Massage for Stress Relief

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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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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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.

Mindfulness, Your Body, and Massage!

mindfulness

Prevention Magazine (my favorite source of interesting tidbits to share!) recently had an article about mindfulness. Mindfulness is something we have all heard of before, but what is it really? Its very simple: mindfulness is a form of meditation which only requires you to pay attention.

“Mindfulness means being intentionally present in whatever you’re doing with an engaged curiosity of some kind” says Elisha Goldstein, a psychotherapist and author.

Mindfulness is a challenge for most of us as we rush through our days on autopilot, going from one errand, obligation or social event to another. Harvard researchers have found that we spend up to 50% of our lives distracted by past or future concerns rather than in full awareness of our surroundings at any given moment. This frenetic activity taxes our brains and bodies.

I always feel that getting a massage is a great way to practice mindfulness. Use the time to just let go and take a walk in your body. Check in with it, see how its doing. Ask it a question or two if there’s something physical you’ve been struggling with, and then just relax and listen to what it tells you. Personally, I can’t think of a more useful and pleasant way to get some great information that might help you take care of yourself!

Don’t forget that even if I’m fully booked, you can always let me know you’re interested and I can contact you in the case of a cancellation, or can refer you to others practicing in my Glens Falls office that may have availability! Give me a call at 518-744-2315 if you’re interested.

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Stressed? Try Planning a Vacation!

planning a vacation

If you’re feeling worn down, it may be time to consider planning a vacation day. Having a little something to look forward to, maybe a girls’ weekend or a day off to yourself, can increase your happiness right now.

Set a goal. Even if its just to get one last trip in to the beach before fall officially sets in, planning a vacation can bring you peace in all the weeks and days leading up to that trip. Keep your sights set on that goal, and before you now it, you too will be sharing sunset photos with all your stuck a work friends.

But Don’t plan it while you’re at work! A recent study showed that people who booked vacations at work spent more money and expressed more dissatisfaction with their choice than those who planned at home!

Taking care of yourself is important for your mental and physical well being. Stress and worry can have a number of negative affects on your health. And don’t forget, a nice relaxing massage is a great boost for that little vacation you’re planning! Contact me to setup an appointment in my Glens Falls, NY office!

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Laughter: The Best Medicine for Pain and Stress

laughter

We’ve all experienced it…a moment shared where we laugh so hard our stomach muscles ache. And we’ve all missed it if its been a long time since we’ve had a good gut busting session. The ability to see humor indicates an optimistic outlook, which is so much more…well….fun….than a pessimistic outlook. But is “fun” it? Or is there some science behind humor?

In a 1996 paper “Humor in Medicine,” RC Wender asserts that “Humor helps individuals narrow interpersonal and cultural gaps, communicate difficult messages, express frustration and anger, and cope with anxiety.” But did you know that humor eases pain and relieves stress? Oxford researchers conducted a series of experiments to better understand the effect of laughter on people’s ability to withstand pain. They discovered that authentic, heartfelt laughter causes endorphins to be released, and endorphins, of course are the chemicals that cause us to feel less pain and fewer negative effects of stress.

We’ve talked before about all the ways that stress can be harmful to you. So find a way to find the humor in stressful situations, you just might find they’re a little less painful.

Don’t forget that I also offer massage services to help with stress, chronic pain and more! Give me a call at (518) 744-2315 to schedule an appointment.

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5 Myths About Stress

stress myths

Myth #1: Alcohol soothes stress.

Nope! Not the emotional kind anyway. Alcohol is a muscle relaxant which is why we think it helps, but actually alcohol stimulates production of cortisol…uh-oh, you see where I’m going with this already don’t you?

Myth #2: Stress is a great motivator.

Well, it can be, but it varies from person to person. Look at it like your favorite condiment. Lets just pick salt: too little salt is bland, but too much salt overpowers the actual taste of whatever, but just the right amount of salt is great! Stress, too, has an optimal level above which productivity, attention, creativity, and of course, happiness are all depleted.

Myth #3: Stress causes to ulcers.

Not really, but it can help lead to them indirectly. Stress can create inflammation, which, in turn, can increase usage of NSAIDS, which can definitely increase likelihood of ulcers.

Myth #4: Most people exposed to severe stress develop PTSD.

Only 10-15% of folks exposed to a traumatic event develop it, and that percentage is related to past history of mental illness or substance abuse, lack of support after traumatic event and additional stress in the wake of the trauma.

Myth #5: Stress is an inevitable outgrowth of modern life.

Okay okay okay…. really? Inevitable? NO! Very very few things in this world are inevitable. (I seem to remember something about “death and taxes…”) Stressful events are unavoidable, but our reactions determine just how much we feel the stress. Accept your circumstances and reframe your emotional response to them. Do not get your knickers in a twist over every little thing you have no control over!

Stress can wreak all sorts of havoc on our bodies, from physical pains like stiff neck and back pain to more emotional troubles like depression and lack of sleep. If you’re dealing with an unhealthy amount of stress, considering coming in for a stress relief massage. Contact me online to book an appointment in my Glens Falls office!

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Is Social Media Stressing You Out?

social media stress

I think we’ve all seen the posts on Facebook saying “ Gotta take a break from this for a while, if you need to get in touch with me, use something other than social media” posts from various friends of ours. And, even though I might post a blog every week, at times I have to rein in my social media consumption because it “stresses me out”. So I did a little research and found that the experts say that use of social media stresses some people out for sure, but others not as much.

Can it really be that social media use is not directly associated with stress, but for some, social media use can still lead to higher levels of stress?

The answer: The relationship between stress and social media use is indirect. It is the social uses of digital technologies, and the way they increase awareness of distressing events in others’ lives, or our desire for immediate gratification in the email/text message world, that explains how the use of social media can result in users feeling more stress.

But Facebook, email and text messaging all allow us to share information with friends and family in the form of photos, short messages, the contact info of the plumber you just used. As a result of this communication, we are aware and reminded of more activities in the lives of friends and family. Less stress for sure!

Stress is something that plagues many of our lives. Did you know that relaxation and stress relief is just one of the many benefits of massage? Give me a call at 744-2315 to book an appointment!

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