6 Ways to Treat Yourself (That don’t involve money or food)

It’s not hard to think up great ways to treat yourself. We’d all love a spa day topped off with a meal prepared and served by someone else. Maybe get a sitter for the night, so the little angels are asleep when we get home. Or just a morning where the cat doesn’t wake you up by sitting on your windpipe.

But for every article about self care, I roll my eyes at least 12 times and think “Who can afford that?” Yes, it would be great to have an afternoon to myself and a bucket of fried chicken and a cookie dough chaser. But that’s not particularly healthy.

I’m all about realistic self care. That is, activities that aren’t expensive, don’t involve food, and will make you feel good about how you spent that time. Here’s a list of my favorites (bonus: most of these you can do with kids).

Meditate, the easy way

If you’re the kind of person who can’t sleep during the day, napping can be more like torture. But guided meditation is a whole other story. It gives your mind something (easy) to do so the rest of you can relax a bit. There are plenty of free guided meditations online. Check out the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center website and the free version of the Headspace app, which has plenty of options to get you started.

Read a book

When was the last time you read for pleasure? Even if you can’t get to your library, there are plenty of free ebooks on Amazon, and your local library may have a free online borrowing program. Or reread some of your favorite books from childhood if you have them hanging around.

Learn something

If you choose the topic right, learning is great self-care. Pick a topic for FUN. Don’t feel like you need to learn something pertinent to your work or a current hobby. Check out Coursera, MIT or Harvard to start. (But there are PLENTY of sources for free online classes, do your own searching, too!)

Draw

Bust out a piece for paper and draw something. Even if you don’t have fancy pencils or crayons or markers, you can play with shading and pressure and make something cool. There are plenty of free coloring pages you can download and print out.

YouTube Karaoke

For nearly every song out there, there’s a karaoke accompaniment channel on YouTube. For reals. Crank it up and let ‘er rip. You’re a stress-free superstar now.

And when all else fails: Nap

Put your jammies on and take a nap. In your bed. Not all jammed up on the couch with the TV on. Close the shades in your bedroom and hunker down for a proper sleep.

There. You don’t have to spend money or fill your belly to feel great and treat yourself well!

What Do We Really Know About Pain?

man sitting hunched over in ocean
Photo via Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Pain is one of those “you know it when you feel it” kind of sensations. But it’s also a strange phenomenon, when you think about it. A snowball is cold, and so it feels cold when you touch it. A block of concrete is rough, so it feels rough when you touch it. But a knife isn’t painful on its own. Neither is a pot of boiling water or the leg of a table. We handle these things safely all the time, and experience their mass and temperature and texture.

But pain exists only in the body, and even more specifically (as people who’ve experienced anesthesia know firsthand) in our minds.

But that doesn’t make it less real!

So what exactly is happening when we feel pain, and how do we stop it from negatively impacting our lives?

How does pain work?

There are three primary types of pain, and each of them works in a slightly different way.

Nociceptive pain (tissue pain).

There are many different kinds of sense receptors in the body. Some are sensitive to heat or cold, some to touch or pressure. Others, called free nerve endings, aren’t specialized for any one type of stimulus. When a significant stimulus triggers these nerve endings, they send a message through the spinal cord and up to the brain indicating that something potentially dangerous has happened. The brain then decides (without consulting the part involved in conscious thought, alas) whether this is something to ignore or brush off, or if it seems likely that damage has occurred. This then sends this message back down to the affected part of the body.

If the message is “No biggie, ‘tis but a scratch,” then you’ll most likely shake yourself off and forget the incident even happened. If it’s “WHOA, THIS SEEMS LIKE A PROBLEM,” then you experience this as pain.

This is useful! Just ask someone with CIPA, or congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis, a disease that leaves people insensitive to pain. Imagine not noticing a bit of grit in your eye until it damages your cornea, developing stress fractures in your feet because nothing is telling you it’s time to sit down, or ending up with burns in your mouth and throat because you don’t realize your coffee is scalding hot. Pain stops us from trying to walk on a sprained ankle or go for a run when we have a fever. Tissue damage, high temperatures, low pH, and capsaicin (the active ingredient in hot peppers) are all common triggers for this process.

But brains aren’t always correct when it comes to assessing danger. Lorimer Moseley gives a brilliant example of this in his TEDx talk. What’s the difference between the pain from a scratch on the leg and the pain from a nearly-fatal snake bite? Spoiler: it’s whatever your brain is expecting. That’s why you might feel little pain after a bicycle accident, but be in agony when getting the wound stitched up two hours later. Pain is weird.

Neuropathic pain (nerve pain).

This is pain that results from an issue with the nervous system itself, rather than surrounding tissues. If you’ve ever banged your funny bone, you know this feeling well. Common forms of neuropathic pain include:

  • Sciatica: pain in the sciatic nerve running through the hip and down into the leg and foot
  • Diabetic neuropathy: nerve damage resulting from fluctuating blood sugar levels
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: pain resulting from the compression of the nerves that run through the wrist into the hand

Less common forms include phantom limb pain (pain that feels like it originates in an amputated limb) and postherpetic neuralgia, which occurs as a result of getting shingles.

Neuropathic pain can be especially frustrating because the normal things we do to reduce pain are often useless when it comes to pain originating in the nervous system. Moving or not moving our muscles, applying heat or ice, these can have relatively little impact on nerve pain.

What’s more, nerves don’t heal as well as things like muscles and skin do, which makes nerve pain more likely to become chronic pain.

Other pain. (Yeah, that’s a terrible fake category name.)

Pain is messy, and a lot of it doesn’t fall into either of the two categories above. Fibromyalgia is a great example of this. Is it pain resulting from tissue damage? Nope. What about nerve damage? Not as far as we can tell. It’s caused by the nervous system malfunctioning, sometimes in horrible ways, but that don’t result from actual nerve damage. Often a lot of it. And the world of medicine is still trying to figure out why.

So how do we alleviate pain?

There are several different options.

  • If the pain is caused by some kind of physical injury or stimulus, you can work on changing that. If your hand is being burned on a lightbulb, you can remove your hand, which will make most of that pain go away. If you’re experiencing a muscle cramp in your foot, you can flex the foot (manually, if necessary). If you’re experiencing pain from sitting in the same position for too long, you can move around and shake out your legs. If the cause of the pain is inflammation, anti-inflammatories and ice can reduce that. This is perhaps the ideal form of pain relief, although it’s not always in the realm of the possible.
  • You can block the messages that tell your brain you’re in pain. This is how many painkillers work. Ice can also numb nerve endings.
  • You can convince your brain that you’re not in any real danger. This is a tough one, because the brain doesn’t just listen when you tell it things. But it’s well documented that fear, stress, and anxiety lead to increased pain perception. And of course, pain leads to stress, which leads to pain … General relaxation techniques—from meditation to light exercise to getting a massage—can all be helpful in turning the brain’s pain alarms down a notch. Physical therapy (practicing certain motions in a way that isn’t painful) and talk therapy can also be useful here too.

How can massage help with pain?

Sometimes the issue is one that massage can help manage on a physical level. But even more often, massage gives the brain a chance to let down its guard and experience something non-painful and even pleasant in the body. And while there’s no silver bullet for pain, that can mean a lot for people whose pain has defied more straightforward treatments and whose injuries or illnesses are already healed.

Feeling the hurt yourself? There’s a massage with your name on it. Book your next one today.

Zentangle: An Alternative to Meditation? Ask the Expert.

Zentangle

You’ve probably heard a meditation practice can help you manage stress. But it can feel like a Herculean task to sit in silence and focus on your breath. All those thoughts buzzing around! Enter Zentangle. It’s basically a method of drawing that can promote a meditative state. I recently took a beginner’s class and I’m in love! I’ve been tangling every day and I feel more focused, relaxed, and creative. Plus I have some cool art! I interviewed local artist Leslie Barr to tell us a bit more about Zentangle.  She’s a Certified Zentangle Teacher and teaches classes here in Champaign. 

What is the most common reason folks come to your classes?

Zentangle is increasing in popularity, but I’m still trying to get the word out. Zentangle is a meditative drawing method. The designs created might look complicated or like they require a lot of artistic talent, but it really is surprisingly easy to do, once you know the steps. And while the art you create is beautiful, you also get the wonderful benefit of relaxation and mindfulness.

Is there a common misconception about Zentangle that you would like to clear up?

Probably that it looks complicated or difficult to do. Actually, the patterns can all be broken down into easy to learn steps.

What are the benefits of practicing Zentangle?

Zentangle is a great way to meditate. By focusing completely on drawing the repetitive lines, your mind tunes out all stress and distraction. It can help reduce anxiety, grief, and depression. It can increase ones ability to focus and help with problem solving and team building.

How long have to been teaching here in Champaign, IL?

I have been practicing Zentangle since the end of 2012. I became a Certified Zentangle Teacher in November 2013 and began teaching then.

Where do you teach Zentangle classes?

I have taught classes in coffee shops, in people’s homes, and at churches. Lately, I have been teaching at a the Marm Studio Gallery. This lovely art gallery is in the home of a terrific local artist, Mary Ciaccio. She has her own working studio as well as a teaching studio in her lower level.

Who can learn Zentangle?

If you can write or print your name, you can create Zentangle artwork. I am hoping to schedule a parent-child class soon.

What do you love about the community here?

I have lived in Champaign since coming to the University in 1980. I love Champaign. The people here are friendly and support one another. There is such a great variety of things to do here. Whether you love sports (you name it, we’ve got it!), performing arts, visual arts, community service, places of worship, there is something for everyone!

What’s your favorite local lunch place?

These days I’m enjoying Sun Singer. Currently they are showing the beautiful artwork of local artist, Mary Ciaccio

About Leslie

“Creativity rescued me from dark places and has brought me a great sense of peace and serenity. It brought me closer to God and helped me find new ways to meditate and pray. I have loved teaching and sharing this passion. So, here I am, searching for more ways to share art and how it can bring peace and love into the lives of others.”

LeslieLeslie has always loved arts and crafts. Throughout her childhood years and into adulthood, she always enjoyed ceramics, photography, creating her own Christmas cards and gifts for family and friends, etc. Yet it wasn’t until she was 50, art became something even more profound for her. When her sister died suddenly on her 53rd birthday, grief hit Leslie hard. Less than a month later, while attempting to do some Christmas shopping, she stumbled upon One Zentangle a Day – a book by Beckah Krahula. She bought the book, planning to give it as a gift, but once she got it home and began reading it, she decided it was something she needed to try. It turned out to be truly a godsend.

She absorbed as much information as she could about Zentangle over the next few months and then decided to take the leap and become a CZT (Certified Zentangle Teacher). You can learn more about Leslie and her classes on her website, A Line at a Time. She tangles daily and posts her work on Facebook and Instagram.

Caring for the Skin You’re in: Staying Sun Safe

woman standing in the sun
Photo by Julia Caesar on Unsplash

Massage therapists see a lot of skin. All colors, all textures. Freckles, scars, stretch marks, moles. Skin with lots of hair and skin with none. Skin doesn’t surprise us.

Except when it does. That brown spot on your shoulder blade? It wasn’t quite that big when you came in a month ago. And it looks less like an oval and a little more like a blob. Maybe you should have that checked out?

Skin we love. Skin cancer? Not so much. Which is why you’re here on your massage therapist’s website, reading about sun exposure. Because even though I’m not a dermatologist and you’re not going to burn while getting a massage, your skin is a friend I see regularly. And I want to be able to keep working with it for many healthy years to come.

What happens when you get a sunburn?

You’re exposed to the sun and then your skin turns red and itchy, right? Well, yes. But there’s more to it as well.

When you step out into the sunlight, you’re immediately bombarded by UV radiation. This radiation causes mismatches in the curlicue of your DNA in the nucleus of your skin cells, which is dangerous and can lead to cancer. As soon as this starts to occur, your skin jumps into protective action redistributing melanin, the pigment that causes suntans, and which helps to protect your DNA from further damage.

But if you’re still outside and the damage doesn’t stop (especially if you’re fair skinned and don’t have much melanin to go around), you start to see an inflammatory response. This is the same kind of inflammation that you see when you sprain your ankle, only spread out across your damaged skin. Your blood vessels dilate to get more nutrients and infection-fighting cells to your skin, making the it red and warm to the touch. Itching and pain result, a warning signal from your body that something is wrong. You may feel thirsty and tired as your body works to repair itself.

If the burn is bad enough, you’ll start to see blisters as the plasma leaks from inside cells into the space between the dermis (the bottom layer of skin) and the epidermis (the top layer). These blisters form a cushion of fluid over your damaged tissue (at this point, your body has already written that top layer of skin off).

Eventually, even if you didn’t have any blisters, you will get flaking and peeling of the top layer of your skin. Interestingly enough, these skin cells weren’t killed by UV radiation. When skin cells recognize that their DNA has been severely damaged, they deliberately die off rather than risk becoming cancerous. This planned cell death is called apoptosis, and it’s the reason you see massive numbers of skin cells coming loose at once.

So to be clear: all sunburns, no matter how mild, contain the beginning stages of skin cancer. It’s only because our skin kills itself off before these cells go haywire that we see as little skin cancer as we do. Even so, more than 5.4 million cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer are diagnosed in the US each year, and 1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 70. UV radiation will play a role in many of these cases.

How can you protect your skin?

The short answer: Stay away from UV radiation. This means avoiding tanning beds as well as sunlight.

The longer answer: Unless you plan to become a vampire, you will probably be exposed to sunlight at least some of the time. The trick is to reduce that exposure to a safe level by seeking shade, wearing protective clothing, and using sunscreen.

How much sun is safe?

This depends on two main variables: the UV Index and your skin type.

UV Index

The UV Index is a measure of the level of UV radiation in your location at any given point in time. It’s something you can easily look up on your computer or phone before heading out the door. In general, global UV Index recommendations look something like this:

  • 1-2: Low. Enjoy being outside!
  • 3-7: Medium. Seek shade at midday, put on a shirt and hat, wear sunscreen.
  • 8+: High. Stay indoors at midday, seek shade as much as possible, sunscreen is an absolute must.

Skin type

With the exception of people with albinism, everyone has some melanin in their skin. Those with more of the protective pigmentation are less susceptible to DNA damage in their skin cells from UV radiation than those with less.

  • Type I: Very pale, burns quickly, never tans.
  • Type II: Pale, burns easily, rarely tans
  • Type III: Burns moderately, tans over time to light brown
  • Type IV: Burns minimally, tans to medium brown
  • Type V: Rarely burns, tans to dark brown.
  • Type VI: Never burns, rarely tans, deeply pigmented skin.

People with Type I skin can burn after as little as five or ten minutes, while those with Type VI skin can sometimes be outside for an hour without damage.

Note: You might have seen a skin type scale that goes from I-IV, especially if you are looking in an older medical textbook. That’s because the original Fitzpatrick scale was made in the 1970s for white people. This is the same scale, but expanded to include everybody.

Is sunscreen safe?

A 2001 study raised concerns that oxybenzone (the chemical that makes most sunscreens so effective) might impact hormones. In this study, rats fed large doses of oxybenzone developed enlarged uteruses. Studies in humans haven’t been conclusive. What we know for sure is that if you’re a rat, you shouldn’t drink sunscreen.

Some pediatricians recommend sticking to mineral-based sunscreens for infants and very young children just in case, until long-term studies are concluded over the next twenty or so years. But these are thick and need to be reapplied regularly. If your children are experiencing sunburns with mineral-based sunscreens, they are being put in significantly more danger than any potential hazard from oxybenzone.

What about vitamin D?

Yup, you need vitamin D in your body to stay health. And yes, your skin manufactures vitamin D in response to UV radiation (people with lighter skin types make more vitamin D with less sun exposure than people with darker skin types). So shouldn’t you go without sun protection sometimes for the nutritional benefits?

Luckily, there are a number of sources of vitamin D that don’t also cause skin cancer. Fish, mushrooms, eggs, and fortified dairy products are all excellent sources. And if you’re a tremendously picky eater, there are also vitamin D supplements you can take. For the severely deficient (diagnosed with a simple blood test), there are high-dose supplements or injections your physician can prescribe.

Caring about your skin isn’t about vanity.

It’s a critical organ, like any other. If you exercise for your heart and quit smoking for your lungs, then preventing sunburns is just another healthy habit.

Massage therapists love skin. We work with it on a daily basis and appreciate all it does to keep your insides in and your outsides out. It keeps you cool, it tells you what’s around you, it prevents infections, and it repairs itself at a remarkable rate. So take care of it!

And maybe bring it in for a massage.

5 Tips for Surviving the Holidays

The holidays are kinda weird. For all the ‘Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ jingles, it’s also the toughest for many people. Some people over-commit to family, friends, or volunteer tasks and find themselves over-scheduled and unable to actually enjoy the season. Some of us dread the inevitable, obligatory socializing and the pressure of being ‘on’. Some of us are grieving.

So here are a few less-typical Holiday Survival Tips. Some of them are brilliant. Some of them are not. But maybe you’ll find a nugget in here.

Ditch obligations

Just because you’ve always gone to Aunt Sue’s for Christmas Eve doesn’t mean you always have to. You can stop going.

Say, “I’m starting a new tradition this year, I’m really looking forward to cooking with my kids and having a quiet family night.” Then set up another time to visit Aunt Sue when you’ll actually be able to visit her, instead of just a hug between appetizers while stuffed into a small house with 30 loud relatives.

Reframe obligations

When I hear people complain about all the ‘stuff’ they have to do, I usually say, “Dude. Stop doing it.” The typical reply is, “Oh, but I really like having 37 different types of cookies and seeing all my 3rd cousins!” Cool. I can respect that. But stop looking at (and speaking of) the tasks and events like chores.

This isn’t a martyr contest. Nobody gives a darn that Betty SUV Soccer Mom makes her bundt cake from scratch and you use a mix. Except maybe Betty, and that’s her issue. Do stuff because you want to, because it brings you joy. And quit doing the stuff you don’t want to do.

Stick with the people who warm your soul

Some of us are not close with our families. For many, many people, family relationships are rarely nourishing and often painful. We’ve built friendships that stand in for the sibling and parental relationships that will simply never be fulfilling.

So why feel obligated to spend a holiday with anyone other than those who bring us joy and unconditional love? Create a holiday plan with the people you most enjoy and cherish. Or at the very least, make an escape plan to unwind with the people who will let you vent after a stressful family interaction.

Step back from the gift-giving (and receiving) or just change it dramatically

Do you really want another gift set of perfumey bath gel and body lotion? Do you really want to be giving that to someone else? Blech. Maybe it’s time to reexamine your gift-giving habits. Instead of exchanging gifts with your adult friends and family, can you decide to spend that money on having a great dinner together in January?

If you feel really attached to giving a tangible object, can you simplify the process? Find one universal gift, and give it to all your people. Like a jar of local honey from you favorite apiary, or a holiday ornament purchased from a local charity.

Rethink your assumptions

Just because you’ve always done the holidays a certain way, doesn’t mean you have to keep doing that. It’s all a choice. Sometimes you don’t even need to change the pattern, just recognizing that it’s a choice is enough.

Wishing you a happy, merry, joyous whatever-you-celebrate. I hope you get exactly the holiday you want (and deserve).

Massage Safety

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

We need to talk about massage and safety.

If you haven’t already heard, Buzzfeed recently broke a story about abuse occurring in Massage Envy franchise locations. There has been a lot of conversation about the story online and in the news, which you may have seen. What you probably haven’t seen (unless you’re a part of our profession) is the uproar it has caused in the massage therapy community. Horror is a common emotion: who would do such a thing? Sadness: for the people who will be too fearful to receive the bodywork they need out of fear for their safety. And anger. Plenty of anger.

To be clear, this anger isn’t for the thousands of ethical massage therapists, managers, and support staff at Massage Envy. Whether you care for their business model or not, the vast majority of Massage Envy employees are out there doing their jobs, caring for clients, and earning a living, and they deserve our support. The anger is for perpetrators who violated the faith placed in them by trusting clients; the franchise owners, managers, and employees who allowed it to happen; and the organization that provided neither sufficient guidance nor real consequences for the people they allow to work in their name.

We want  you to know that we as a community of massage therapists are trying to do our best to hold ourselves and our organizations accountable, and work for changes at Massage Envy and elsewhere to make sure this never happens again.

But we also want you to know that we care about you. As a client and as an individual. Because you have a right to feel safe while getting a massage. And this goes whether you’re receiving a massage here or anywhere else.

So here are some promises to you:

Our promise

We will remain vigilant in our hiring. This includes extensive reference checks as well as basics such as double checking claims regarding certifications and licensure.

We re-commit to adhere to all state laws and abide by the the massage profession’s code of ethics.

We will give you access. You can check the status of the license of any massage therapist in the state here.1 If you need help finding information on out-of-state therapists as well, you can ask and we will direct you to the appropriate resources.

We will be proactive and regularly solicit feedback from clients about their experience. Big or small, positive or negative, we want to know your experience so that we can do our best and stop major issues before they start.

We will investigate ANY complaint of therapist misconduct, and share this process openly with you.

And as part of this, you have our word that:

  • We encourage you to report any misconduct to your massage therapist’s supervisor2, to their licensing agency, to law enforcement3, or to all three.    
  • We will investigate any report of misconduct.
  • We will not permit a massage therapist under investigation to work with clients until the investigation has concluded.
  • We will maintain written records of every report and investigation.
  • We will report the incident to the licensing board, law enforcement, and other agencies as appropriate.
  • We will support clients in whatever course of action they choose to take.

The power is yours

There is a natural power differential when a person decides to get a massage. When one person is trained, familiar with the environment, standing up, and fully dressed, and the other has none of those advantages, it can be easy to feel like someone receiving a massage has no power at all. But it’s important to know that, no matter how much of an expert a person may be in massage, you are the expert on your experience. And as the expert on you:

  • You have the right to tell your massage therapist to change or stop what they are doing for any reason.
  • You have the right to end your massage session at any time for any reason.
  • You have the right to stop seeing your massage therapist, or to choose a new massage therapist, for any reason.
  • You have the right to report any misconduct to to your massage therapist’s supervisor2, to their licensing agency, to law enforcement3, or to all three.

Again, you have a right to feel safe while getting a massage.

And since we’re having an open conversation about safety, we also need to be clear about one more thing: massage therapists also have a right to feel safe while giving a massage.

Ensuring the safety of massage therapists from clients who would harass, assault, or otherwise harm them is another conversation that you might not always be privy to as a client, but is a major point of discourse in the massage therapy community. For whatever reason, there are still people out there who confuse (or choose to conflate) massage therapy with sex work, and feel free to act on that impulse regardless of the wishes of the therapist in question.

If this is obviously problematic to you, like it is to 99% of the people in the world, then you don’t really need the following reminder.

But if you’re in that 1% and believe you’re owed sexual favors by virtue of existing and rely on that sense of personal entitlement while preying on massage therapists, especially those who are inexperienced or economically disadvantaged, here’s a wake-up call for you:

Your massage therapist also has rights

  • Massage therapists have the right to refuse to provide any service they feel would be inappropriate, out of their scope of practice, uncomfortable, or unsafe.
  • Massage therapists have the right to end a session at any time if they feel unsafe with a client.
  • Massage therapists have the right to no longer see a client they feel unsafe with or unqualified to treat.
  • Massage therapists have the right to report a client’s inappropriate behavior to their supervisor and to law enforcement.
  • Massage therapy business owners have the right to stop scheduling a client for inappropriate behavior, to ban them from the premises, and to warn other local therapists about them. (And massage therapists do talk to one another. It’s a small profession.)

In the end, everything is better off in the light.

It’s better to have a major exposé in the news than for abuse to go on unaccounted-for. It’s better to ask hard questions before choosing a new massage therapist than to go into a session anxious or afraid. And it’s definitely better for massage therapists to address the issue of safety head-on, rather than pretending the concern doesn’t exist.

We all have a right to feel safe.

Hopefully, if we continue to work together to shine light into the dark corners of the world, all of us will. 


(1) State of Illinois Massage Therapy License Number for Karyn Claflin: 227016354

(2) Karyn Claflin, Owner, Restoring Balance Massage Therapy and Yoga
karyn@balancechampaign.com
cell (217) 352-7944

(3)Champaign Police Department
Emergency Calls: 9-1-1
Non-emergency: 217-333-8911
82 E. University Avenue
Champaign, IL 61820
217-351-4545

Decrease Stress with Breath

Breath
Photo by Nine Köpfer on Unsplash

Breath.

Such a simple thing.

It’s essential to life, but yet how often do we think about it?

It ebbs and flows throughout our days and we barely give it a second thought. 

Are you holding your breath right now?

(Fun Fact: when I was in Massage School, we had to put together a business plan complete with a business name. I was going to name my business “Just Breathe,” because I was pretty stressed at the time and was always catching myself holding my breath.)

Deep breathing can reduce anxiety

Implementing a deep breathing technique when anxiety strikes can make the difference between a full on attack and an unwelcome blip in your day. Deep breathing lowers your heart rate, improves circulation, and promotes clearer thinking.

You can use your breath to calm down

Let’s face it, when tempers flair it seems almost impossible to think about anything other than the current situation that set you off. Practicing simple breathing techniques can encourage calmness and help reverse the physical symptoms of anger.

TECHNIQUE for Anxiety and Calm

  • Isolate yourself from everyone for 15 minutes
  • 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

Take breathing even deeper with pranayama

Pranayama is the practice of regulating the breath. If practiced right, pranayama can bring harmony between mind, body, and spirit. It boosts your ability to be mentally and spiritually strong. There are very specific breathwork techniques that we’ll cover in future posts (or videos!), but here’s one to get you started. If you attend yoga classes regularly, you’ll probably find that many yoga teachers include pranayama. 

Use with meditation

Breathwork can be a fantastic addition to your mindfulness or meditation practice. 

TECHNIQUE for Meditation

  • Quiet your body and mind
  • Observe your breath as it is
  • Slow your breathing to a calm steady level
  • Concentrate on the air that moves in and out of your lungs
  • Focus on how your body feels and moves as you inhale and exhale

Much like massage, there is no doubt that breathing can encourage relaxation and healthy habits. It keeps the body/mind functioning and curbs stress. Your muscles naturally relax and you can go about your day a little easier.

Breathing may seem insignificant. It happens naturally, so we may not think about breathing all that much, but maybe it’s time we should.

 

Is a poorly fitting bra causing you pain?

Upper back pain is one of the top reasons folks come to see us for massage. Lots of things, like staring at a computer for 8 hours a day or lugging a heavy backpack around, can contribute to back pain. But could the fit of your bra be causing pain as well? We checked in with the local experts at Confidentially Yours to find out.


Published in the journal Chiropractic & Osteopathy, a survey conducted in 2008 by bra manufacturer Triumph found that 80% of women were wearing the wrong size bra. There are numerous reasons why women are in the wrong bra size, from lack of information to embarrassment for asking for a fitting, but the effect is what everyone has in common—it’s bad for your body.

Back pain is one of the main conditions that physical therapists treat. What you choose to wear can have an impact on your posture, and thus, on your back pain. Experts warn that an ill-fitting and unsupportive bra can cause postural disorders and back pain as they cause the woman to slump forward in a slouched position and result in sharp or dull pain between the shoulder blades.

If your bra isn’t fitting correctly and the band is loose, it will ride up your back. It may not bother you, but it will cause you to roll your shoulders forward which can then strain your upper back muscles. Most of your bust’s weight is held by the bra’s band and when your band doesn’t fit correctly it can cause the weight of your breasts to shift to the shoulders which can lead to upper back pain. You want your band to be snug, but not uncomfortable. It should be level with the floor and not ride up on your back.

On a different note, if your bra is too tight, it can restrict the movement in your upper back, causing stiffness in the spine and restriction. This can cause a backache which can then develop into back pain. Suzanne Pentland, an expert bra fitter for the brand Freya, adds that “your bra should not move throughout the day. The band should be firm enough to sit in place but if it’s too big, your bra will move and this causes rubbing on the skin, which can cause irritation.” If your band is too snug or too loose and riding up, it may be time to get fitted.

Making sure you’re in the right size bra is also important if you live an active lifestyle. Any type of activity from walking to running to playing sports requires a good-fitting sports bra. Your breasts have ligaments called Coopers ligaments that support the tissue. Other than that, there’s not much going on in terms of support, which is why, if you’re doing any sort of physical activity, it’s important to wear a good fitting sports bra. The stretching of the ligaments can’t be reversed and can lead to sagging and back pain later on.

It’s also important to remember that your body goes through changes and this means your bra size might change as well. The staff at Confidentially Yours recommend getting a bra fitting every 3-6 months or when you have a lifestyle change, such as pregnancy or any type of weight gain or loss.


Got upper back pain? You may also like:

Simple Shoulder Exercise for Less Pain
Got Pain from Sitting at a Desk?
5 Tips for Neck and Shoulder Care Between Massage Appointments


Founded in 1982, by Jean Duden, Confidentially Yours has grown over the last 35 years to provide bras, breast forms, lingerie, shapewear, and swimwear for women of all shapes and sizes.

At Confidentially Yours, we promise to help you maintain a positive self-image by providing you with the best possible fit, great service and compassion. We want you to look and feel your best so you can be your best.   

8 Health Benefits of Owning a Cat

Everyone knows that pet ownership comes with a boatload of responsibility, but what you might not know is owning a pet provides healthy perks as well. June is Adopt-A-Cat month and we are going to look at ways a cat can improve your life.

Tuxedo Cat

Reduce stress and anxiety

Cuddling with a feline friend can release soothing, happy chemicals in your body and distract you from any worries you might have. Since cats are relatively low maintenance and usually have a short attention span, quality time with your cat is powerful. Even a few short minutes can reduce your stress and anxiety in a big way.

Boosts your mood

Who doesn’t love the spunkiness a cat brings to the table (or in some cases ON the table)? If the cuddles don’t lift your spirits, their playfulness certainly will. Cats are pretty simple. They are able to take the most unexpected item (a plastic cap, a feather) and make it a source of entertainment for hours.

Increase sociability

Owning and connecting with a cat is a great conversation starter. No matter what type of function or event you are attending, pet ownership can be a way to bond with other people.

Decrease loneliness

Having a feline companion can help relieve feelings of loneliness. Especially if you live alone, being greeted by a cat is much more desirable than coming home to an empty house.

Reduce allergies and boosts immunity

Exposure to pet fur and dander can result in an increased resistance to allergies. Owning a cat reduces the risk of depression while also promoting socialization, playfulness, and laughter – which all works to help your immune system function better.

Reduce medical expenses

The calming presence of a cat can lend itself to lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels and ultimately reduced medical expenses. More and more stories are surfacing about how a cat sensed their owner was about to have a seizure and able to alert them before the episode.

Recover from trauma or grief

Difficult times or mourning is hard.  When someone talks to their pet, coupled with petting, can help them work through what’s ailing them. It might seem weird to talk to a pet, but it’s much easier to talk to someone that will listen and isn’t capable of judgement like humans are.

Promotes relaxation

Much like massage, owning a cat promotes relaxation. A simple snuggle with your cat can trigger feelings of happiness and love. This can also lead to better sleep habits and quality rest.

You might be questioning if you’re cut out for cats. It doesn’t matter if you’ve always fancied yourself as a dog lover, the companionship (and health benefits!) you experience by owning a cat is hard to compete with. If you think you have room for a feline friend in your life, check out a local shelter to see if you connect with a pet that’ll bring you much happiness and love.

6 Healthy Actions You Can Do At Work

May is Global Employee Health and Fitness Month, so we are going to talk about some ways to promote the benefits of a healthy lifestyle by giving you simple actions you can do anywhere… especially at work.

Stairs

Take the stairs.
Pedometers, Fitbits, and various health tools track steps and daily mileage. One of the first things people do when they lean into a healthier lifestyle is to increase their movement. This can take the form of an actual organized fitness plan or by incorporating little acts that propel them forward toward their goals; such as taking the stairs and parking a little further from the building.

Get up.
If you’re a desk jockey, one of the best things you can do is to get up and move. Do it every hour if you can. This action can increase blood flow as well as your productivity. A 5-10 minute break can prevent eye strain, cramped wrists and stretch a stagnant body.

Increase your water intake.
Hydrate. Do we really need to tell you why? Drinking water is good for you and will keep you hydrated. Benefits also include improving digestion and clearer skin. Keep a water bottle with you at all times and sip from it often. (Bonus tip: Couple drinking water with a repetitive activity can be a good way to stay on task.)

Eat something.
Very busy people often forget to eat. We’re not talking sugary snacks that boost your energy (and then cause a crash) throughout the day. We’re talking about healthy, good-for-you snacks that keep you feeling full and satisfied without all the calories and carbs.

Breathe Deep.
The workplace can be hectic at times. Finding a moment to take a deep breath can keep the most frazzled days focused and on point. Remembering to breathe will help you reduce stress and anxiety, slow your heart rate, and just feels good.

Get a massage.
Ok, so this one is kinda hard to do on the clock. We’ve managed to find ways around this though. Scheduling a half hour massage on your lunch break might be just the thing to keep you on task and relaxed. You could go for a full treatment off the clock OR maybe you can talk “the powers that be” into recruiting some massage therapists for some seated chair massage right there in the office.

There are so many other ways to practice healthy habits at work. From balancing poses at the copier to correcting your posture at your desk. Practicing healthy habits in the workplace is tricky. Find ways to work them in and before long you won’t even notice the extra tasks that are bringing you one step closer to a healthier you!

Need a break from the office? Book a massage.