What Nourishes You?

Photo by Micah Hallahan on Unsplash

We humans are great at getting things done, accomplishing goals, and checking items off the to-do list. We hustle, work hard, and we’re always busy. 

We put off the things we enjoy saying we’ll do them later “when things calm down.”

But life doesn’t work that way. Life is always happening. Things always need doing. And you can easily find yourself five or ten years down the road burnt out, wanting to escape your life, and wondering when the last time was that you did anything fun. 

I’m assisting with a mindfulness course this semester, and in this week’s class, we did an exercise I think you might find eye-opening:

  1. Grab a piece of paper and a pen. You could do this as a thought exercise, but you’ll find it more powerful to see on paper. 
  2. Write down all the activities you do in a typical day.
  3. Look at each item and ask yourself: “Does this nourish, energize, or center me?” If so, put a ‘+’ next to it. Then ask “Does this make me feel worn out, tense, or depleted?” and put a ‘-’ next to the ones that make you feel that way. Some items will be neutral, and you can give them a ‘0’. Some will depend on the day, so you can write ‘it depends’ next to those.
  4. Take in the whole list. Does it seem balanced between nourishing and depleting activities? Do you do at least one thing a day that nourishes you? Is there a way you can make the “it depends” activities more consistently nourishing? 

This exercise is not meant as an opportunity to beat yourself up. Life can be so demanding and fast paced that sometimes we need to take a step back and look at what we’re doing and ask if this is the life we truly want. 

So, when’s the last time you did something just for the pure joy of doing it? What are those things that nourish you?


Why Your Massage Therapist Asks All Those Health Questions


Before your first massage, I’m going to ask you about your medical history. 

I’ve got an online intake form that will ask about what medications and medical conditions you have, and a whole host of questions about your health history.

So why is this? Am I being nosy? Why do I need to know such detailed, personal information about you that you may only otherwise share with your doctor? 

While it may seem like a hassle or invasion of your privacy to fill out an intake form, there’s a great reason I want to know so much about your health: knowing your health history not only protects you from potential injury during your massage, but it also means I can better personalize your massage to your needs. This ensures that when you leave the massage table, you feel better than ever.

What is a contraindication, and what does it have to do with my massage?

Every so often, it turns out that for some people in specific health situations, massage could actually be harmful. This is referred to as a contraindication, and there are two different classifications of contraindications:

Relative Contraindication: Relative contraindication means that caution should be used when performing a certain procedure. In the world of massage therapy, this means that a massage therapy session can happen, but that the therapist will need to adjust the techniques and particulars of the session (like positioning, pressure, or massage products used) to stay safe and effective. 

Absolute Contraindication: Absolute contraindication is the term used when massage could cause harm, and should not be applied at all. This is pretty rare, but it happens.

While typically relaxing and healing, there are times when a massage can be painful or even dangerous, for various health-related reasons. In most cases, this means we can proceed with the massage, but I’ll ask some follow up questions to keep it safe and effective. 

Examples of massage contraindications include:

  • Varicose veins
  • Undiagnosed lumps or bumps
  • Pregnancy
  • Bruising, cuts, abrasions, and even sunburns
  • Psoriasis
  • Eczema
  • High blood pressure
  • Cancer
  • Osteoporosis
  • Heart problems
  • Epilepsy

Don’t worry: Not all of the above listed medical conditions mean you have to give up your regular session with your massage therapist.

In fact, for some of these conditions, massage can have major soothing effects. However, it does mean that your therapist will need to give you specific care. This is one of the main reasons it’s vital your massage therapist knows your medical history.

Also, colds, the flu, skin infections, or the presence of a fever are all reasons to wait to get a massage until you are feeling better (read more here: Should I cancel my massage if I’m sick?).

Why does my massage therapist need to know what medications I am taking?

There are some medications that have an effect on your body’s ability to heal and process correctly, and I need to be aware of what you’re taking so I can make adjustments.

For example, a firm deep tissue massage could be very dangerous if you are taking blood thinners, or if you’ve been on corticosteroids for a long time, as you may have low bone density or thin skin as a result. 

Again, in almost all cases, we can make adjustments to keep your massage safe and effective, the key is to keep me fully informed.

In a nutshell, even if you think a detail may be irrelevant, it’s smart to complete my intake form entirely and honestly. That helps me create the best and safest massage, just for you. And don’t worry: all information is kept confidential and stored securely.

How to Start Listening to Your Body

Woman meditating next to water
Image by Shahariar Lenin from Pixabay

We all have a sense called interoception. It’s the perception of the internal state of the body. 

Our bodies send information to the brain and our brains process that information and sense what’s going on in the body. It’s how we can tell our bladder is full or we’re hungry. 

When you feel your heartbeat speed up or you feel butterflies in your stomach, you know your’re nervous. Your body is always talking to you. These body-produced sensations are its way of getting your attention.

And we can then manage how we feel by taking action on these body signals. We feel hungry, so we eat. Easy, right?

Many times, the problem can be that we spend so much time in our heads thinking about everything we need to get done today and reliving all the tiny mistakes we’ve made in the past that we forget we even have a body. 

So we don’t recognize these messages or we just downright ignore them. And when we don’t respond to these messages, it leads to pain, stress, and frustration.

Awareness is the first step. You can practice a simple Body Scan to flex that muscle of noticing the signals your body is sending:

  • Find a quite place to sit or lie down.
  • Close your eyes, and starting at your feet, bring your awareness to each area of your body.
  • For each area, without judgement, notice what you feel: cold or warm, tightness or ease. Notice whatever is present in that area of the body. No need to change anything. Just notice.
  • When you’re ready, move your attention to the next area. And repeat until you’ve scanned your whole body.

Listening to your body is a skill you can develop over time. To start building that muscle, you might commit to this practice every day for a week. Then at the end of the week, evaluate. 

Have you noticed any changes? Are you more aware of how you’re feeling moment-to-moment?





Are you holding your breath?

Photo by Amy Treasure on Unsplash

Have you ever found yourself holding your breath when you are feeling overwhelmed or frustrated?

When we are stressed, our breathing becomes short and shallow, and we may hold our breath. This reinforces our “fight or flight” stress response. When we come back to our breath and take slow, steady breaths, we trigger our body’s parasympathetic nervous system, and we “rest and digest.” It signals our bodies that it’s okay to calm down and relax.

Let’s face it, when you’re in the moment, completely overwhelmed and stressed, it’s hard to think about anything else. But practicing a simple breathing technique can act as a reset.

Next time you catch yourself holding your breath or feeling overwhelmed, try simply bringing your awareness to the sensations your breath creates as it moves in and out of your body.

You can also try the following practice:

  • Inhale slowly for the count of 4
  • Exhale slowly for the count of 8
  • Notice the space in between the inhalation and exhalation
  • Repeat until you begin to calm down

Breathing happens so naturally it’s something we don’t even think about. How about you? Do you ever catch yourself holding your breath?

No-Energy-Required Self-Care

Image by Milada Vigerova from Pixabay

My massage clients tell me over and over again that they would take better care of themselves, but they don’t have the time or the energy.

Last week, we talked about how to find time to do that thing you really want to do. So, you’ve found 10 minutes, but you’re exhausted.

Might as well just scroll through Facebook? But you know that’s not going to help.

My favorite self care for when you have no energy, but you want to do something that will actually nourish you is to just lie on the ground*. In yoga, we call this Savasana

Allow your legs to fall open to the side**.

Arms at the side. Palms facing up.

Tuck the chin slightly to lengthen the back of the neck.

Close your eyes.

Allow your body to be heavy. Completely supported by the Earth beneath you.

Do nothing. Just be. For as long as you are able.

When you are ready to come out of the pose, moving slowly:  

Reach your arms over head for a full body stretch.

Hug your knees into chest. 

Roll to the right side. 

Push up to a comfortable seat with the eyes still closed. 

Take a deep breath in.

Sigh it out. Ahhh.

*If you have difficulty getting up and down off the ground, no worries. You can practice in a chair that supports your back, neck, and head.

**If you have low back pain, try bending the knees and placing the feet flat on the floor. Walk the feet out a bit wider than your hips. Allow the knees to fall toward each other. If you experience pain in the pose, slowly come out of the pose and consult with your yoga teacher or medical professional.

The Secret to Finding Time

Image by annca from Pixabay

There’s something you really wanna do.

Spend more quality time with your family.

Meditate everyday.

Write your first book.

But you just don’t have time.

You would do all these amazing things to improve your life, but you’re just too busy doing other things.

I’m gonna share with you the secret to finding time to do that thing you really wanna do.

When you read it, it might seem like you already know it. You may have already heard it (maybe many times), but you don’t actually know it. You’re not living it. Not actually practicing it. Not embodying it consistently. And can you actually know something if you’ve never experienced it?

So here it is.

Prioritizing the things that are important to you is the only way to find time for them.

Ask yourself: what’s really important to me?

I know you’re busy and it’s hard to actually set aside a moment to think about these things. But if you don’t think about what you actually want, you’re at risk of letting your life pass you by doing things that don’t matter.

May I offer a suggestion? The next time you find yourself saying “I would do this thing, but I’m just too busy,” try trading it for “that’s not a priority for me right now.” See how that feels.

Does it ring true? Then maybe you don’t really want to do that thing.

Does it feel uncomfortable to say that this thing isn’t a priority? Then maybe it’s time to set aside some non-negotiable time to do that thing.

I say “non-negotiable” because it’s not enough to set aside the time if you constantly put it off whenever something else comes up. Things out of your control are always going to come up. And when they do, you get to ask yourself “is this a priority for me right now?”

Maybe it’s not that you can’t find the time, it’s that you won’t find the time.

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Always Busy?

Busy city street
Photo by mauro mora on Unsplash

You’re constantly stressed.

Crunched for time. 

Your to-do list is never-ending. 

Always thinking ‘when my kids are older, when this big project at work is over, or when they hire more help at the office, then I can actually take care of myself.’

You know there’s got to be more to life than feeling exhausted and overwhelmed all the time. You probably even have ideas on how to deal with your burnout. But you never have time or energy to follow through on your good intentions.

Our culture values Busy. We multi-task like our life’s at stake, all in the name of getting everything done. Like, if we do enough things, we’ll prove we’re good enough. Then we’ll deserve to take a break, spend quality time with our loved ones, or follow our dreams. 

Your life is at stake.

As Annie Dillard has said: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

Most folks unconsciously default to Being Busy.

Day after day.

Year after year.

Living on autopilot.

Racing around trying to get all the things done. And what do you get for all that effort? Exhaustion. Burnout. You work hard all day only to come home and collapse on your couch and mindlessly stare at your phone or your TV, only to get up and do it all again tomorrow!

Is that how you want to spend your time, your life?

What if you consciously chose how to spend your time?

What if instead of getting stuck in the drudgery, you chose something different?

Busy is not a badge of honor. Your being “good enough” is not dependent on you doing all-the-things for all-the-people.

It’s okay to not be Busy.

I realize some folks don’t have many choices in life. But many others are living their life like they’re trapped by their circumstances when they actually do have a choice. If you’re reading this, you’re likely lucky enough to be in the position to make choices.

So now you have a choice to make: You can choose to continue being buried under Busy or you can choose Ease.

It’s a choice you get to make each and every day.

It’s a simple shift, but not easy.

I know it sounds crazy to actually take time for yourself when it feels like you don’t have a moment to spare. But when you step up and take the time, this weird time warp thing happens where you actually get more done and it feels like you have more time.

I know. I used to be Queen of Busy. But when I started to show up for myself and made taking care of me non-negotiable (not something I’d do “if I had time”), things started to shift. I’ll share some of my favorite tools and tips in the coming weeks.

But for now, start to take note of how you’re spending your time.

Are you on autopilot? Or are you living your life with intention?

Keep Reading: The Secret to Finding Time

Can Massage Fix My Pain?

broken plateMany folks (including some massage therapists) view massage as a way to fix what ails you.

Fixing is something you do to something that is broken. A mechanic fixes your car. A plumber fixes your leaky pipe.

I understand what you mean when you say your back hurts and you want me to get rid of those “knots”, to fix it. But you’re not broken, and thinking that way robs you of your power. The words we use matter.

I’m not here to fix you. You won’t hear me calling myself a healer. My hands (and feet) aren’t magic. It would be nice if I could just push on the right areas and work out those “knots” and you’d be healed! The body is too complex for that, I’m afraid.

You come in and you’re in pain and you want it to stop. I get it. Pain sucks. But I can’t force your body to do anything.

I’m here to support you, to hear you, to see you.

To empower you.

You might think “if you’re not fixing my pain, why the heck am I getting a massage?”

Don’t get me wrong, massage can help you feel better, but I think we can ask a better question.

So often, we focus on how we don’t want to feel. What if we thought about it from a different angle?

What if you started thinking about how you want to feel?

Not less stressed or in less pain. Not running away from something.

But more of something? Moving toward what you want.

I view massage as a conversation between my hands and feet and your nervous system. I’m manipulating your soft tissues as a way to communicate to your nervous system that it’s okay to relax, that you can feel differently. We’re co-creating a new way of feeling, you and I.

We’re creating ease and freedom in your body.

The words we use matter.  

What if you challenged your story of your pain? What if that shoulder wasn’t your “bad” shoulder? 

You’re in a lot of pain and you think you need someone (your massage therapist, your doctor, your chiropractor) to “fix” you. When you come to me to “fix” something, that’s perpetuating a cycle that ultimately keeps you stuck in your stress or pain.

But what if, instead of running away from your pain, instead of trying to “fix” what isn’t broken, we worked on moving toward something desirable, like creating more freedom in your body?

Ready to get started? Book an Integrative Massage Session now.




Unplug to Recharge

Photo by Roy Claflin.

Do you remember a time when the internet wasn’t a thing and no one had a cell phone? I have to think back a ways, but when I was growing up it wasn’t common to have access to the internet at home.

And when we did get internet at home, it was the dial-up kind where you had to actually wait for it to connect. 

I remember resisting the smart-phone craze for quite some time.

But now, it seems we’re practically all connected  24/7.

And that’s amazing. I’ve met wonderful people that I’d have never met otherwise. We have access to so much knowledge at our fingertips. You can learn about pretty much anything from a Google search. 

But it can also be quite distracting. I’ll hop on my phone to check my email, then it’s an hour later and I’ve been mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. What happened to my weekend? 

And it can be kind of stressful, feeling like you always have to be connected. Like if you aren’t, you’re missing out on something. 

This past week, I went on a road trip with my partner. He wanted to go somewhere where it was almost zero-dark so he could explore the night sky with his telescope (and wow, that was amazing. I had no idea there were so many stars we couldn’t see due to light pollution!).

We ended up in the middle of a desert park in Utah several miles from civilization.

When we got out of our car, we were both struck by the complete silence. It was wild. Even living in a small town like Champaign, there is so much noise in the background. 

Being in the middle of nowhere also meant unplugging from everything for 2 days. 

No phone ringing. No email alerts. No texts. No distractions from actually living and enjoying life. 

It was so energizing to be away from everything. All the conveniences of modern life can be amazing and helpful, but it can also be easy to spend your time distracted. 

Do you think you could disconnect from your smartphone for an afternoon, a day, a week? How much more time might you have to do the things that really matter to you?

Is anything really stressful?

Many in our society feel we’re under constant stress. We often complain about our stressful job, boss, or family obligations. It seems life is just plain stressful.

And all this stress leads to health problems, some seemingly minor (like your sore neck), some life threatening (like heart attacks and stroke).

Stress is a serious problem. Life is stressful, so what can you do about it?

But is life stressful?

I’ve been wondering lately if anything is actually inherently stressful.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, stress is a “state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.”

So it seems our life situations are not stressful, but demanding. And it’s our reaction to all those demands that causes stress. I think this is an important distinction. If your job is stressful, there’s probably not a whole lot you can change to make it less stressful. You have no choice in the matter! You wind up irritable, wishing for the weekend, and you always have a headache. Under this stress, day after day, year after year, you may develop a serious health condition.

On the other hand, if your job is demanding, you can choose how you respond to those demands. You have power in this situation.

If you asked me a year ago why I got into Massage Therapy as a career, I would have said I had a very stressful job, and I actually injured my wrists typing away frantically, trying to get all of my work done. I felt trapped, like I was being buried by an endless mountain of things to do. When I was at home, I would often be distracted thinking about all the work I didn’t get done the day before. I thought I could escape my stress by getting a less stressful job.

But the thing is, life is demanding, and you can’t just escape it. The truth is I had a serious lack of healthy boundaries and wasn’t equipped to handle my very demanding job. And those same types of things that caused me stress in my old job continued causing stress in my life until I actually took a look at how I was reacting to things.

Stress is very real and can affect the quality of your life. How might things change if you re-framed your stressful situation as a demanding situation and got curious about how to manage the demands?

It’s a simple shift, but I know it’s not easy. The good news is you don’t have to go it alone. I love supporting people who KNOW they need to take better care of themselves to actually do it, because I’ve been there. I know that frustration. But mostly, I truly believe the world needs you to be your best. We need you to show up and be the most amazing version of you — not just another exhausted person dragging yourself through life.

If you’d like to explore what support might look like for you, complete the form below and I’ll be in touch.