself.  It’s almost like you can read your own mind!

And when we are walking around as a person who has all or most of their needs met, we are then that much more available to help others who may be having trouble getting their needs met.  Maybe we can help them to better understand their own needs, or help them with something that they are just not capable of doing on their own. We are likely to have more patience towards others, more energy to help, and more time to do so.

A great way to help meet our own needs and to put ourselves in a great mood is to schedule ourselves a massage session at Mantis.  By doing so, you are giving yourself some me time, improving blood circulation, improving your quality of sleep, relieving tension, improving posture, reducing stress, and boosting your mood.  

This boost in mood will stay with you long after the end of the massage session, and here’s the secret: It looks good on you.  Other people will enjoy being around you, even more than they did before. Your good mood is contagious, rubbing off on all the people that you come in contact with for the rest of your day, your week, maybe even your month!

So go get yourself a massage!  If for no other reason, than do it for the sake of others.  

LaughingKids.jpg

Moving Through Discomfort

LettingGo.jpg

Change can be scary sometimes.  Even when we are unhappy or in pain, change can seem rather uncomfortable or even a tad overwhelming.  As they say, the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. But what if the devil you don’t know is actually an angel in disguise?

Life can be oh so complicated, and sometimes it can just seem safer to stay in our respective comfort zones.  Maybe we have these huge areas of tension in our shoulders, but they’ve always been there, and after a while they may even start to feel a little familiar.  We know where they are, they’re reliable, they know us. However, this kind of comfort is actually a far cry from true comfort. These balls of tension may give us the illusion of comfort, but really we know deep down that we’d be better off without them keeping our muscles literally stuck to each other.  

This is where massage comes in.  While we are doing our best to bring YOU into a relaxing state of comfort, we are not trying to make life easy for your knots of tension.  We want them out of there! While the kneading of your knots can sometimes be somewhat uncomfortable, maybe even painful, this is what we like to refer to as therapeutic pain.  This is the type of pain that hurts so good, because you can tell that it’s making your knots of tension uncomfortable. It’s the type of pain that feels worth it, because you can also feel how it is a (sometimes major) change to your musculature.  

In this way, you may have to venture out and leave behind your illusion of comfort, (what’s holding you back and keeping you stuck), in order to reach a true sense of much deeper comfort.  There is nothing quite like the feeling of release, when you can literally feel your muscles letting go of long-held tension.  This may even be coupled with an emotional release. (BTW it is totally ok to cry on the massage table if you happen to feel a sudden rush of emotion!).  We promise we won’t tell.

This may all be taking place on a rather subconscious level.  We may not even realize consciously what we are holding onto, or how tightly or for how long we have been holding onto it.  All of that is revealed to us only when we are able to finally fully release the muscle, and just let it all go. Taking a long, slow, deep breath is a great way signal to yourself and to the universe that you are letting go of something that no longer serves you.  In the end the therapeutic pain of the massage, while seeming downright devilish, may have actually been an angel in disguise.

AngelStatue.jpg

Feeling Overwhelmed by the Little Things

Take Pause.jpg

It's important to take time out for yourself in life. Sometimes we feel like we can't do this because there are just too many things to get done.  Sometimes just stopping to breathe can feel like it takes up too much time in our day. As it turns out breathing is not only super important, but also can be accomplished literally in only a matter of seconds.  And while it is important not to shirk your responsibilities, taking a little pause for yourself can often give you that extra little boost of strength/courage/energy that you needed to tackle all of the tasks in your life.  As an added bonus, once you’ve accomplished all of the “little” things, and then you'll have more strength/energy/courage to tackle the big things.

Stopping to take time for yourself can be very grounding, helping to clear your mind and accurately prioritize your to-do list.  You may even find that not everything on your to-do list is even necessarily worth doing. Taking a moment to breathe can help you reevaluate the way you spend the precious time that makes up your day.   

Grounding.jpg

Massage is a great way to take time out for yourself and do some deep breathing.  Not only is massage super beneficial for your physical and psychological well-being, it's also just really enjoyable.  And what's more, because massage sessions are scheduled in advance and limited to a predetermined amount of time, they are an indulgence that won't wreck your schedule.

So, next time you feel overwhelmed by all the little things on your to do list (or even the big things) consider taking some time out for yourself first.  It may be just what you need to help you seize the day.



Massage Is Better Together

BenchSleepers.jpg

Like many things in life, while massage sessions are a great way to care for oneself, gifting massage sessions are also a great way to care for one’s others.  And sometimes, you can care for all involved all at the same time.

At Mantis Massage, we have a couples room (*currently only available at our South Congress location) as well as a ton of super qualified therapists, allowing for the possibility of simultaneous appointments.  This means that you can give your bestie a fabulous session of body work and get one for yourself at the same time.

You’ll both enjoy each other’s company even better as a result.  While massage brain is not quite as serious a perception bender as a pair of beer goggles, you’ll likely appreciate each other’s cheesy jokes just a little bit more fully.  

And now that you’re together, and you’re both relaxed, it can be the beginning of a day of fun and relaxing activities to recharge your batteries and soothe your minds.  Both of them.

Have a friend, co-worker, significant other, parent or sibling who could really use a massage?  Maybe consider using it as an excuse to get one for yourself as well. Because we know we could all use a little less stress and a little more relaxation.  Consider your improved mood a bonus gift, helping to make their day all that much more enjoyable.

SunglassesFriends.jpg

Possum Wisdom

Indecision.png

Sometimes when you’re feeling indecisive about something, the best decision is not to make a decision at all, and instead come in for a massage.

Humans are excellent problem solvers.  Sometimes though we come across a problem so big, that our brains simply can’t compute.   Our brains start out going through all the possibilities and they circle round and round the problem until they forget which solutions have already been discounted and mistake them for new ideas.  Sometimes we just can’t think our way out of a problem.

The wisdom of the possum tells us that sometimes when you don’t know what to do, the best option is to do nothing at all. When faced with an insurmountable threat, a possum will shut down it’s nervous system and collapse into a coma like state.  By “playing dead” the threat or predator is fooled into being uninterested in the possum and it will leave. The possum is then free to “come back to life” and go about living as it was before.

Now, I am not suggesting that you will your body into a coma on the massage table! However, the relaxation derived from a massage session can often help to work not unlike a coma, shutting off your brain temporarily with the sure knowledge that you will return to it later.  

Sometimes this “brain vacation” is all you need to stop the frenzied circling and open up your brain to fresh new ideas, as well as fresh blood from improved circulation and the calm that comes from relaxation and tension relief.  

Possums.jpg

So next time you find yourself working through a seemingly insurmountable problem, think like a possum and make the decision of making no decision at all.

Where You Start May Not Be Where You’ll End

DivergingPaths.jpg

Life is constantly changing, and massage is no exception to that rule.  A little bit of adaptability can go a long way in helping us humans to cope with the many changes in our lives.  

It happens all the time that at the start of a session, a client may say, “It’s just my shoulder, that’s the only thing that’s bothering me,” and while this IS true at the start of the session, it may actually change as the session progresses.  

What humans and other creatures experience as pain sensation is physically a nerve signal that travels from the area of pain to the brain.  Because of something called Gate Control Theory, only the loudest pain signals will get through at any given time. Also, activation of nerves which do not transmit pain signals, such as those for touch, pressure, and vibration can interfere with signals from pain fibers, thereby inhibiting pain.

gate.jpg

This of course, is where the massage comes in.  As Massage Therapists, we are taking control of the gate, inhibiting the pain signals from reaching your brain and instead letting in the friendly signals, the ones that don’t want to hurt you.  What also happens is that sometimes clients will start to feel pain elsewhere in the body, someplace that they have been ignoring. The signal wasn’t loud enough before, and it couldn’t get through the gate.  

So while at the start of the massage it was all about the shoulder, after spending some time on the table you may find that there are other areas that also need to be addressed.  Maybe you started out wanting just a relaxation massage, and then changed your mind mid-way through. Or maybe the opposite is true. You thought you booked your appointment for some real deep body work, but then life happened and day of you really just need to zen out.  And that’s OK! We are happy to be flexible with you and help you help your body figure out what it needs.

And that might change!  Because where you start may not be where you’ll end up.  

 

The Importance of Solitude

Silence.jpg

Such much of lives are filled with others.  We live with others, work with others, and play with others.  Much of the time our lives are enriched by our connections with others, sharing experiences, sharing wisdom, sharing love.  So much of this time shared has a positive impact on our lives, and yet we still find that we need a bit of solitude.

Solitude often gets a bad rap.  So much of the time, solitude is portrayed as something that one would experience only if there were no other available option.  But Solitude, most especially when sought out, when lived on purpose, can have enormous benefits. Solitude gives you the opportunity to filter away all outside influences and to listen to your own inner wisdom.  

The poet Rainer Maria Rilke says it this way, “Listen to your inner self and your feelings every time.  Should you be mistaken, after all, the natural growth of your inner life will guide you slowly and in good time to other conclusions,”.  Rilke speaks much of the power and strength of solitude in achieving an understanding of one’s self. He suggests spending endless hours within one’s depth of solitude.  He was also writing these words in 1904.

Returning back to 2018, it may not be practical for one to sit endlessly for hours at a time, sipping tea and staring out the window.  However, living the often hectic lives that we do in 2018 may mean that the need for solitude has become greater than ever.

So I would encourage everyone, at the next available opportunity, to take some time for solitude.  Allow yourself to get lost in your own thoughts, and not even with the expectation of necessarily finding anything.  Recent studies have shown that our brains are still working out internal processes even when we are sitting around doing “nothing”.

Maybe the next available opportunity for you will be the next time you find yourself lying face down on a massage table.  If you ever don’t feel chatty during a massage session, just let us know. We won’t be offended. In fact, speaking for myself at least, I would be honored to provide you with a safe space for you to explore the depths of your inner solitude.  

StillRoad.jpeg

The Dance of Calm & Chaos

PickUpSticks.jpg

Austin also has its fair share of chaos.  Think I-35 during rush hour, Barton Springs on Mother’s Day, and I could go on and on.  And we need that chaos. Austin is one of the top creative cities in the nation and is part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.  The law of conservation of energy reminds us that one cannot create something from nothing. Energy can neither be created, nor destroyed.  Therefore the energy needed for creative endeavors must be harnessed from the existing swirl of energy around us. It must be harnessed from the chaos.  

Mantis is where we help you harness the calm.  

Mt.Fuji.jpg

Throughout life there is a dance of chaos and calm, each contributing in their own unique way to our quest for balance.  If we have only chaos, we pay the price with an increase in stress and sometimes even tension and anxiety. If we have only calm, it is certainly much more difficult to create, or be productive.  We may even find boredom. But with a careful choreography of the two together in unison, we find the creativity, vitality and progress that we need balanced out with the stillness, serenity, and calm that we crave.  

Modern life in Austin provides the chaos.  Mantis is here for you to induce the calm.

Just think about a whole hour or more to yourself, devoted just to you, your body and releasing the tension.  The music is calm and relaxing, the scents are pleasant, the temperature is perfect. All of this sets the scene for you to enjoy your massage session to the utmost, relaxing holding patterns and resetting your muscles so that they are available at your disposal, ready to go for any project that you are ready to take on. 

Summer is the Best Time to get a Massage

Summer is the best time to get a massage for several reasons.

SplashSunset.jpg

ONE:

Your muscles are already warmed up!  It’s true, the weather does actually have a physical effect on the body.  This is also why I hate being cold. When you’re body feels cold (not actual cold, like hypothermia, just uncomfortable the air is colder than my body cold) your body automatically tenses up as a way of conserving heat.  Your veins actually contract slightly, (called vasoconstriction) so that your body disperses less heat. SO, if your body is already warm and mobile (from vasodilation), then your muscles will already be in an enhanced state of relaxation.  That means that your massage session will be that much more productive. (This is also the reason that we use table warmers and hot towels!!)

TWO:

SleepPlane.jpg

Summer is often synonymous with travel.  Think cross-country road trips, flights to foreign countries, or just hopping home to visit your parents for the summer if you’re in school.  As advanced as humans have become at globe-trotting, we still have not really figured out how to make it exactly ergonomic. Travel often finds you in cramped spaces, sleeping in odd configurations, not sleeping enough, and just generally keeps your body out of whack.  Massage is a great way to get you back into whack, relaxing your muscles, improving your sleep, and returning your body back to balance.

THREE:

Summer is often synonymous with travel.  What’s that you say? I’ve said that already?  Well, here’s the thing. Here at Mantis, we have a some really great, oft-sought-after therapists.  Sometimes it can be challenging to get a prime spot on their schedules. But summer means that some of our other clients might be going out of town just as you are coming back into town, opening up a spot for you on our schedules.  Now that’s what I call a symbiotic relationship.

bee.jpg

Body Mechanics

AwkwardReaches.jpg

As Massage Therapists, we know how important it is to maintain good body mechanics while we’re at work.  Using proper postures means that we are able to conserve energy and avoid injury. But using good body mechanics isn’t just important for massage therapists, they are important for everyone!

While you move about your day, whether you’re working for an employer and doing work for yourself to help make life happen, chances are that you’re using your body while you’re doing it!  Unless you’ve somehow mastered telekinesis, in which case I’d like to sign up to be your student.

PaperCranes.jpg

Especially when we are doing work for ourselves, it can seem unimportant to pay attention to body mechanics, because chances are that we are not going to be working on this same project all day, everyday.  But the truth is, life is happening now! And if you are standing on your head in an awkward twist just so that you can get some asparagus green paint into the bottom corner of your pantry, there’s a good chance you could injure yourself while doing it.  

The basic principles of body mechanics are just not to strain your body, especially not with repetition.  Awkward reaches, unstable stools or ladders, or simply craning your neck to get a better view of your Netflix screen can really add up to unnecessary strain and pain in your muscles and joints.  All of this can be not only uncomfortable, but can actually lead to injury.

So if you are doing something in your life that hurts your body, stop and think, “Is this really necessary?”.  If what you’re doing is exercise, then yeah maybe it might hurt a little even if you’re doing it right. But for just about anything else, it will probably pay off in the long run to stop and get the bigger ladder, to interrupt your Netflix binge to re-adjust your neck, or to pay a professional to paint your pantry.  

Living in the Present Moment

MontaukSunrise.JPG

Sometimes we spend our entire present thinking about the future. Or the past.  Or both. Unfortunately this sometimes means that we are totally missing out on what is happening for us right now.  

As humans living in 2018, life can be kinda stressful.  It may seem like we’ll never get ahead unless we are constantly thinking two steps ahead of where we are now.  But what if we have something to learn in the here and now that is absolutely essential to our future success?

For me, this applies to massage because I often find my body pining for a massage for several days or weeks before I am able to get myself in for a session.  Yes, Massage Therapists need Massage Therapy too!! So I end up spending days or weeks thinking about my future massage session. Then, once the time for the session finally arrives I spend the whole session thinking about how great I’m going to feel afterwards.  Then time absolutely FLIES by and suddenly the massage is over and I’m now stuck in the past thinking, “Wow wasn’t that really great and I should now probably schedule another massage."

Regular massage can be SOOO beneficial for your body, especially if you have any chronic pain or alignment issues.  Massage will be that much MORE beneficial if you can really take the time to focus in on what’s happening in the present moment, whether that is before, during, or after the session.  Being fully present in the moment during your massage session will help improve your breathing, help your body relax more fully, and help your body to better integrate the body work from your massage session.  Which just means that all the benefits of massage will last that much longer.

So take a moment to stop, take a deep breath, and just look around.  Or close your eyes if safe to do so and feel the air, smell the smells, and listen to the sounds.  You might just notice something you would have otherwise missed.

Reflections.jpg

Hydrotherapy

HotSprings.jpg

There are lots of fun ways to take care of yourself, and did you know that one of the coolest resources we can use is water?  I’m talking about Hydrotherapy, and it’s anything that takes advantage of the physical properties of water, such as temperature and pressure, to stimulate blood circulation and treat the symptoms of certain diseases. This can mean anything from using water jets, underwater massage, underwater exercise, mineral baths, whirlpool baths, hot Roman baths, hot tubs or Jacuzzis, and cold plunges or cryotherapy.

For our purposes, we’re talking about water outside of your body.  For water inside your body, see my recent post about hydration.

You already know about the awesome benefits of taking a whole body soak in a warm epsom salt bath from my post about Massage Preparation for First Timers, but just as a reminder, all you have to do is stir 2 cups of epsom salt (can be found in most grocery stores) into a hot bath.  Sit and relax for at least 20 minutes to feel the benefits of reduced inflammation.  

Ice is also technically water, which makes using ice on your sore muscles a part of hydrotherapy as well.   Just make sure not to sustain ice usage for more than 10 minutes at a time, as this can actually start to cause some localized inflammation of its own.  

And here’s the really cool part.  We live in Austin, which means that we are blessed with relatively easy access to Barton Springs pool (there is of course a certain amount of skill involved in first finding a parking space!).  Once you’ve tackled parking, you’re in for a real treat of natural spring hydrotherapy.

For those who don’t know (or just haven’t gotten around to it yet) Barton Springs Pool is a natural pool that is part of Barton Creek in South Central Austin.   The pool is fed from underground springs that keep the water the same temperature year round, averaging about 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit. This is no cryotherapy cold plunge, the water is nowhere near freezing, though you’re still likely to hear several shrieks of shock as folks drop in for their first dip.  Rather, the water is just cold enough to help rid your body of inflammation without being so cold that you get completely numb and want to kill whomever dragged you there. This is also a great way to experience the cold of the water and its benefits while simultaneously experiencing the warmth of the sun and its benefits.   It’s a win win for you, and for the Barton Springs Salamander that calls the creek home.  

BartonSpringsSalamander.jpg

The Importance of Play

Play.jpg

The child within needs a way to get out sometimes.  I recently had the pleasure of attending the Austin Maker Faire, “a gathering of fascinating, curious people...From engineers to artists to scientists to crafters, Maker Faire is a venue for these "makers" to show hobbies, experiments, projects,” which is geared towards kids and getting their brains hooked on learning.  Though my grandmother would probably still consider me a kid, at 31 you would think that I’d be a little out of place in such a setting. Instead, I was welcomed at all the stations, encouraged to be myself, and rediscover my creativity. This while my husband illuminated hundreds of kids with the vast and intriguing world of virtual reality.  

While we adults are all caught up in the world of being such, and all of the responsibilities that go along with it, it is important to take a step back sometimes.  Like waaaay back, to when we were kids. What would 8 year old Sandra do? She’d probably tell me that I’m spending too much time doing boring things, and not nearly enough time playing with her friends.  

According to Nathan H. Lents, Ph.D., in his article for Psychology Today entitled “Why Play Is Important”, “[Play] can encourage creativity, planning, problem solving, and a whole bunch of task-specific skills like spatial reasoning and logic. For both humans and animals, play is a low-risk way to develop our cognitive abilities.”  Now, I’m not saying that we should do everything that dogs do, but minus the butt sniffing shenanigans they really seem to have a lot of their lives figured out.

Play helps to reduce stress and activate our parasympathetic nervous system, which signals to our bodies that we are in a safe space, free from danger.  Existing in this state helps us think about things that maybe we haven’t had time for previously, sometimes revealing new, ingenious, even playful solutions.  Play is also a great way to encourage bonding and can help strengthen relationships.  And laughing.  Laughing is sooooo good for you.  

So take some time today to play.  The kid inside you will be glad you did.  

MakerFaire.jpg

Hurts So Good

elephant.jpg

Here at Mantis Massage, we specialize in Deep Tissue massage.  This means that we work with the muscles in your body that are deep to some other muscles in your body.  They are closer to the core, meaning that sometimes, we have to go through other muscle to get to them. A lot of people think that deep tissue massage means deep pressure.  Not so! There are ways to access deep tissue without using deep pressure, and it is also true that you can use deep pressure and not necessarily be accessing deep tissue - at least not directly.  

This may seem like a technical difference that doesn’t really apply to you as a client.  But here’s why this distinction is important! Sometimes people think that just because massage hurts means that it is doing something good for your muscles, or that conversely if it doesn’t hurt then it’s not really working.

MYTHBUSTERS TIME!

The way that massage works with your body is by working with your neurological system.  Your therapist is using pressure to signal sensory organs within your muscle tissue, letting them know that is it ok to let go of the muscle contraction that is causing tension, pain and even blood stagnation in your body.  Every body is different, and for some people that means that more pressure will feel good to them, as they can feel their body loosening up and reacting well to the pressure. We like to call this “Therapeutic Pain”. Yes, it hurts.  But it hurts so good. It hurts in a way that feels therapeutic. You can feel it working, and the wisdom in your body says, “Yes! This is a good thing!”.

For other people, lots and lots of pressure signals a stress response in their bodies.  The pressure can be too much, and the body senses danger, avoiding the possibility of being crushed.  In this case, the pain does not feel therapeutic. There is pain, but no gain.  Instead, it feels like alarm! Your body is resisting the pressure and it just feels like pain, without the benefit of therapy.  

This distinction can be subtle, and thus is a reason why it is so important to keep communication channels open with your therapist.  This can also vary for different muscles and different areas of the body.

The most important takeaway here is that if your massage just hurts - and not in a good way - this doesn’t make you a wimp or mean that you need to just clam up and take it.  Massage should feel GOOD! Even if that means that it hurts so good. If it hurts in a good way, you’ll know it. And you are the only one that can really measure this difference.  Also, massage can be really effective even if it doesn’t hurt. It is entirely possible to communicate with your muscles using light pressure. It’s all about you, your muscles, and what y’all need.  

Feather.jpg

The Importance of Self-Care

Heart.jpg

These past few weeks we’ve been sharing with you some effective self-care techniques.  I hold the importance of self-care as a self-evident truth, however, I realize that it just may be possible that some of you out there are wondering, "Why do I need this?"  So, this week we will explore, what is self-care, why do we need it, and what does it do for us?

Put simply, self-care is the maintenance of one's personal well-being and health.  Every person has a different set of needs when it comes to health and/or well-being, so self-care may look different to different folks.  Of course, we all have physical selves, and non-physical selves. In philosophy, self-care refers to the care and cultivation of self in a comprehensive sense, focusing in particular on the soul and the knowledge of self.

upsidedowninflowers.jpg

So what is self-care?  It’s whatever you want it to be!  Or whatever your “self” needs it to be.  In this blog, we’ve talked about self-care in the form of proper hydration, getting the appropriate amount of sleep, and taking care of your (tired) hands.  Self-care basically just means taking the time to listen to your body, and letting it tell you what it needs.  And then, importantly, act on it! Attend to your needs! No, we’re not telling you to be selfish or gobble up all of the available resources.  We are telling you that it’s ok to attend to your needs, and reminding you that you will be better able to care for others once your own needs are met.  In fact, self-care can actually make you more effective and improve your energy!

Which brings me to my next point.  We all need self-care, all the time.  But some of us need extra self-care, more often.  Either we’re feeling vulnerable because of our body’s hormonal fluctuations, we’re under a stressful deadline at work, or we’re going through a period of adjustment or grieving.  Maybe we’re spending all of our time and resources caring for someone who has difficulty caring for themselves. When we are caring for others, self-care becomes exponentially, vitally important.  

Even a few minutes taken out of a stressful day for a quick soak in a bath, a short walk through nature, or asking for help when you need it (and saying "no" when you need to) can help reaffirm your sense of self-worth.  Attending to yourself and listening to your needs is important to maintaining a healthy relationship with you. Your new habit of taking care of yourself can help improve confidence and self-esteem too.

Self-care is also an important mirror for the people around you.  Humans are social animals, taking cues from everyone around us. Setting functional boundaries to take care of yourself shows others that they can self-care too, and signals to them that they have your support to do so.

Jaunt.jpg

Hydration

waterdrop.jpg

Humans need water to live, and while we’re probably all getting the bare minimum, few of us are getting enough for optimal health on a regular basis.  According to a recent U.S. National Health Nutrition Examination Survey using data from 2009 to 2012, only about 30 percent of American's daily water intake came from plain water.  The rest came from other liquids, such as juice, tea and soda.

While these all have water in them, and do count towards your total water needs, many nutritionists agree that that a high intake of fresh drinking water, separate and distinct from other sources of moisture, is necessary for good health.  This is where you get the common suggestion of eight servings per day of eight fluid ounces.

If you’re looking at all water sources, the average male human needs about 3.7 liters (appx. 1 gallon) of liquid water per day, with the average female human needing about 2.7 liters (appx. 0.75 gallon).  This will vary of course along with how much salt you’re eating, how much you’re exercising, and how often you’re getting massage.  And you can put away your swimsuit, playing in water doesn't count!

SplashPad.jpg

So why is it important to stay hydrated?

Your body uses water for EVERYTHING!  But seriously, drinking enough water to stay well hydrated helps your body to maintain its temperature, can help you to lose weight, think better, improve your mood, prevent disease (and headaches!), and make your skin glow.  Water does all this because it acts as a building block, a solvent for chemical reactions, and a transport material for nutrients and waste.

Overhydration.jpg

However, it IS possible to drink too much water.  

An overconsumption of water can lead to water intoxication, which can dangerously dilute the concentration of salts in the body. A persistent desire to drink inordinate quantities of water, often accompanied by frequent urination, may be a symptom of a problem and is worth talking about with a medical professional.  

Sleep as Self-Care

Sleep.jpg

Did you know that as infants, it is recommended that we sleep up to 17 hours a day!?  Healthy adults need 7 to 10 hours, but as Americans, we rarely seem to get it. According to a 2013 Gallup poll, Americans are practicing an average of 6.8 hours of sleep per night.  And we’ve been trending towards less sleep. In 1942 the average was 7.9 hours.

There are lots of reasons for this, and we won’t go into them here.  Instead, this week we’re going to talk about what you can do to make sure you’re getting enough shut eye - and why it matters.  

How much sleep we get affects our performance, mood, stress levels and overall health and well-being.  An ongoing lack of sleep can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness, emotional difficulties, poor job performance, obesity, a lowered perception of quality of life as well as a higher risk of premature death.  NOT ideal.

So what can you do to improve your sleep practice? Well, first of all, see what I did there?  By thinking about your sleep as a daily practice, instead of just something that does or doesn’t happen, it puts you back in the driver’s seat.  And also, it takes practice! Your body responds very well to routines, and getting enough sleep also means that you are more likely to get tired at the appropriate times, which in turn makes it easier to get enough sleep and so on.  

Shavasana.jpg

PLAN

And on that note, make a plan!  Just thinking you want to get more sleep and then barreling full speed ahead without making a plan is a great way to crash and burn.  Take some time to think about a sleep goal. How much sleep you need depends on your level of daily activity, whether or not you’re pregnant, and even your gender.  According the the National Sleep Foundation, women (on average) need 20 minutes more sleep than men do.

Once you know your sleep quantity goal, you can start thinking about what timing works best for your schedule, and then try to stick to your new sleep schedule, even if your work/life happens at a different time every day.  Establishing a regular routine helps your body tune its natural circadian rhythm.

LIMIT YOUR SCREEN TIME

If possible, try to separate your screen time from your relaxation time.  This means turning off Netflix, putting away Candy Crush and finishing reading these (fantastic) blog posts at least 2 hours before your planned snooze time.  Even though it feels like you’re relaxing while you watch GOT, you’re brain is still working out, worrying about undead dragons and whether or not you’re going to enjoy your new [can we call it life?!] as a White Walker.  

MASSAGE

One of the excellent benefits of massage is that it can improve the quality of your sleep.  The reason for this is that massage helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the part of your body’s regulatory system that can only function optimally once the fight or flight question has been answered.  When you are constantly making stressful decisions, i.e. Life, your body stays in sympathetic mode, and all the other stuff gets sent to the back burner. Sleep is not something that is easy to do while you are in the midst of fighting or flying.  Massage helps signal to your body that the danger has passed, and that it’s ok to start attending to the rest of your body’s needs, like breathing and digestion. Deep breathing and proper digestion help to make your sleep deeper and more productive.  

SLEEP ON YOUR BACK

Remember that position that we had you in during the massage where you were flat on your back, with a bolster or pillow underneath your knees? We do this because it is the optimal position that takes pressure off of your spine and doesn’t put unnecessary pressure on your shoulder joints. If you just can’t fall asleep on your back (the struggle is real!) sleep on your side with a soft yet supportive pillow between your knees, and a pillow for your head that is high enough and supportive enough so you’re not collapsing onto your shoulder. And please, please, please don’t sleep on your stomach. Unless of course you have a perfectly aligned headrest hanging off the side of your bed. There just isn’t a good way to sleep on your stomach without stressing the joints and muscles of the neck. That is of course, if you also intend to breathe while sleeping. Which. We. Consider. Important.

DREAMING

Once you’ve got a good sleep practice going, you are that much more likely to spend at least 2 hours a night experiencing dreams.  Although we may or may not remember our dreams, these unconscious adventures help us to improve learning and memory, and even help us to process our emotions.  Emotional balance helps reduce stress, which makes sleep easier, which means more dreams, which helps us process emotions and reduce stress and...now I’ve put you to sleep :)

Dreams.jpg

Self-Care: Hands Edition

WindowHands.jpg

If you have hands, they probably hurt.  My clients are often surprised by this, until I remind them that we use our hands for everything! **If you don't have hands, your wrists, forearms, etc probably hurt, in which case most of the following still applies**

So what can you do about it?

First and foremost, book a massage.  And when you’re talking with your therapist pre-session, make sure to mention that your hands hurt and that you’d like to have some work done there.  Your body has a lot of soreness to attend to during your session, so if you don’t mention a specific area, we might forsake it in the interest of spending more time on, say, your tired shoulders.  

Now that you have your massage booked, there’s actually a lot you can do for your tired hands in the meantime!

RockHands.jpg

ICE

Depending on the level of inflammation and soreness in your hands (did you type a 20-page essay and then go rock climbing for 3 hours?), you may need to start with ice.  Use either a couple of ice packs, or a bowl full of ice water. When using ice packs, never apply directly to the skin. Instead, use a cloth or towel to protect your body’s largest organ.  Limit your cold therapy to about 10 minutes. Longer than that and you can actually trigger an inflammatory response from your body, thereby creating MORE inflammation, and MORE soreness.

HEAT

Run warm water over some towels and then wrap them around your hands until the towels cool off.  Test the heat of the towels on the inside of your wrist, as this is your most temperature sensitive area, to avoid burning your hands.  Never use boiling water or a microwave, as they can get too hot or heat unevenly.

HandsSoak.jpg

EPSOM SALT

Add about 1 tbsp of epsom salt for 8 oz of water.  You won’t need much if you’re just soaking your hands.  Whole body sore? Try a whole body epsom salt bath. You’ll need about 2 cups of salt for a standard bathtub.  Make sure to soak for about 20 minutes to help rid your body of inflammation.

STRETCHES

Whether using a soft ball to squeeze, silly putty, or just your average wall, stretching each finger and each individual joint in your hand will help increase blood flow, reduce inflammation, and get your hands back to feeling like themselves again.  

MASSAGE

You can also use your hands to massage your hands (Whoa.).  You can even use some tiger balm, lotion or massage oil to make your hands feel really pampered.  Use your opposite hand to clamp down on the webbing between each finger, especially the meaty muscle between your thumb and forefinger.  Take your time, and do what feels good. There isn’t really a wrong way to do it. Just know that just because something hurts doesn’t make it good for you (more on that in a future post!).  In fact, if your self-massage hurts in a bad way, you should probably stop. Sometimes massage hurts so good, but when it doesn’t, it’s ok to ease off and try another technique.