The holidays are upon us again and although we all love this time of year, sometimes the pressure we put ourselves under to have the ‘perfect’ celebrations can cause so much stress and anxiety that we wonder if it’s all really worth it!
It’s no surprise that according to the American Psychological Association, women are most at risk from holiday stress. No matter how equal the sexes claim to be, it’s still the case that women tend to take charge of most of the organization of holiday arrangements, whether it’s planning, buying and preparing food, decorating the home, buying the gifts or just organizing who goes where. Women also find it harder to relax once the holidays are here and often deal with the build-up of stress (and any family tensions that happen over the holiday periods) by over eating and other not so healthy coping mechanisms.
Although it’s true that most of us claim to look forward to the celebrations at this time of year, we can also get stressed out about them. Men and women both feel under pressure to make the holidays ‘perfect’ for their families, which can lead to arguments and stress. There’s pressure to attend work parties, see friends and not leave anyone out. Money worries add to the mix –celebrating isn’t always cheap – and people also admit that they can’t always switch off from the workplace when they are enjoying festivities, finding themselves stressing about tasks they’ve left behind.
Some of us are just working way too hard to enjoy the holidays – 31% of people admitted that they were stressed because they couldn’t get enough time off from the day job to properly enjoy themselves. So – with all this stress build up, you need an escape valve!
How to Beat Holiday Stress
Don’t resort to comfort eating to relieve feelings of anxiety or stress. It feels good at the time and it’s so hard to resist with all the delicious food and invitations to parties that inevitably come up at this time of year, but you’ll just feel sick and bloated if you overdo the candy or delicious party food. Eat whatever you like but try not to eat when you’re feeling tense because being stressed actually affects your digestion and can lead to you feeling even worse. Take some time out for yourself if you feel the pressure of organizing (and paying for) everything start to creep up on you. Just because it’s Thanksgiving, or Christmas, it doesn’t mean you have to spend the whole time dealing with the needs of the rest of your family, friends or workplace. You can’t give anything if your own well is empty so treat yourself to a spa day instead; not only will a massage or facial make you feel relaxed and ready to face another round of gift shopping, but it stimulates feel good hormones, boosts your circulation and can even help boost your immune system which is an absolute must if you’re going to be socializing with friends, family and workmates more than usual.
Doing something that’s just for you will help improve your mood so that you won’t find it so irritating when people make holiday-related demands on you at this time of year. You’ll feel much more able to deal with fighting kids, annoying relatives, and frustrations at work if you’ve had your fill of self-care before the holiday season kicks off. It’s your gift to yourself – and as they say in the commercials – you’re worth it!
Are you the type of person who puts off getting a massage? Do you fall into the trap of thinking that because nothing actually hurts, you don’t need to worry about it? Many people think the same way, but you may end up wishing you had booked ahead of time instead of needing a last-minute appointment to address acute back pain or the flare-up of a chronic injury. Massage can provide relief if you do have an injury or are already in pain, but why wait until there’s something wrong before you take action? Massage can be part of your preventative therapy, a way to stop aches and pains from developing into anything more serious.
Keep On Keeping On...
Most of us have to work on a daily basis, and looking after your back and your musculoskeletal system will save you and your employer a lot of stress and money in the future. It’s startling, but did you know that according to the Global Burden of Disease 2010, a staggering thirty-one million Americans say that they are dealing with the symptoms of low back pain at any one time, costing over $50 million dollars in conventional medical treatments, worker’s compensation, and absence from work? Why risk it when a study that was carried out in 2011 proved that having regular massages helped to relieve the pain before it got to the stage where it needed medication or required taking time off from work?
Another cause of time off work is stress and/or anxiety, so you’ll be pleased to hear that a regular massage session can help you beat the build-up of stress and keep you feeling calmer for longer. It’s well known that many conditions are either brought on or made worse by stress. Making time for regular massage therapy helps to lower your body’s cortisol levels and increase the happy hormones serotonin and dopamine. It really puts you in a better mood. On top of this, it’s also thought that because a deep tissue or Swedish massage in particular helps to get your lymph fluid moving, this type of massage can also help boost your immunity. This means less coughs, colds and illnesses, which is all good!
Beat the Pain of Inactivity
Many of us can’t help it, but the average American sits still for eight or nine hours every single day. If your job means that you have no choice but to sit at a wheel or desk, it will pull your shoulders forward
and cause them to become rounded. This has the effect of weakening your upper and lower back muscles, which is why you might be feeling that pain in your shoulders and back. If you are able to get up and about regularly to do some quick stretching or activity, and you pair this with a regular massage, your posture will thank you and you should reduce any pain you feel from sitting still for so long during working hours.
Have we convinced you to make a massage part of your regular routine? Of course, it’s not all about preventing illness or relieving pain; receiving a massage is a therapeutic and beneficial therapy in itself, and many people book regular massage therapy sessions just because they know they will climb off the massage table with a smile on their face, feeling amazing!
We are bombarded with messages all the time telling us that we need to relax – but at the same time, it seems as if we are also bombarded with reasons not to! The truth is that if you take care of your body and mind, it pays dividends and can help you to deal with some of the unwelcome things in life that give stress us out in the first place. The first things to tackle are getting your share of rest and relaxation. Here’s why:
Getting enough sleep, and good quality sleep at that, is absolutely essential for functioning optimally. Whether you’re working, learning or just living, sleep is key. Sleep is also vital for is essential for restoring your body’s energy, repairing muscles and promoting good appetite. Quality of sleep matters as much as the amount of shut eye you cram in. The more time you spend in the REM stage of sleep, the better, as REM (dream) sleep is the most restorative – ideally you should spend about 25% of time in this type of sleep (if you have a fitness tracker, the sleep tracking function can be a real eye opener). Lack of good sleep can lead to a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, headaches and depression. Of course, sleep isn’t the only way to rest, relaxation while you’re awake is very important, too.
You may have heard of the fight-or-flight response? Well, it has an opposite – the relaxation response. This happens naturally when your body no longer thinks it is in any perceived danger, and when the autonomic nervous system returns to normal after a stressful situation. The relaxation response is like an off switch, where the body moves from a stressed state (physiological arousal) to one of calm. You can bring this response on deliberately by using techniques that are designed to relax both body and mind. Some of the most effective ways to do this include:
• Breathing Exercises
• Massage therapy
• Spa Treatments
Making time to unwind and enjoy life is really important – and often undervalued. Relaxation has many physical benefits; it can decrease your blood pressure, help to relieve pain, and also improve your
immune and cardiovascular systems. Did you know that a good belly laugh is one amazingly effective way to de-stress, too? Get the funny films out, a big laugh can potentially help your heart and lung health as well as promoting muscle relaxation. We all know that a good giggle can help our mental health too; as well as flooding our body with feel-good chemicals, it helps to reduce anxiety.
If you aren’t getting enough time to relax, you may find yourself feeling tense and stressed out. Next time you feel the fight-or-flight feelings getting on top of you, or you notice tell-tale effects of stress like break outs or constant headaches, stop it in its track with a massage session, yoga class or some deep breathing exercises and feel that relaxation kick back in…
If you’re a regular to massage, the concept of a muscle knot is probably something you’re well aware of, but what are they exactly? And what’s the relationship between a muscle knot and a trigger point?
What’s a trigger point?
Trigger points are simply tender spots on your body that ‘trigger’ or cause discomfort. These tender spots are common and many of us have them, but for some people they can become really troublesome. They are common in hot-spots like the shoulders and neck, but they can crop up just about anywhere and in some people, they can cause a lot of pain.
A trigger point is like a ‘knot’ in your muscle or the fascia (the thin wrapping around each muscle), which is why they are often referred to as a muscle knot. To a massage therapist it feels like a hard contraction on the on the muscle fibers connected to it, like a tight band around the muscle. Trigger points in muscles are ‘myofascial trigger points’ – and there are other types of trigger point that can occur around the body, on your skin, ligaments and tendons, and on scar tissue.
How can you tell if you have a muscle knot or trigger point?
You’ll be able to tell where your own trigger points are; if you touch them with any kind of pressure you’ll notice they start to hurt, or hurt more. They are often situated close to problem areas for you as well. If you have back issues, your trigger points are likely to be around your back, neck and shoulders, although this isn’t always the case. The range of sensations you might feel from a trigger point can be quite wide, too; anything from intense pain to a dull, throbbing ache. Some people feel ‘pins and needles’ or numbness.
What causes trigger points to flare up? One theory is that they are related to some sort of muscular overload - if you’ve been working out too hard or overdoing it, or just not been taking care of your posture. Muscle fibers, or portions of them can stay contracted or become inflamed.
How are Trigger Points treated?
If you notice a sore spot and want to see a massage therapist for advice, we’d advise having a word with your medical adviser first just to make sure that any swelling or soreness is just down to muscular stress and nothing more serious.
Once you’ve been checked over, we can start to look at the problem and help you to heal it with massage.
A good massage therapist will be able to work on your trigger points and muscle knots, gently but firmly helping them relax and release. They can also help you with in-between treatment massage techniques to try at home that will ease any discomfort and help to prevent the muscle knots building up again.
Trigger points and tender spots can cause a huge amount of pain and discomfort, often restricting your movement and your ability to do the activities you want to. You don't have to put up with this pain though, with some action on your part you can be pain free!
There’s no escaping the truth; winter is here. The days are shorter and the sweaters have come out of the wardrobe. It’s not unusual for people to get the ‘winter blues’ – which is a condition many people in the northern hemisphere are afflicted with due to lack of sunlight during the colder and darker winter months. The good news for everyone is that massage therapy can help increase health happiness for everyone during the cooler months of the year. Here a few reasons why…
Massage May Help to Banish Seasonal Affective Disorder
As we’ve mentioned, Seasonal Affective Disorder – sometimes known as the winter blues – is a problem for many people when there’s less natural sunlight. This is because sunlight causes the brain to release a feel-good chemical called serotonin that improves our mood. When there’s less sunlight, less serotonin is produced, which can lead to low mood, lethargy and feeling like it's difficult to get out of bed in the morning. In some people it can even cause depression serious enough to warrant visiting a doctor. It’s not a happy place to be, but the good news is that booking regular massage can help to lift a low mood. A regular massage session will help to relax stressed minds and bodies, as well as releasing the serotonin and endorphins, the same chemicals produced by the body when you’re happy.
It Can Give Your Circulation A Boost
Massage therapy may also help boost circulation during a time of the year when nobody wants to get up and go outside for a run. Everybody knows that getting regular exercise helps keep circulation running smoothly, and also gets the oxygenated blood pumped around our bodies faster. A lack of movement in the winter months can result in feeling sluggish, and poor circulation can lead to lethargy, aches and pains. Here’s where a massage has extra benefits; it can help blood to pass through any congested areas and boosts overall flow, which also helps the lymphatic system to remove waste that builds up. At the same time, massage is well known to help decrease blood pressure.
It May Help Your Body to Fight Off Minor Infections
For anybody that’s prone to suffering from colds during the winter season, massage might be useful for prevention. It’s been found that massage sessions can help to boost the effectiveness of the immune system, helping to fight off the normal bugs and viruses that circulate this time of year. A gentle massage of the area around the lymph nodes also encourages white blood cells to circulate, and as massage increases blood flow it also stimulates the white blood cells to start fighting any infection in your body.
These are just a few of the many benefits that massage therapy can bring during winter. Of course, there’s also the feel-good aspect of a warming hot stone massage, delicious aromatic massage oils, and even just the act of taking time out to look after yourself when you need it.
We all know how important it is to choose the right skincare products. If you get your products right, they will leave your skin looking and feeling at its best. They can help to improve skin condition if you have acne, dry skin, and sensitivity or if your skin is starting to show signs of aging. There is such a wide choice of products on the market that it can be hard to decide which one to try. Here are a few tips we’ve put together to help you select the right skincare products for your needs.
What’s your skin type and what does it need?
We recommend having a professional consultation to truly determine your actual skin type and pick up on any specific needs you might have overlooked. An esthetician will take a really close look at your skin and help you to decide what the priorities are for your skincare routine. She may tell you something about your skin that you don’t know - for example, even if you think your skin is just a bit dry, it could be because it’s sensitive too, and you just didn’t realize that you were using products that irritated it? Changing your products to a professional range that’s specially designed for your skin type could make all the difference.
Why go professional?
There are commercials everywhere for skincare products and they all promise beautiful skin. Some are cheap and available from drugstores anywhere but the professional ranges are more expensive and exclusive, so why would you opt for a professional product?
Drug store and department store beauty products can be sold by anyone, because they normally contain lower levels of active ingredients. They are cheaper because they can be easily mass produced and have a very long shelf life. Buying from a salon, spa or esthetician means you get an extra level of recommendation – you’re not just buying from an advertising agency’s copy but you’ve got the benefit of the esthetician’s experience and training in helping you find a suitable product as well as a better quality product with better active ingredients. Estheticians carefully research their product lines, and are educated on ingredients, how to use the different products, and will educate you on how to best take care of your skin.
What’s in a cosmeceutical?
Cosmeceuticals, sold by licensed estheticians tend to contain higher concentrations of active ingredients – only medical grade products sold by doctors are legally allowed to contain more active ingredients. Professional skincare companies put a great deal of money into researching cosmeceuticals; they use hi-tech ingredients like peptides, enzymes, plant stem cells and vitamins. They also benefit from the most advanced latest delivery systems.
If you want to do something fantastic for your skin – book a session with a professional esthetician to get to know your skin properly. You don’t always have to book a facial to get professional product recommendations, although this will give your esthetician a complete look at your skin. Most estheticians offer product consultations and can create a customized plan for your skin based on your concerns and their expertise.
Which Essential Oils Can You Use in Pregnancy?
Many moms-to-be enjoy aromatherapy and want to carry on with it to help them ease the aches and pains or other symptoms of pregnancy. If you want to continue to use your aromatherapy routine, remember these general guidelines:
1. Just use one drop of oil at a time
2. Don’t overdo the same oils – mix them up.
3. Dilute the essential oil with at least a teaspoon (5ml) of base oil in a bath or if using it on your skin.
4. Some experts recommend waiting until the first trimester is over before you use aromatherapy.
Oils That Are Safe
As long as your pregnancy is going well, it's fine for you to use:
- Citrus oils, like Tangerine and Neroli
- Ylang ylang
You Should Avoid
- Nutmeg, which can react with pain-relieving drugs in labor.
- Rosemary, can cause contractions.
- Basil, some people think it could contribute to abnormal cell development.
- Jasmine and Clary sage, can trigger contractions
- Sage and Rose, may cause bleeding in your uterus
As always, check with your doctor before starting the use of any medication, supplement, or topical agent during pregnancy.
It might seem as if everywhere you go these days you’re asked to fill out another form; and your massage therapist is no exception. We do have some very good reasons for asking you to fill our intake form before we get started working with you, and they are essential for both of us to make sure that you get the very best from your massage experience.
Why Do We Need Information from You?
It gives us a background on you, your current health and any issues you might be experiencing that we need to consider. It also gives us an insight into what you want from your massage therapy. Different illnesses and conditions affect everybody in diverse ways. That sounds obvious but knowing exactly what you are dealing with, feeling and managing health-wise is a crucial factor in how we’ll proceed with your treatment, so we need to know any symptoms you might be experiencing and how they affect you. A client intake form should ask you all the right questions so that your therapist can come up with the perfect session or treatment plan for you.
In addition to giving us the lowdown on what you need from us, an intake form also helps us to decide what NOT to do. Some therapies and treatments and even some essential oils used in aromatherapy (for example) can be contraindicated for pregnancy and some other medical conditions. If we know this in advance we can tailor your treatment to avoid anything that could potentially cause you problems. It’s also helpful to know about allergies so that we avoid using products that could cause a reaction, or if you have any injuries that could be aggravated by massaging the area.
What to Expect in a Client Intake Form
A good intake form should ask you for a brief review of your medical history, including all of the above and any current medications. Remember to mention anything that could be relevant including pregnancy, accidents, injuries, surgeries you’ve had and medical conditions which could affect your treatment. Make sure that you tell the therapist about any issues you’re currently dealing with too – even if they are trivial. If you’re suffering from regular stress headaches, for example, your therapist will be able to feel for knots and tension in the muscles that could be causing the problem, and concentrate on those during a massage. We’ll need to take your contact details, too, and date of birth, for our records.
Once we have this basic document to work with we can ask you questions that will help us to get to the bottom of what you need from your massage or treatment. A good therapist should never rely just on the intake form for their information, they should set aside plenty of time before the initial treatment to talk through your answers and ask you about your health needs and what you want from your session. A client intake form is there to help you and your therapist, so fill it in as comprehensively as you can and we’ll make sure that you get a massage that really does the work.
Otherwise known as aromatherapy massage, a massage using essential oils is a real treat, and has many positive effects that make it a treat worth investing in. There are two main reasons why a massage therapist may use essential oils in their treatments:
• The essential oils used in massage can have beneficial effects on your body and overall health.
• They smell great.
But the aroma isn’t just a pleasant addition to your treatment. By inhaling the oils and applying them topically, you can receive multiple layers of benefits. Essential oils can have physiological effects like helping to relieve muscle tension and stiffness, reduce muscle spasm, and enhance circulation. They can also have psychological and emotional benefits such as helping individuals cope with pain, reduce stress and relax, and improve mood.
Essential oils and pregnancy
If you’re pregnant, you should always tell your massage therapist before an aromatherapy massage because although essential oils are safe in the vast majority of cases, there are a few specific essential oils that are best avoided in the first trimester of pregnancy.
Essential oils and pain relief
Using essential oils in a massage is ideal if you’re experiencing symptoms like inflammation or pain. The aromatherapy adds an extra layer of benefit to a soothing massage and seems to magnify the effects of a treatment which can give you even more relief than a basic massage.
Essential oils and stress
Just breathing in the relaxing scent of lavender essential oil can calm you down and help you sleep. Lavender essential oil is great for pain relief and widely used in stress-busting massage treatments.
So what is an aromatherapy massage like?
The first thing you’ll need to do is have a talk with your therapist about what you are hoping to get from your massage, and explain all about any existing health conditions so that they can choose the best combination of oils for you. There are pre-blended mixes of essential oils for general use, but many therapists also make up their own mixes for each session.
When therapists are putting together a custom blend, they will often ask you to pick a fragrance that makes you feel good. There’s not much point in creating perfectly blended massage oil for you if you don't enjoy the smell of it and can’t wait to get off the massage table!
If there’s any of your custom blended oil left after your massage, you’ll be given the rest to take home and use, which is a definite bonus. After an aromatherapy massage you’re likely to feel absolutely amazing – not only have you had the physical benefits of a therapeutic massage but the psychological boost that you’ll get from the essential oils as well.
What’s your favorite aromatherapy oil?
When we’re deep in the cold, wet clutches of winter, all we can think of is the lazy, hazy summer days. Picnics, barbecues, days spent lounging outside, and sunshine are all we remember from the last summer.
Then, when we reach summer time, we remember that summer has stresses of its own. Who hasn’t day dreamed about the last summer vacation but forgotten the fact that driving hours to get there left the entire family hot, cranky and dehydrated? Or that on the second day of the break, one of the kids had an allergic reaction to a bug bite and spent the entire week whining about it itching?
With the kids at home, the planned fun and games can also turn into fighting and complaining about being bored. Some days you just wish it was fall already! That’s why, whether you have kids or not, and wherever you are planning to spend time this summer, you need to schedule in some down time. Summer can really stress you out, so making sure that you’re well prepared with pre-vacation treatments and a massage or two to give you some extra relaxation and also help you make your summer holiday about you as well as everybody else.
Remember that even if you are always planning things for the whole family, you deserve some time to yourself too. It might be a cliché that gets over used but there is a lot of truth to the statement ‘you cannot pour from an empty cup’ – get your fix of self-care up front and you’ll feel much more equipped to give to everyone else.
Top Tips for Stress-Free Summer Months:
Spend time in the sunshine – it really does improve your mood. Load up on sun screen and head out into the back yard with a book and a cool drink, even if it’s just for 30 minutes. Get the kids out on a play date and make some time for you.
Sneak in a nap – sleep can be compromised over the summer when the temperatures rise, so if you have an opportunity in the day time for a nap, take it and stock up in advance on sleep.
Enjoy a yoga class – perfect for regular relaxation and you can take a few of your favorite moves away on vacation with you, too.
Turn off the iPads – and other gadgets. Give yourself a tech detox for an hour or so a day, or even an entire day/vacation if you think you can. Just escaping from the constant ping of notifications can be a great way to unplug stress and chill out.
Don’t neglect your down-time. Schedule in time for YOU in among the fun family days out and other activities.
Enjoy your summer!
Bella Terra Organic Spa and Shoppe in Evansville, Indiana. Sharing stories regarding healthy living, holistic wellness, and green beauty.