Mind Over Matter

mind over matter massage

Once, we believed that the body was a machine, and the secret to optimal performance came from the muscles, the lungs, the heart. Then, we were told that it’s all in our head, and we just need to use the old adage of “mind over matter” to push through the pain. The truth is that “the brain and the body are fundamentally intertwined,” writes Alex Hutchinson, a fitness journalist (with a doctorate in physics) who competed for the Canadian national team as a runner. To understand the limits of the human body, you have to consider the mind and the body together.

Hutchinson is the author of Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, out this month from HarperCollins. In the eight years he worked on the book, he traveled to labs all over the world and spoke to hundreds of athletes and scientists about how the mind and body influence each other and the role that each plays in the “mystery of endurance.”

This concept is intrinsic to my practice of massage therapy. Believe it or not, after 15 years in the business, it almost seems to me that the brain’s interpretation of the body signals may, in fact, be more important than the body signals themselves.

I once took a continuing education class where the teacher (a research biologist from Dartmouth) described the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic pain. Intrinsic pain is the kind you can’t ignore because it means you need to see a doctor (if you don’t know why you’re having the pain– think heart attack- in general your body won’t let you ignore or reduce this type of pain with your mind because it’s too important). The other type of pain is kind of a choice as to how much we feel it. We can use mind over matter to distract ourselves from it, or we can choose to amplify it with our minds.

Cool, huh? The article I’m borrowing from is super interesting, but related to sports, so check out the whole thing.

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In a Slump? Here’s 3 Ways to Restart!

refresh restart

We all talk about wanting to refresh, restart, reset. Here’s 3 different ways from an article I read in Real Simple magazine:

1. When You Haven’t Exercised in Forever

Coming back to a workout routine after you’ve been away for awhile is always the hardest part. People often focus on what they can’t do. (guilty!) Take one day at a time. Think about your lifestyle and what you’re afraid of. Most people think they’re in worse shape than they actually are. Restart by taking your big goal and breaking it down into smaller manageable steps.

2. When You Crave a New Career

Our impassive culture promotes living your truth as quickly as possible. But before you jump into a new career, take a practice jump. For instance, if you’re an accountant who has always wanted to start a bakery, you can do a lot before you quit your day job: take a pastry class in the evening, help out a local baker on the weekend. You’ll get a sense of the highs and lows and learn the nitty gritty. If they new lifestyle feels good, then you’ll know you’re ready to take the next step.

3. When You’re Just Having a Bad Day

Take two minutes to write a very brief, positive email to someone you know: a thank you, a compliment. It works, for one, because your mind simply can’t be in two places at once. You can’t be unhappy and stressed if you’r thinking about how grateful you are. Then, when you have to go back to your bad day, your brain has one more positive piece of information about your life, and you won’t feel the same slump.

Don’t forget that positive energy has a huge benefit on your mental and well being. When you’re feeling down, don’t get down on yourself! Check out some of these other posts for more ways to tackle a bad day.

If you still have the blahs and need a pick-me-up, why not treat yourself to a massage? 🙂

Healthy or Hyped? The Truth About Fad Foods

fad food

When health benefits are touted for a specific food, check who’s making the claims. The food industry finances a lot of research, some of it biased.

Here’s some information from an article from Prevention magazine:

Let’s take our friendly avocado. Avocado is having a moment. Once avoided by health conscious eaters because of its high fat content, the creamy super fruit is now being whipped into smoothies, spread on toast, an churned into ice cream. Fueling the trend are studies that highlight avocados’ high levels of beneficial fats and potassium, as well as links to improvements in heart health, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and even-despite the high calorie count- weight loss. The source of funding for much of this research? The Hass Avocado Board, a California based collective of importers and growers who’s mission it is to promote the fruit.

For decades food industry organizations have supplied substantial amounts of cash to fund research. For instance, juice maker Pom Wonderful has reportedly spent $35 million on pomegranate research, sparking countless news articles and advertisements hailing the fruit’s high antioxidant content and other health benefits. (in 2010, the Federal Trade Commission issued a formal complaint against the company, saying many of its health claims were overblown.) Last year, Ocean Spray said it would commit $10 million to exploring cranberries’ antimicrobial properties.

The food industry’s deep pockets can be helpful for getting research conducted that otherwise wouldn’t be done– as long as the scientists carrying out the studies operate responsibly. If the researcher themselves can stay unbiased, there’s always a benefit to having more information.

But beware of bias. Upon a review of 168 industry funded nutrition studies, it was discovered that 156 of them drew conclusions favorable to their sponsors. There may be a rare case where a company is motivated by improving the public’s health, but overall, the purpose of this research is marketing.

Consumers can do their part in weeding out the good science from the potentially bad. If a nutrition study comes out with an incredible and implausible result, the first question should be “who paid for it?” If the answer is a company with a vested interest in the outcome of the study, be skeptical.

There’s a lot of small things you can change in your life to be healthier, both in mind and body. Check out some of these other posts for a good health boost:

5 Quick & Easy Ways to Improve Your Mood

improve mood

The easiest, quickest pick-me-ups for those of us with only a minute to spare!

1. Step into a cold blast.

Hehheh. Crank the shower to cold for a few seconds if you dare, or at the very least splash your face with cold water. Even just a brief exposure to the cold is invigorating many experts say.

2. Opt for orange.

The bright color is stimulating. Why? We associate orange with energy, and our body (and mood) responds in kind. Throw on a vibrant orange sweater, pour a glass of orange juice, or use an orange accent rug.

3. Open your heart.

Yoga. I’m talking yoga. There are many “heart opening” postures in a yoga practice, and they’re designed in part, to bring up our energy.

4. Turn on the tunes.

Research shows that music you like will deliver a dose of positivity. Genre doesn’t matter as long as the music jazzes you up.

5. Get a whiff of citrus.

Try an essential oil pick me up! Citrus (Orange!) or even rosemary are naturally uplifting.

Still have a case of the blahs? Try some of my other easy pick-me-ups! Or give me a call at (518) 744-2315 to discuss other ways I can help you improve your mood, sleep better and more!

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


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


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


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.


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


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!

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