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8 Ways to Beat Stress

Every day we have numerous opportunities to be overwhelmed with stress, whether it’s the major traffic jam during our commute, or the annoying neighbor upstairs who prefers to stomp their way through the apartment all night long. For most of us, small stressors are easily handled and overlooked.  However, when we are exposed to numerous small stressors that are not dealt with over a long period of time without relief, our physical, mental and emotional health begins to suffer.

What are some of the things that happen within our bodies when we’re stressed? To begin with, we can count on an increased heart rate, rapid breathing, increased blood pressure, feelings of anxiety, tight muscles, headaches, fatigue, insomnia, and so on.

Medical research has already determined that over 80% of illnesses are caused by or made worse by stress alone! Think about the enormity of that fact.

So what are some of the things that we can do to keep our stress levels in check? Here are some of my favorite strategies:
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  • Slow down! Take a few moments every day to breathe mindfully, appreciate the beauty of the moment and where you happen to be in the whole scheme of your life.
  • Be thankful for all that you have. Gratitude opens your heart and allows energy to flow within your body. With it, comes more relaxed breathing patterns, and a tendency to focus on what’s good in your life, rather than what isn’t.
  • Exercise – moving your body and sweating allows for better circulation, releases toxins, and can help provide a safe outlet for suppressed aggression.
  • Cultivate a spiritual life – it doesn’t matter whether you are religious or not. Spirituality is the development of your spirit – the part of you that knows joy, love, and abundance on every level.
  • Treat your body right! Healthy diet, good sleep, and down time can go a long way.
  • Spend time with people who inspire you, and believe in the best of you. You’ll feel uplifted, optimistic and supported.
  • Get regular body or energy work – that half sleepy/awake state most people fall into allows for deep healing to take place. Plus, it just feels so good!
  • Spend quality time with your pet- a cat’s purr or a dog’s happy wagging tail can erase the worst of a bad day!

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How to Choose a Massage Therapist

How to Choose a Massage Therapist

How to Choose a Massage TherapistChoosing a massage therapist can be a very personal matter.  Lying on a table in your skivvies to allow a stranger to work on you can be daunting.  Whether you’re new in town and looking for someone to build a long lasting therapeutic relationship or you simply over did it on your most recent hike and need immediate relief, here are some tips to help you choose a therapist that’s right for you.

Find a Therapist

Education

How much education does your massage therapist have?  In many states, massage therapy is regulated, which usually means therapists are required to have a minimum number of of trainings hours, but for those states that don’t regulate massage (currently Alaska, Kansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Vermont, Wyoming) it is especially important to ask about your therapist’s educational background before you make your appointment.   If you live in a state in which massage therapy is regulated, you will want to make sure your therapist has the necessary certifications or licenses to practice in your state.

An educated and well-trained massage therapist will know which modalities and treatments are safe for you, and when to refer you to the appropriate medical providers when your needs can not be met through massage.

Place of Work/Location

Does your massage therapist operate out of a professional office or home? Or would you prefer to receive your session at a spa? What you choose can set the tone and dictate the kind of experience you will have.  A therapist who operates out of a home will offer a different experience from a therapist who operates out of an upscale spa.   

Types of Modalities/Treatments Provided

Are you mostly interested in relaxation and stress relief?  Then you’ll most likely enjoy a Swedish massage.

If you’re fairly active and have various aches and pains associated with your activity, then you might want to consider working with someone who has sports massage, deep tissue or neuromuscular therapy training.

If you’ve been in an accident or are recovering from an injury, then you might want to find someone who does any or a combination of the following modalities: deep tissue, myofascial release, orthopedic massage, neuromuscular therapy, or medical massage.

Of course, it is always nice to find someone who is versatile and can address your concerns as they come up.  Some days you might feel like you need to de-stress and unwind and other days you might have pain you need to work through.  Consider the kind of work you think you’ll be needing in the future so you won’t have to hop from one therapist to another as your needs change.

Scheduling/Availability

Does your therapist offer hours that coincide with yours?  If you have a nine-to-five job and your therapist doesn’t work on weekends or evenings then you’ll have a hard time getting an appointment.  Does your therapist offer online scheduling?  If you’re on the computer a lot, then that can be an added convenience, allowing you to avoid phone tag.

After Your First Appointment

Once you’ve scheduled your appointment and completed your first visit, you still need to consider whether you’d like to continue working with your therapist.

Health History

Didyour therapist inquire about your health history and any current conditions you are currently being treated for?  It’s important for a therapist to know if you’re dealing with health issues so s/he can tailor your session to ensure a safe and positive experience.  For example, if you have high blood pressure and your therapist doesn’t know about it, a warm stone massage might elevate your blood pressure and lead to unwanted complications.

Did Your Therapist Meet Your Goals?

Did your therapist ask you what you wanted to get out of your session?  Did s/he listen to you and was that reflected in the session you received?  Please keep in mind that your therapist is not a mind reader. Room temperature, music, scents, and massage pressure are examples of elements that can be adjusted to each individual’s preference. You owe it to yourself and your therapist to communicate your needs throughout your visit.

Client Education

Did your therapist offer suggestions for your continual self-care after your session?  A good therapist will ask you for feedback and send you home with relevant stretches or suggestions that you can do on your own until your next visit.

Did You Like Your Therapist?

This may seem like a silly criteria but it’s important that you connect with and like your therapist. This is likely to be a gut reaction, rather than an analytical assessment, so listen to your body and pay attention to how you feel when you think about returning for another session.

Final Thoughts

If your first massage session with a new therapist didn’t work out perfectly, don’t panic. Just like any new relationship, it can take a few sessions before you establish a level of comfort with your new therapist. However, if you’re just not feeling it, keep looking until you find someone who feels right for you.

The benefits from massage are countless and you owe it to yourself and your body to work with someone whom you can trust and can build a lasting therapeutic relationship.

Unplugging for Rejuvenation

Unplugging for Rejuvenation

I recently had the opportunity to do something I’d never previously considered doing before: turn off my cell phone, computer and TV for over 24 hours. At first I thought, “But what about all the people who are trying to reach me? What? No email? No Facebook? And no HGTV?!”

With a little bit of convincing, I decided to take the plunge. I figured that at the very least I would save a tiny bit of money on my electric bill. What I didn’t expect was the vast sense of relief I experienced as soon as I turned everything off. It felt like I was on a retreat, even though I hadn’t traveled anywhere special, nor was I being led on a spiritual journey by a guru or master. I allowed myself to surrender to the experience, and the following 24 hours was an indulgent “All About Amy” day.

Upon waking the next morning, I spent nearly two hours journaling and meditating. Later, I went on a relaxing walk on a nearby nature trail while taking the time to thoroughly appreciate the sunshine and beauty surrounding me. I noticed so much more on my walk than I normally do and found my mind free of extraneous thoughts that were normally present, ie.: Who do I have to call/email back when I return?, or What’s on TV tonight?, etc. When I returned home I journaled some more and then found myself daydreaming for a good long while as I gazed lazily out my window. I then spent the evening catching up on my reading, something I hadn’t done in ages.

I have to admit that while I thoroughly enjoyed my time “unplugged” from the world, as it got closer to the final 24 hours, I found myself getting antsy about checking my email, and wondering who might be desperately trying to reach me. It turned out that the world had managed to go on just fine without me (shocking, right?). Hours after my 24-hour period had ended, I found myself brimming with energy to tackle projects I had been putting off for months and a renewed passion in my work that has continued to carry over since then. Moving forward, I think the next time the opportunity to “unplug” presents itself to me, I will welcome it with open arms.

How about you? Does “unplugging” from the world sound appealing? I invite you to try it for yourself and see where it takes you. Feel free to write me and let me know about your experiences!