Make Over Your Morning Routine

morning routine

Even for a morning person like myself sometimes morning can be rough. Here’s a few pointers. How many of these things do you do?

1. When the alarm goes off… WAKE UP. Tempting as it is, absolutely do NOT use the snooze. You may steal a few extra minutes in bed, but being jolted awake repeatedly delvers fragmented sleep which makes you feel groggy and fatigued. To get more ACTUAL sleep, figure out the latest time you need to be up, then set your alarm for then. Feeling zonked out in the mornings probably means you need more sleep, so go to bed earlier little by little – eventually you won’t need an alarm at all.

2. When you open your eyes…practice a pep talk. Your thoughts significantly impact your energy levels for the day, so if your brain is telling you in its whiny voice “Its too early” or in its sarcastic voice ” Another day living the dream”, flip the script to something more positive: “I love mornings”- no sarcastic voice allowed. If you need a reminder, stick a note to your night stand- it’s that important.

3.When you get up…open the shades. Natural light flips your brain’s switch from sleep to awake, and there’s nothing better than sunlight to do the job. What’s more, a study published in the journal Sleep Health found that morning light exposure can help you snooze more soundly later that night, so you’ll likely feel better the next morning. If the sun’s rays are not an option because it’s still dark out, second best is turning on the lights to get as much bright light in the room as possible.

4. Before you leave the bedroom…stretch. Do 5-10 deep breaths and a few stretches. This gets your big muscles moving and increases blood flow to the other parts of your body…which will wake you up!

5. When you get ready to brew your coffee….WAIT!. It pays to delay because levels of stress hormones are highest when you first wake up. Caffeine is more effective later in the morning when those levels start to decrease, so have your first cup then.

6. When you open your fridge…Grab water. You’re most likely dehydrated from the long night, and being parched is an energy sapper says a study in the Journal of Nutrition.

7. After you get dressed…tidy your space. The mere act of making your bed can bring a sense of calm and take you out of sleep mode. Calm, but awake! The perfect combo!

How’d your mental check list go? I do about 5 out of these 7, and they really work! If you’re still struggling, don’t forget that better sleep and reduced stress are two of the amazing benefits of massage. Contact me to set up an appointment!

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How to Fight Back Against Energy Sappers!

The day has hardly started and you already feel defeated. Don’t let these things sap your energy and drag you down.

Stressful emails

Even a five minute phone check can suck you in, draining your mental energy. Technology is constantly trying to pull you off course. If you start your day on your device, you’re starting it out in a reactive way. Emails can set off your internal alarms. Claim your morning as yours, and keep your device off for the first hour you’re awake.

Nothing to Wear

That pair of pants no longer fits. The dress you want is stuck at the dry cleaner. Nothing ever looks right with that one sweater. We’ve all been there! Planning out what you’ll wear the night before can save several minutes of grief, but a bigger step is to set aside time one weekend for cleaning out your closet and throwing away or donating the items that just don’t work anymore.

Losing Everything

Keys? Purse? Lunch? We don’t usually have the luxury of time or energy in the morning, so rushing around trying to find what you needs can become overwhelming. Take 5 minutes at night to gather your things. Keys next to purse, pack your lunch and place them in their “ready to go” spot!

Just a few helpful pointers from my latest Real Simple magazine. How many of these things are helpful to you?

Looking for more ways to improve your health and energy? As you local stress management expert, I’m here to help! Contact me today at (518) 744-2315, or check out some of my other posts:

6 Plants to Help Cultivate Better Sleep

plants sleep

I’ve been really longing for spring! Here’s a way to get started early (from an article I stumbled upon from AARP magazine) Insomnia? Allergies? Stress? Let’s clear the air. Some houseplants not only remove toxins in our environment but also promote drowsiness, several studies confirm.

Give these plants a try in your bedroom to help cultivate better sleep:

JASMINE

Jasmine fragrance, working in ways similar to barbiturates, eases anxiety and encourages sleep. German researchers tested the scent on mice an watched them curl up an sleep.

ENGLISH IVY

English Ivy plants help clear the air of mold spores, says a former NASA scientist who has researched how to keep space station air clean.

LAVENDER

Lavender bouquets and essential oils are popular as sleep inducers, but try a houseplant too.

ALOE VERA

A hardy succulent, it vacuums up unhealthy indoor chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) while you catch your zzz’s, another NASA study showed.

BOSTON FERN

Back in the day, upscale hangouts were called fern bars because of this ubiquitous decoration. Turns out that Boston ferns remove formaldehyde from the air.

SNAKE PLANT

No green thumb? Snake plants, an air cleaner, is about the simplest to care for.

Did you know that one of many benefits of massage is improved sleep? Contact me today at (518) 744-2315 to experience it for yourself!

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Positive Stress: How to Use Stress To Your Advantage

use stress to your advantage

I love information that reminds us that stress is not always bad. In fact, its useful. That’s why we have it built into our neurology to begin with- how else would we have survived all these millennia?

The thing is we don’t live in an era of constant physical stressors. Sometimes its hard to figure out how to let go of unnecessary stress and get down to business. It’s hard to do sometimes isn’t it? Oh! and we’ve all been both the culprit and the victim of the hapless friend/relative/loved one who sees us struggling with our stress and says “Relax!” Kinda want to throttle that advice giver don’t we? And yet, we’ve doled out the same advice ourselves. So, here’s a  few ways to use stress when we can’t shake it (with a little help from Real Simple magazine):

1. Get yourself pumped.

You can’t worry and relax at the same time. BUT the feelings related to excitement are very close to those experienced during worry or stress (racing heart, sweaty palms- you know the drill). The feelings are remarkably similar regardless of whether you’re experiencing them because  you’re going on a first date, or your boss is yelling at you.

A psychological study in which the researcher told participants they’d either perform a song, speak in public, or complete a difficult timed math problem, and gave the subjects a mini mantra of either “I am calm”, “I am excited”, or “I am nervous”, showed consistently that those who stated loud that they were excited about the challenge performed better across all three categories.

So, the next time you’re nervous or worried, verbalize “excitement” to yourself instead. Don’t just use stress – transform it! You are welcome. 😉 I mean, c’mon, all you worriers out there (present company included):  this is useful!

2. Take some action.

If there’s  a looming to-do stressing you out, sometimes buckling down and, well, DOING something about it is a whole lot more productive than any number of calming techniques ever could be. If the “looming to-do” thing is stressing you because its a big “to-do” break it down into smaller tasks, and order them so it makes sense to you, and is no longer overwhelming. But start somewhere. Use stress for productivity!

3. Ask “What’s the worst-case scenario?”

Sometimes it’s best to face anxious thoughts head on. This is particularly helpful for social anxiety.  Have to go to a social function and mingle with a bunch of strangers? What’s the worst case scenario? Maybe you won’t have anyone to talk to and will feel awkward. Play it out in your mind. Generally the reality will be much less than your worst case scenario so you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

4. Find something to be grateful for.

This one’s easy! Remember that relaxation is passive and doesn’t give our mind much to hold onto. Gratitude is related to feelings of satisfaction and joy. Find the gratitude in the stressful situation. When faced with a stressful situation, for instance, let’s say you have an upcoming colonoscopy. What’s good about it? You’re fortunate to have access to a procedure that can keep you healthy. Or how about being stressed about an overly booked social schedule? We’ve all been there.  Use stress to remind yourself you’re grateful for all those friends you have that make your schedule busy.

5. Get ticked off.

Okay, well, a little ticked off. Anxiety is not only close to excitement on the scale of emotions but also to anger. PROCEED WITH CAUTION on this one: anger is easy, easier sometimes than identifying what’s causing the anger (fear, sadness, rejection) and too much anger can have toxic results. And approaching a person from a place of anger can be risky. But at the right place and time, productive anger is a useful. For instance, say you’re feeling anxious about a political or social injustice. Chanel that righteous anger and donate to a cause or write a letter.

6. Go to sleep.

We all know that a good night’s sleep can give us perspective on stuff that’s stressing us out. Personally, when I get home at the end of a long day, I simply can’t deal with the idea of having to return an email or phone call. Really? Yup. Nothing left in the tank. And it’s also when I’m most likely to make scheduling mistakes. So it waits til morning. Not even remotely stressful then.

7. Redefine relaxation.

What’s calming for one person might not work for you. DO NOT let other people define it for you. Where’s your happy place? I have plenty of friends who find the beach to be their stress free zone. I think beaches are beautiful, but there is zero part of a day at the beach that I find relaxing: gritty sand, sunburns, the water’s too cold to swim in, can’t read in the glare of the sun, wearing a bathing suit all day is freaking uncomfortable, the bathrooms are about a mile away, oh, and then there’s the fact that you have to lug a chair, towel, blah blah blah….Not worth it for me my friends. Camping however, is very relaxing to me.

So, give it some thought, and create an arsenal of things you usually find relaxing, so that you can pull from your bag of relaxation tricks in times of stress. Use stress to spark your own creativity and create your ideal relaxing situation.

Of course, sometimes we’re just plain old stressed. If you’re having trouble finding a way to use stress to your advantage, consider trying massage therapy. Not only will a massage help lower your stress, but also increase relaxation, relieve symptoms of depression and improve sleep!

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Stress Management for Animals: Reducing Your Pet’s Anxiety

pet anxiety stress

Stress management is my game, so here’s three ways you can help your pets manage their stress, and help you keep calm too!

Anxiety makes life tough for pets sometimes. We’ve seen them run from the vacuum cleaner, or try to hide during a thunderstorm…and, god forbid, you don’t feed them right on schedule! This stress trickles down to their owners, so here’s some ways to reduce your pet’s anxiety and in doing so, reduce your stress too!

1. Be consistent.

Unpredictability is unsettling for  a pet, and animals who know what to expect tend to stay calm. Feed them, play with them, and walk them at the same time every day: even on the weekends. Teach all family members to treat pets consistently. 

2. Build confidence.

When a pet knows what to expect (consistency) it boosts their confidence. Confidence decreases your pet’s anxiety. Training is a way to boost a pups confidence, and for cats, playing “hunt” several times every day boosts confidence.

3. Be a calm pet parent.

Animals, especially dogs are masters at reading the body language and emotional temperature of their people. Staying calm and confident yourself is one of the best things you can do for your pet’s anxiety.

Need some assistance in achieving that calm and confident attitude? Contact me today to discuss how my massage therapy services can help you be a stress-free, calm pet parent!

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Hobbies with a Purpose: How Having a Hobby Enhances your Health

hobbies

Free time? Does that even exist anymore? When every second of your day is packed, it can seem laughable to add one more thing to your to-do list. But many of us already have hobbies we use to unwind and relax.

If you don’t have any hobbies, here’s why you should: Taking on a hobby that makes you happy can help you reduce stress, get more focused and unleash creative brainpower.

Here’s a short list:

  • If you want to stay calm in stressful situations, practice music.
  • If you want to improve your public speaking, sign up for a creative writing class.
  • If you want to work on your leadership skills, try team sports.
  • If you want to be more productive start a recipe club.
  • If you want to be more strategic play a video game.

Thank you to Real Simple Magazine for a great article that I am heavily borrowing from!

Looking for some more little life tips between blog posts? Follow me on Facebook for more insights on wellness, mental health and massage.

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Do I Really Need a New Mattress? How Your Mattress Affects Your Sleep

replace mattress for better sleep

Its been going on for months. That feeling of sinking into a pit of quicksand that I can’t get out of. The sagging. The sagging??? Wait! What did you think I was talking about?! My mattress is the actual subject. God, I’m so funny sometimes, aren’t I?

Seriously though. I’ve been thinking it’s time for a new mattress since last fall. And I just googled the symptoms:

  • Muscle soreness and stiffness when you get up
  • There’s a dent in the mattress (actually 2 dents- his and hers, if you will)
  • You wake up feeling stuffy
  • Oh, wait, the fact that our mattress is at least 10 years old (possibly closer to 12). UGH.

A good mattress lasts 9 to 10 years, according to the National Sleep Foundation, but consider replacing a mattress every 5 to 7 years if you have sleep troubles. A study at Oklahoma State University found that most people who switched to new bedding after 5 years sleep significantly better and have less back pain.

I have to remember that the last client who had to bite the bullet and buy a new mattress, hasn’t stopped telling me what a good decision it was. I know, I know, but it so much more fun to spend one’s hard earned money on a vacation. Buying a mattress is right up there in my opinion with having to buy new car tires. Or a hot water heater. Okay, okay. I’ve only done a dozen blogs over the years about how important sleep is. I guess its time to listen to my own advice and get a new mattress.

How about getting a massage along with your new mattress to really up your sleep game? Massage therapy not only relieves stress, but also improves sleep patterns! Give me a call or contact me online to setup an appointment.

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Environment Matters! Organize Your Environment to Improve Health

organize your environment

According to Real Simple magazine, Doctors and professional organizers may seem like strange bedfellows, but with research linking our environment and our health, how we arrange our homes can be the difference between whether we gain or lose weight, rock or skip a workout, and leave work happy or stressed.

“You need to strategically organize in a way that makes it easier to achieve your goals, ” says psychologist and former personal trainer Susan Rudnicki, PhD, of Dunwoody, Georgia. So if the chips are blocking the whole grains in your ultra tidy pantry you’re only halfway there.

Here are some pointers from health experts and organizing pros to help:

For Fitness

Have a workout clothes station in your closet, or dedicate a drawer to them (no excuses for not being able to find clean workout clothes), and keep sneakers and a spare set of workout clothes in your car (for spur of the moment fitness opportunities, say, if an appointment cancels and you find yourself with a spare hour on your hands).

In the Kitchen

Put good for you food on display (people tend not to eat what they can’t see, so hide the goodies too!), update your spice cabinet (spices can make boring foods more appealing), and clear the counter tops (cluttered kitchens can bring on the munchies – for real! They’ve done studies).

At the Office

Move your desk (orienting your work space so that any windows run alongside the desk minimizes eye fatigue), rotate visual inspiration (A survey shows that art in the work space made folks happier, more inspired, and more relaxed. But if you leave the same ones up too long they lose their spice, so rotate  or reintroduce new stuff every so often to engage your brain and remain motivated), and organize your desk by time frame (Clutter overwhelms the visual cortex. Which means a messy desk makes your brain work harder to accomplish the same tasks. Experts recommend dividing your desk into past, present and future sections).

Even this massage therapist uses organization in her massages! There is my normal routine which is very useful, even if you need me to do some focused work on your neck one time, and your lower back the next. My routine makes it so that if you have a serious issue that requires more time, I know where to “steal” the time from, and create the a la carte massage you need! Call me at (518) 744-2315 to book a massage and see it in action!

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Finding Focus: Train Your Brain for Better Concentration

finding focus

The processing speed of our brains starts to decline at the ripe old age of 24. Yup. You read that right, 24. (And you thought you were feeling old before I shared that little tidbit, didn’t you?) According to a study at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia with processing decline comes a diminishing ability to switch from one task to another or manage interruptions. (Sigh…sounds overwhelmingly familiar). Older adults also struggle to filter out irrelevant information, which is why conversations can be challenging in busy restaurants.(Again, I can completely relate…can you?)

Here’s 5 ways to help regain and retain that focus!

1. Grab a good novel. In a study at Emory University in Atlanta, subjects who read at night showed increased connectivity in the part of the brain associated with language, and these increases persisted for 5 days after participants finished the book!

2. Work in the morning. In a study by the Roman Research Institute, participants performed better on cognitive tasks and were more focused when tested in the morning.

3. Play an instrument, or meditate. Or write without interruption for 30 minutes. Focusing on a single complex task improves your overall ability to focus on other tasks, and making it a habit can result in a better ability to get in a relaxed focused state for other activities.

4. Learn a language. Research at the University of Birmingham in England found that bilingual speakers were better at maintaining focus and attention than monolinguals.

5. Chew gum. In  a test involving the recall of random numbers, those who were chewing gum responded more quickly and accurately than those who were not.

Don’t forget that reducing stress is also a very important part of maintaining and healthy mind a body. Contact me today if you want to learn how a healing massage can benefit your mental health.

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Stressed Out? Change Your Mind to Change Your Stress

stressed out

Continuing with our discussions on stress, here’s a few helpful hints about how to change your mindset about stress (from Prevention magazine)!

So, when we are under stress (imagine giving a speech to a roomful of people), a typical stress response is heightened heart rate and constriction of blood vessels (this is why stress is associated with cardiovascular disease). But imagine if that same stressed out public speaker were to view those same feelings as healthy and helpful (for the situation). For example, by viewing them as the source of energy necessary to stay focused and speak more powerfully – the blood vessels stay relaxed.

“From a physiological perspective, the combination of increased heart rate and relaxed blood vessels looks a lot like what happens during moments of joy and courage– and that one change could have a positive impact on your cardiovascular health,” says Kelly McGonigal, a heath psychologist at Stanford.

So, without further ado, here’s a 3 step method to befriend your stress:

1. Acknowledge it.

Make a list of some of the unproductive things you do when you’re feeling pressured, such as procrastinate or raid the refrigerator. This way, the next time you’re engaged in one of these activities, the list can help you recognized what happening. So, you catch yourself in a stress related activity, you stop, think, and name your stress. “I’m stressed because I have a short deadline, and a lot of work to do.” Naming stress allows you to shift stress from the automatic part of your brain, to the thinking part of your brain, thereby giving the feeling of being more in control of stress.

2. Welcome it.

Research shows avoiding stress can increase anxiety and worry. Instead, recognize that the more stressed you are, the more you care about the situation. Tell the stress thank you for trying to help you, then ask it to step aside so you can formulate a plan to deal with your stressor.

3. Use it.

Think about whether your response to stress works against you or helps you meet your goals. If you’ve had a tiff with a co-worker and things are still tense between you, recognize that the stress you’re feeling is a sign that this social contact is important to you. Then, instead of shunning the person, reach out to them, plan a coffee date, and work it out. By understanding why you’re stressed, you can gain the focus and energy stress gives you to achieve a goal that eliminates the stress.

As your local expert in stress management, I have a wealth of tips and tricks to help you tackle the stress in your life. Contact me today to learn more!

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