When I was a young adult in my 20’s, I didn’t take care of myself. It started in college, and
while I didn’t quite hit the freshman 15, I definitely gained some weight – I’m looking at you,
chicken sandwiches from the school cafeteria. But in my defense, the rest of the food was
terrible! I’m talking grade ‘A’ nasty.
Anyways, in addition to bad eating, I drank a lot of diet soda. A lot. I started drinking regular
soda as a teenager (what were my parents thinking!?!) then eventually switched over to
drinking diet soda. Diet Mountain Dew was my drink of choice – and I drank a lot of it. You
know those huge cups you’d get from the gas station that cost $.79? Oh yeah, that was me. On
top of that, I can remember there’d be days in which I didn’t drink any water at all. I cringe
now thinking about it – my poor body! After graduation, things didn’t improve much, as I ate
out all the time. I’m talking lunch out every day and most days it was fast food
It wasn’t until a few years later when I met my husband, a health and fitness coach at the time,
that I started to see the negative impact my lifestyle had on my body. I realized what I ate and
drank affected my body just as much, if not more!, as exercise did. You see, beforehand, I was
all about being “skinny”. It didn’t matter that I had joint pain daily or that I was constantly tired,
I thought because I was “skinny,” I was healthy. I should note, at this point in time, I lost
the weight I gained in college. Besides improving my eating habits, one of the biggest
take-aways I adapted was to drink water. Yes, simply adding more water to my diet made a
huge difference in my health. My skin looked better, I wasn’t so tired all the time and my joint
pain started going away. I kicked the Mountain Dew cans to the curb and drank water, lots of
it!, on the regular.
But don’t just take my personal story for it, listen to the experts! According to Medical News
Today, here are some benefits of drinking water:
– Joint Lubrication – dehydration in joints can damage the ability to absorb shock,
therefore causing joint pain. Sound familiar?
– Oxygen Delivery – blood, which consists of 90 percent water, carries oxygen to
different parts of the body.
– Body Temperature Regulation – we know that when we sweat, we release water from
the body. Once that sweat evaporates, we cool down. According to some scientists, its
suggested that when there is not enough water in the body, heat storage within the
body increases and heat strain is less tolerable for that individual.
– Digestive System Flow -constipation much? In order to function properly, your bowel
needs water. Need I say more?
– Levels Blood Pressure – without water, blood can thicken, elevating blood pressure.
– Promotes Proper Kidney Function – the kidneys need water to regulate fluids within
the body. Lack of water can cause certain health issues, such as kidney stones.
These are just a few of the benefits of drinking water. Others include: weight loss, glowing
skin, fighting against infections and exercise performance enhancement. For a full list, check
out the article from Medical News Today:
“Water makes up about 60% of your body’s weight, and
although you can survive without food for weeks,
dehydration can kill you within days or even hours,
depending on the temperature and your environment.”
-Lisa Drayer; US registered dietitian & CNN contributor
Water makes up more than half of our body weight, yet most of us aren’t getting enough and
while we know it’s beneficial to drink water, if you’re not used to doing so, it can be a
challenging task at first. So how does one go about drinking more water? Here are a few tips
that helped me:
1. First things first, wake up & hydrate: The old saying goes we should drink 8 cups of
water a day. Get a jump start on this and make it the first thing you do upon waking up.
I always bring a glass of water to bed and keep it on the nightstand. This way, it’s right
there when I wake up in the morning. I drink it before I get out of bed. This gives me no
2. Always carry a water bottle: I noticed I would drink more if I had water on me. I would
bring a water bottle with me to work or while I was out running errands. It prevented
me from getting thirsty and saved me a couple bucks by not having to buy water at the
store. Seems silly, I know, but it really does work. Even today, I take a water bottle with
me wherever I go.
3. Lemon Water: Plain water can get a little, shall we say, boring. For a bit of flavor, try
adding a squeeze of lemon, or lime – whichever you prefer! There are health benefits to
both. If you really wanna get fancy, try infused water. Strawberry-basil or
mint-cucumber come to mind but feel free to get creative!
4. High water content foods: Getting your daily dose of water doesn’t only have to come
from drinking it. (Note: this does not give you a pass to stop drinking water! You still
need to drink water). These foods help keep your body hydrated. Watermelon,
cucumber, strawberries, and cantaloupe all have 90% (or higher!) water content. Soups
and broths are another great source as well.
5. Motivational Water Bottles: Grab a water bottle that has the measurements listed on
the outside of the bottle; 10 oz, 14 oz, 20 oz – you get the idea. This will help you know
how much water you’ve consumed already and how much more you have to go!
If drinking water still seems like a daunting task, take it one step at a time. Maybe start with
tip #1 until you get used to it. Then graduate to tip #2 and so on and so forth. Combine tips, if
you need to – put lemon water in your water bottle as you head out to run errands. Whatever
works for you to get the full benefits of drinking water and keeping the body hydrated!
James McIntosh. “Fifteen benefits of drinking water.” 16 July 2018. medicalnewstoday.com
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/290814.php#benefits 4 January 2020.
Brianna Elliot. “19 Water-Rich Foods That Help You Stay Hydrated.” 9 August 2017.
Healthline.com https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/19-hydrating-foods#section3 4 January
Sandee LaMotte. “Benefits of water: Are you getting enough fluids to stay healthy?” 28
September 2017. Cnn.com
https://www.cnn.com/2017/09/27/health/benefits-of-water-and-fluids/index.html 4 January
I don’t know if it’s just me, but do you ever see movies or tv shows with really wealthy women lounging at the spa all day and think “wouldn’t it be nice to do that on the regular?” No, it’s not just me? Didn’t think so. I think we’d all enjoy a spa day…….Or two or three. A little self care can go a long way. But is it really necessary? I mean seriously, who has the time and money to spend ALL DAY getting pampered?
Just as thoughts of all day spa treatments enter our mind, they’re gone again, replaced with thoughts of reality and more pressing matters. We forget about them for weeks or even months at a time, until they’re triggered again and maybe, just maybe, you have every intention of booking that massage but before you know it, you’re distracted again. Which is ok, right? So what if I don’t schedule some self care time? I still have my family, my job, my health, my friends. It’s not like my boss is going to lecture me about taking an afternoon off to have some “me time.” Quite the opposite, actually. My boss doesn’t even understand the concept of “me time.”
My family won’t disown me if I don’t schedule that hour for some self care. Matter of fact, they wouldn’t survive if I did! Clothes would be mismatched. Dirty dishes would be left in the sink. Unfolded laundry would be left on the couch. Rooms would be disheveled. Hair would be, dare I even say it?, unbrushed.
There’s no way I could take some time out for self care! My family would fall apart.
My health isn’t going to suffer, either. I’m not going to have a stroke or heart attack. I won’t catch some crazy virus, get the bird flu or develop celiac because I’m not taking a little time out for self care. I’ll still have all my limbs and even my two front teeth! My body won’t suddenly fall apart. That nagging back pain will take care of itself and if it gets really bad, I’ll just pop an Advil and call it a day. No need to take some time out for self care. I’ll be just fine without it.
Then again, a spa day does sound nice. And relaxing. A massage would help the lower back pain. It doesn’t have to be a full day either, a quick back massage or facial, even a foot massage would be amazing! Life has been stressful lately, with a family to take care of and a career to maintain, a little down time would be nice. There’s so much talk about self care, maybe there is something to it….
These thoughts sound familiar? You’re not alone! Self care, while so important for our health, is often neglected because the benefits aren’t always seen right away. Often times, you have to be consistent with self care and most of us claim we don’t have the time. Sure, we get a massage and feel relaxed for a bit but as soon as we pull out of the spa parking lot, someone cuts us off and we forget all about the zen we just obtained. But what if you had that ‘zen’ on a regular basis? Well, my friends, you can!
Self care is simply defined as: the care of oneself. But perhaps a more well known definition would be as Oxford defines it: The practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.
Self care can help increase quality of life and help eliminate stress. Not only is it important to you but to others around you as well. In order to be there for your family, you have to be well. It’s hard to take care of children when you’re sick with the flu, it’s the same with your mental and emotional health, too!
Think of it this way: you’re running late to a big meeting at work. You hop in the car, speed off and next thing you know, you’ve gotten into an accident. Not only will you completely miss your meeting but you’ve totaled your car. Now you have to deal with insurance, potential medical bills, a car rental agency, the list goes on and on. It is the same way if you don’t take time to care for your well-being. The lack of self care will cause a car wreck and all the baggage that goes along with it. In other words, when you carve out time for a little self care, you are able to give more to others!
A little self care goes a long way. Less stress leads to a healthy immune system. A healthy immune system can fight off colds, an upset stomach and the flu a whole lot easier then a weakened immune system. I don’t know about you but I hate being sick. It’s too much of a hassle to be sick. I much prefer being healthy, thank you!
Self care can also boost your self esteem. Whether its taking time to exercise and look good in those skinny jeans or taking time to self-reflect; by ridding ourselves of all the negative self talk, we increase our self esteem. And let’s face it, unless we’re Kanye West, we can all probably use a little more self esteem.
It doesn’t just stop there, self care can increase self awareness, too! Think about it. You’re taking time out to focus on what makes you happy; doing things you really love to do and therefore, discovering more about yourself.
While it would be nice, self care doesn’t have to be a full on spa day, either. Ain’t nobody got time for that! A regular, monthly massage would be super beneficial for the body, though. Kiss those back knots goodbye! Some regular activities you can do for self care include (but definitely aren’t limited too!):
– prayer and/or meditation
– getting outdoors
-plan a lunch date with a friend
-simply take a few minutes to yourself
Any of these can be done on a regular basis and don’t require hours of your time. You can even combine activities – go for an outdoor walk and combine being outdoors with exercising, for example! Or take a cue from this guy, who discusses the importance of only taking 10 minutes daily to yourself:
“Living My Best Life” – we’ve all heard the expression and seen the Instagram posts with someone on the beach with that caption. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably secretly a little jealous, too. I can’t help but think “I wanna live my best life!” Well, the secret to doing so is taking care of oneself. You know why everyone is so happy at the beach? It’s cause they’re on vacation, taking time to relax and get away from the stress. Self care at it’s finest, if you ask me!
Wright State University. “Self Care.” Wright.edu https://www.wright.edu/student-affairs/health-and-wellness/counseling-and-wellness/workshops-and-self-help/self-care#benefits 1 December 2019.
Monique Tello. “Self-care: 4 ways to nourish body and soul.” 16 November 2017. Health.Harvard.edu. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/self-care-4-ways-nourish-body-soul-2017111612736 1 December 2019.
Katherine Hurst. “What is self-care and why is self-care so important?” Thelawofattraction.com. http://www.thelawofattraction.com/self-care-tips/ . 1 December 2019.
Puddicombe, A. (2012, Fall). All it takes is 10 mindful minutes. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/andy_puddicombe_all_it_takes_is_10_mindful_minutes?referrer=playlist-the_importance_of_self_care#t-1273
Endorphins. You’ve heard of them. You know they’re good for you. You probably even know that high levels of endorphins can increase happiness and “Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands” – AmIright, all my Elle Woods fans? Come on, I can’t be the only one who thinks of that line when endorphins are mentioned!
“Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.”
So, what exactly are endorphins, you may find yourself wondering..? And how do they impact our emotional state of well-being? Does exercise really increase endorphins? If that is the case, what else increases endorphins, or decreases them, for that matter. Let’s explore, shall we?
According to Merriam-Webster.com, endorphins are defined as: “any of a group of endogenous peptides (such as enkephalin) found especially in the brain that bind chiefly to opiate receptors and produce some pharmacological effects (such as pain relief) like those of opiates”.
In other words, they’re a hormone released in the brain that helps calm the body and can even promote pleasure, similar to how painkillers work. In fact, vocabulary.com states that “the word endorphin is a blend of “endogenous” (meaning “inside the body”) and “morphine” (a medication that relieves pain),” which is why endorphins are known as “natural painkillers.”
Endorphins also play a role in the central nervous system, as they are neurotransmitters, passing along signals from one neuron to another. It’s sorta like when you played telephone as a kid, and you had to pass along the message from one person to the next until it reached the last person, then they would state the message out loud. Usually it would be some tainted version of the original – giving everyone a good laugh and making the game super fun. Endorphins, on the other hand, pass along the correct message every time. There are no jumbled messages with endorphins – boring for the game, great for our bodies!
Now that we know what endorphins are, why then, are they good for you? Oh goodie, I was hoping you’d ask! Think of things that are pleasurable to you. Good food, perhaps? A delicious glass of wine. A relaxing massage, possibly? Or maybe its something more adventurous, such as a hike in the mountains, running on the beach or watching your favorite sports team score a point. Cue endorphins.
Endorphins tell us when something is good or pleasurable…like that glass of wine or a yummy piece of chocolate. They also let us know when we’ve had too much of a good thing and signal us to stop or slow down. It’s how we know we’re full, for example. On the other hand, since we know what is pleasurable to us, endorphins encourage us to pursue those things in order to feel that sense of pleasure again. Craving that second piece of chocolate? You can thank your endorphins.
In addition to eating chocolate, here are some other awesome benefits of endorphins:
Preventing depression -exercise, yes the so-called ‘runners high’ is a thing!, releases endorphins which have been linked to decrease levels of depression.
Confidence booster – positive vibes only! As positive feelings can make you feel better, they’re a great source of self esteem.
Childbirth – clearly, a stressful scenario for the body, endorphins kick in to help calm and alleviate some of the pain during labor.
By now, we all know that exercise is a great way to release endorphins, however, you gotta be willing to work for it! I’m talking full on heart pounding, beast mode, run for miles upon miles type of workouts. So, what if the ‘runners high’ isn’t your cup of tea? Running can just be … So. Much. Work. Aren’t there other ways of triggering endorphins? Well, lucky you, because the answer is yes!
A much more relaxing way to increase endorphins is by touch. More specifically, massage therapy. Ever wonder why massages feel so good? It’s your endorphins kicking in. When getting a massage, hormones are released within the body – endorphins included – allowing you to unwind, relax and let the sensation of pleasure sink in. Shoot – I’m feeling relaxed just thinking about it! ‘Runners high’ without the run? Count me in!
But what if I told you there is another way, somewhat similar to massage therapy, that’ll help you achieve endorphin bliss? Enter Reiki. Say what?!? Let me explain.
“Reiki is a gentle, non-invasive, spiritually-based, Japanese healing system for maintaining and restoring health and wellness of body, mind, and spirit”
- Elise Brenner, Reiki master teacher & owner of Brenner Reiki Healing
Reiki is part of the “Relaxation Response,” according to Harvard Medical School’s Herbert Benson. Similar to how massage therapy works, increased levels of blood flow are sent to the brain and therefore cause muscles and organs to slow down. In response, there is an upswing in release of endorphins. Or in other words: Pure bliss, my friends, pure bliss.
Still looking for other ways to increase those endorphin levels? Try the following:
– eat chocolate
– create music
– eat spicy foods
In closing, let’s recap, shall we? Endorphins are hormones in the body that respond to stress or pain by calming or relaxing the body. They’re also triggered by pleasure, letting us know when we enjoy something and when we’ve had our fill. They inspire us to chase after those pleasures in order to achieve the satisfactory feeling they first left us with. Endorphins give us a ‘natural high’ without the addiction caused by conventional drugs. Arguably the most widely known from their effects on runners, aka ‘runners high’, endorphin levels are increased by anything pleasurable to you. So go for that afternoon walk, book that massage, eat that piece of chocolate or drink that glass of wine …. And then go thank your endorphins for those warm fuzzy feelings!
Tom Scheve “What are endorphins?” 22 June 2009. HowStuffWorks.com. https://science.howstuffworks.com/life/inside-the-mind/emotions/endorphins.htm 30 October 2019
Jacquelyn Cafasso “Why do we need endorphins?” 11 July 2017. Healthline.com https://www.healthline.com/health/endorphins#purpose 30 October 2019
Crystal Raypole “13 Ways to Increase Endorphins” 27 September 2019. Healthline.com https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-increase-endorphins 30 October 2019
Jamie Ducharme “What is Reiki?” 18 September 2013. BostonMagazine.com https://www.bostonmagazine.com/health/2013/09/18/what-is-reiki/ 30 October 2019
Legally Blonde. Dir. Robert Luketic. MGM. 2001. Film.
“This project is such a headache!”
They’re so common that the term has become synonymous with an annoyance, but what are headaches, really? And can massage therapy really help?
Different types, different causes.
Headaches are pretty easily defined, and we all know one when we feel it: it’s a pain in the head. But not all headaches are created equal.
Tension headaches are the most common type of headache, with pain occurring on both sides of the head without other symptoms. The pain can range from very mild to severe.
Migraine headaches are often pulsing, and can be accompanied by nausea, dizziness, sensitivity to light and sound, and hallucinations. Some people experience migraines only rarely, while other people experience them on an almost daily basis.
Cluster headaches are less common, and are generally experienced as severe pain around one eye. “Cluster periods,” during which many headaches occur during a period of time, are interspersed with longer periods without any symptoms.
Secondary headaches are not conditions themselves, but are symptoms of other conditions. These conditions can be as everyday as a sinus infection or conjunctivitis (pink-eye), or more serious, like traumatic brain injury or meningitis. While the pain from secondary headaches can be managed, it’s important to focus on getting the appropriate medical treatment for the underlying condition.
Headaches and massage
Tension headaches, the type of headaches people are most likely to experience, seem to respond well to massage therapy. Not only does massage seem to reduce pain in the moment, but regular massage therapy also appears to increase the amount of time between headaches for those who experience them on a chronic basis. This could be a result of helping to manage stress or underlying mechanical issues that can result in headaches, but there’s no solid science yet on precisely why massage helps, only that it does.
More good news! It probably doesn’t surprise anyone that folks who experience regular headaches are also more likely to experience high levels of stress, depression, and anxiety. Studies have found that massage can help with these issues not just in the general population, but also specifically in people who live with chronic headaches.
Some people with secondary headaches can also benefit from massage. People with fibromyalgia, for example, who often experience headaches as part of their condition, can experience both pain and stress relief with regular massage therapy. While massage during a flare-up of symptoms may need to be modified to be more gentle, some people find that it can provide relief both for headache as well as for pain throughout the body.
Massage therapy is wonderful and often helpful, but it’s not a cure for headaches. While some people just need a bit of rest or a drink of water (dehydration is a surprisingly common headache cause), other people continue to experience headaches all their lives. While people who experience headaches caused by stress or muscular tension can absolutely benefit from massage, migraines triggered by things like foods or hormonal changes probably won’t see an impact.
There are some times when getting a massage for headaches isn’t just unhelpful, it’s actually dangerous. Most often, this is related to secondary headaches. Fevers, as an example, often cause headaches as well as achy joints that could lead someone to want to receive massage, but this not only risks overly stressing a body that’s already fighting off an infection, it also has the possibility of spreading the illness to the massage therapist and anyone else they come into contact with. Headaches resulting from a recent head, neck, or back injury could also be made worse by a well-meaning massage therapist.
When there is the possibility of pain being caused by an illness or injury, it’s always best to seek out a physician’s opinion first. They can provide or recommend appropriate care for the issue causing the headache in the first place, and at that point you can ask them about whether it would be a good idea to receive a massage. Safe is always better than sorry!
Headaches can be a real, well, headache. But there’s help.
Sometimes a little change of environment is all that’s needed. If you have a headache and have been hunched over a computer for hours, try a stretch. A quick walk outside or a brief nap can help with a headache caused by eye strain. If you haven’t eaten or drunk anything all day, do that. It’s easy to get caught up in the business of our lives and forget to take care of our own basic needs.
For those who can take them, over the counter painkillers like ibuprofen or aspirin can be helpful in treating a headache. Sometimes caffeine is recommended as well. For stronger headaches, medications prescribed by a physician can be a lifesaver to many people, enabling them to function at work and with their families when they might otherwise have been left incapacitated.
And then there’s massage therapy, of course. It’s not a magical cure-all, but for many people, it really does help manage the pain and stress of headaches. Are you one of them? Schedule your next massage, and let’s find out together.
Cancel if you are sick.
Cool, we’re done here.
Nah, we’ve got a bunch more to cover. There are lots of variables to being sick. What does that even mean and why does it matter? Let’s dig in.
What is ‘sick’?
For determining your ability to receive massage, ‘sick’ means one or any combination of the following:
- Fever and related symptoms
- Unusual fatigue
- Respiratory issues
- Very runny and/or stuffy sinuses
- Sore throat
- GI issues
If you have any of the above happening, it’s best to cancel.
Massage isn’t going to help you get better
A sick body needs rest. Receiving massage is an active task. Massage causes change in the body and your body has to work to maintain stability. Getting a massage when you are sick takes attention away from rest and recovery. That’s not helping.
You’re not going to be cozy on the massage table. Sure, it sounds like a warm squishy massage table would be great. But the moment you put your already-stuffy head into that face cradle, you’ll realize the error of your ways. Gravity and pressure are not your friend here. Even if I do a great face massage to drain your sinuses, you’ll likely feel worse when you get off the table.
If you’re feeling at all dizzy or loopy, laying face down can make that sensation even worse. Remember getting ‘the spins’ when you drank a little too much? That. Only worse because you’ll be worried about puking on my office carpet and not just your terrible dorm comforter.
There is often some gray area, especially if you are in the recovery phase of a virus or bacterial infection. You may have that lingering dry cough well past the stage of contagion or actual illness. Or you could have seasonal allergies that make you a runny mess.
If you’re unsure about your situation, please call before your appointment and we can make a decision together.
It’s really, really easy to spread those germs
If you come in sick, you may get me (and my other clients) sick. Even with the best handwashing, coughing into your elbow, and precision skills depositing your dirty tissue into the trash bin, you’re likely to leave a few germs hanging in the air and I’m likely to breathe them in.
Fun fact, when you sneeze the little droplets of doom can travel up to 8 meters and can stay suspended in the air for up to 10 minutes. Yikes.
There’s a lot we just can’t control about cold and flu season. We may have been exposed without knowing and be contagious for a few days before symptoms show up. That’s just part of living in a world with other people. But we can control where we go and who we see while we are symptomatic. I know it’s a bummer to delay your massage, it’s also the right thing to do when you are contagious.
By the way how do you know if you are contagious?
You already know the best ways to stay healthy through cold and flu season. (But I’ll remind you.) Wash your hands (a lot!), get enough sleep, and get out into the fresh air when possible.
If you feel something coming on, do your best to cancel whatever you can, keep your activities to a bare minimum and just rest. Stay hydrated. Ask for help. That’s hard to do, but worth the effort.
Here’s to staying healthy through this season and the whole year!