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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The Benefits of Stress: Can Stress Make You Stronger?

benefits of stress

Stress!! You’ve read about it! You’ve listened to me! Stress is bad! But there are many upsides to stress. Yes, too much stress is bad, and can really make many health related issues worse, but several years ago, University of Wisconsin scientists released a study that forced experts to rethink their understand of this basic biological response. It showed that our immune systems can actually experience benefits of stress.

Stress also makes the pituitary gland release oxytocin…especially during uncomfortable social situations. In the heat of this type of stress, the release of oxytocin makes us want to reach out to others for help. And connecting with friends is one of the healthiest things you can do because its a powerful strategy for helping you become more resilient to stress.

And cortisol? Dreaded cortisol?! Yes, it’s damaging when released during long-term stress, BUT it may help people bounce back after a serious trauma like a car accident. Turns out that those who have a stronger stress response in these types of instances are able to make a more effective recovery.

Aside from everyday aggravations, even severe stress (like a diagnosis of a life threatening illness, death of a loved one, or a bad break up of a long term relationship) can lead to positive growth in the aftermath. Yes, negative effects still impact (chronic inflammation, overeating, memory impairment) but emotionally, about 2/3 of people who have faced trauma report positive personal development after the dust settles, according to Richard Tedeschi, a professor of psychology at University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Who ever thought there could be positive benefits of stress?

Don’t forget – treating yourself to a massage can not only help with the negative mental effects of stress, but has physical benefits too! Contact me to learn how massage can help relieve inflammation, strengthen your immune system, improve your sleep and more!

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The Myths of Happiness

happiness

5 Myths about Happiness: some bullet points from Prevention Magazine with a little artistic license on my part.

1. Money Can’t Buy You Happiness

That is a lie we tell ourselves when we don’t have enough money. Not having enough money is stressful. And just having enough money for our basic bills is stressful. The price of happiness ranges somewhat above covering our basic needs.

2. Happy People Live Longer

Good news for all you negative Nellie’s out there: there is absolutely no risk of an earlier death by being a sour puss. That said, those of us with a more positive outlook are better able to handle chronic illnesses than those without the smiles.

3. The Pursuit of Happiness Brings Joy

Nope. Placing too much of an emphasis on always seeking happiness tends to backfire and make said seekers blue.

4. More Choices Make us Happier

Choice overload can exhaust us, make us unhappy and cause us to choose not to decide! Studies have been done, and the experts agree that most people can handle 3-5 options, but more than that makes us very unhappy indeed.

5. Social Media Users with the Highest Number of “Friends” are Happier

Comparing how wonderful everyone else’s life appears on social media with your seemingly less than perfect existence can really bum you out. A study conducted in Denmark analyzed 2 groups of frequent Facebook users. The first group took a 1 week hiatus while the other was free to keep checking posts per their usual habit. At the end of the week, the abstainers reported less stress, anxiety, and more happiness than the constant users.

Please remember that I get cancellations (especially around the holidays) on a pretty much weekly basis, so please feel free to contact me at (518) 744-2315 if you’d like me to see if a massage cancellation matches up with your schedule!

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Is Stress Contagious? Building a Resistance to Empathic Stress

empathic stress

I’ve been hearing that the flu has reared its head this season- mostly down south so far, but its headed our way. We all know that the flu is contagious, but did you know that stress is contagious?

According to a 2014 German study, in a series of experiments most participants who simply observed others completing a stressful task experienced an increase themselves in production of the stress hormone cortisola phenomenon known as empathic stress. You can also experience stress when someone you know is affected by a traumatic event, like a car crash or a devastating illness. We tend not to worry about these things until they hit close to home, but then we feel that empathic stress, and our bodies treat that stress as if it were our own. So what do we do about it? Empathy is generally a good thing, right?

Another online article from Harvard Business Review uses phrases like “build a natural immunity” and “inoculate yourself” when describing how to avoid this type of empathy. In regard to building an immunity against others trials and tribulations their article states:

“One of the greatest buffers against picking up others’ stress is stable and strong self-esteem. The higher your self-esteem, the more likely you will feel that you can deal with whatever situation you face. If you are finding yourself being impacted by others’ moods, stop and remind yourself how things are going well and that you can handle anything that comes your way.”

And in regard to inoculating yourself:

Inoculate yourself before going into work or stressful environments. For example, before we start our morning, the very first thing we do is think of three things we are grateful for that day. There are five positive psychology habits that help inoculate our brains against the negative mindsets of others: 1) writing a 2-minute email praising someone you know; 2) writing down three things for which you’re grateful; 3) journaling about a positive experience for two minutes; 4) doing cardio exercise for 30 minutes; or 5) meditating for just two minutes.”

Also, spend more time with people who are truly positive and joyful. Not that everything and everyone has to be (rah rah) “everything is awesome!” all the time, but being around uplifting people will recharge your negativity-fighting batteries. When I’m having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day—usually exacerbated by dealing with people—listening to my husband laughing at a stupid tv show always picks me up, or then there’s always the cat videos on youtube.

Finally, work on transforming your empathy into compassion. They might seem like the same things, but there are important differences. Neuroscientist Dr. Tania Singer and her colleagues found that different parts of the brain are triggered when we share someone’s pain (empathy) or when we want to respond warmly towards their suffering (compassion):

“It is crucial to distinguish between empathy, which is in itself not necessarily a good thing, and compassion. When I empathize went the suffering of others, I feel the pain of others; I am suffering myself. This can become so intense that it produces empathic stress in me and in the long run could lead to burnout and withdrawal. In contrast, if we feel compassion for someone else’s suffering we do not necessarily feel with their pain but we feel concern- a feeling of love and warmth- and we can develop a strong motivation to help the other.”

Don’t forget that the number one way to deal with stress, either secondhand or otherwise, is to take care of yourself first! Contact me if you want to try a massage to relieve stress, or give some of my other quick tips to reduce stress a try.

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How to Deal with Holiday Stress

dealing with holiday stress

As we are hurtling head long into the holiday season (notoriously otherwise known as “the most wonderful time of the year”). I’d like to point out (as your local expert in stress management) that there is a HUGE amount of stress related to the holidays. Numerous studies have found that for many people the holidays are the most overwhelming part of the year, and women tend to be more affected than men. But did you know that there are no requirements when it comes to celebrating? Here are some proven ways to enjoy the season without freaking out over holiday stress.

  • Remake the proverbial list, and DON’T check it twice. Keep it to your top priorities. Do you really have to host more than one evening of merry making, or go to everything you’re invited to? (Nope) Delegate- Can your husband shop for others besides you? (Yup)
  • Be real about family fun. Expecting relatives to behave like one big happy family may be asking too much. And all bets are off if there are more than 3 kids under the age of 10 in the mix. So be proactive. Organize easy activities to distract, such as board games, or a movie. And if YOU are the one visiting, have an escape plan: tell them you’re stopping by but can’t stay all day.
  • Exercise! Its such an easy time of year to tell yourself you don’t have time, but what a huge mistake to give it up when you need it the most! Think about making a commitment to a 15 minute high intensity interval work out instead of an hour at the gym.
  • Know that the thought really does count. Us women tend to get bogged down in our own perfectionism. We shop endlessly and get stressed when we don’t find that perfect something. But the truth is, people just want to know we thought of them.
  • Focus on what the holidays mean to you. Is it time spent with family? Is it religious observance? Now own it. Every day reflect on that personal significance of the holidays for a few minutes.

If you need some extra help dealing with holiday stress, don’t forget that nearly every symptom from stress can benefit from massage! Call (518) 744-2315 to schedule an appointment in my Glens Falls office.

How to Turn Around a Bad Day

bad day

Life certainly likes to throw us curveballs, doesn’t it? Just when you thought you’d sit down and read your book on a Sunday afternoon, the septic backs up (Oh, just something that might’ve happened to me last weekend). But does it have to make the rest of our day crap? (pun fully intended). NO it does not! Here are some tips to turn around a bad day:

1. Take a breath

Stop. Take a really slow breath. Don’t skip this one…trust me, just do it.

2. Take stock of what you’ve got

There are positives in any situation. Look for them. Gratitude is such a powerful practice. It’s easy to forget how lucky we are and feel like ‘everything has fallen apart’. It hasn’t. It’s just that this one bad day is not going the way you’d like it to right now. (Just think how CLEAN your bathroom floors will be after you’re done!)

3. Be realistic

Put things into perspective. Whats the worst case scenario? Is this bad day as awful as you think, or are your emotions getting away from you and making it all feel much worse than it is? Once you clean up the mess and call the septic guy you find out this “disaster” is only costing you 2.5 hours of your life + an extra $75 fee for them coming out on a Sunday (in addition to the regular charge) to take care of something that evidently needed doing anyway.

4. Forget blame

Don’t start looking for a bad guy. Blame and hate does nothing to improve a situation. Don’t blame yourself, and don’t blame anyone else. Okay. Sorry folks. Can’t think of a way to tie this into my septic situation…

5. Look for the lessons

Everything that life throws at us (even if it is literally crap) is there to teach us something (Don’t go 4 yrs w/o having your septic tank emptied, when trying to clear your own main line start at the end, not at the beginning-just to name of a few of the most recent lessons I’ve learned). But even in seemingly awful things, (every heart break, every disaster), there is a lesson to be learned, some way in which we are meant to expand our awareness and understanding of ourselves and our values. It’s not meant to be easy, but if you can try to look for the lessons and allow your challenges to help you develop as a person and improve your situation, then maybe it will all be worth it when you come out the other side.

Its not necessarily all about making lemonade out of life’s lemons, or wearing rose colored glasses as life tosses you some crap, its realizing that the lemons and crap are just the things that make up life. And learning how to deal with crap and learn from lemons is what allows us to appreciate the other good simple things that make up most of the rest of our lives.

Oh yeah! And we learn how to deal with stress that way! Have to tie it all in to massage somehow, don’t I? Don’t forget that even if I’m full up, I can contact you in the event of a cancellation, or you can book ahead! Contact me if you’re interested.

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Leg Pain and Swelling? Blame Gravity!

feet up for leg pain

Blame Gravity. Sitting or standing in one place for a while an make things difficult for your second heart. Wait! What?! Second heart? Yup! Not the ticker in your chest, but ticker number 2, in your calves. In massage school we learned that the lower leg muscles in your calves are referred to as your second heart because they pump blood back up to your real heart in your chest. When these muscles can’t do their job that well, fluid can build up in your ankles. But gravity can ALSO be the solution. To help combat leg pain and swelling, put your feet up!

There are a few other things that can cause leg pain and swelling in your ankles, such as too much salt in your diet, or a day at the beach. Heat makes things swell – imagine taking off your rings when your hands are hot vs when they’re cold! Also, let’s face it, age plays a roll in this as well. We see times effects on our faces and the outside of our bodies, but age happens on the inside as well. Bummer, right? Ah well, sure beats the alternative!

Massage can also be a great way to beat leg pain. A targeted pain relief massage can help heal sore muscles and increase circulation – which helps with any pain or swelling that can be caused by pesky things like gravity! Give me a call if you want to schedule an appointment.

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The Weight of Secrets

keeping a secret

Want to hear a cool study that shows just how strong the mind/body connection is? According to an online article in Scientific American, we refer to keeping secrets as if they are material things. (and material things have actual weight, right?) Well, a new study suggests that when we know a secret, we perceive ourselves as being physically burdened.

Researchers recruited participants to write a description of either a serious secret, like a story of infidelity or sexual orientation, or a more trivial secret. Then they looked at a hill straight on and were asked to rate the hill’s steepness. Those subjects who wrote about an important secret perceived the hills as steeper than those who wrote about trivial secrets. The research is in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.

Earlier studies have shown that people who are actually physically weighted down also perceive hills as steeper than those who are not!!!

In a separate investigation, researchers found that subjects who recalled a significant secret also judged a target to be further off in the distance than those who remembered a less meaningful secret.

Now I have to look for a study that tells us what the result of sharing secrets! Does it make us feel as if the physical burden has been lifted? Stay tuned…lets see what I dig up!

Don’t forget that massage can be great for your mental and physical self! Give me a call to see how massage can benefit you, or contact me online.

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