Tag Archives: self-care

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.

 

Getting Started with Essential Oils

Field of lavender
Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

As the weather cools down and we break out our cozy scarves and everything smells of pumpkin spice, I’ve taken some time to clean out my essential oil collection, like tossing bottles that are past their prime (we only use quality essential oils for our aromatherapy massage) and giving some that I never use to a friend.

And I’ve also been trying out some new ones.

When I was in aromatherapy school, I amassed quite a collection of oils from the company that offered a discount to the students of the program I was in. They’re fantastic oils, and the company provides a ton of education on their website.  I’ll still use them, but there are so many different essential oil retailers out there, I decided to try something new.

If you’ve studied aromatherapy at all, you know it’s easy to go down the rabbit hole and get overwhelmed with the variety of essential oils and their uses. A friend recommended Simply Earth, so I gave it a try. I purchased of few of their blends, and I loved them! So I decided to subscribe to their essential oil box (more on that below).

About Simply Earth

  • Like Aromatics International, my other favorite essential oil supplier, Simply Earth is committed to high quality products.  
  • Did you know that there is more than one type of Lavender essential oil and each one has different therapeutic effects? That’s why it’s important to know the Latin name of the oil you are buying. Simply Earth’s single oils are labeled with the Latin name, but the blends are not. I’d like to see them add that in the future.
  • Ever had someone recommend you add essential oils to your drinking water? Don’t do it! Simply Earth promotes safe use of essential oils. Cautions are listed right on the bottle (also on the website if the print’s too small for you read).  They even have a Certified Aromatherapist on staff to answer questions.
  • What if you don’t like it? They have a ridiculously generous return policy. 

Simple Way to Start Using Natural Products at Home

This is where Simply Earth really shines. You know aromatherapy can help support your wellness. Or maybe you want to use natural products in your home, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all of the options out there.

Enter the Simply Earth subscription. Each box has a theme (ex. green cleaning, fall spa) and contains  four bottles of essential oil, 5-6 recipes, and a few extras to make the recipes (September’s had some Epsom salts, jojoba oil, and some roller bottles).

Since it’s only a few oils, you can take the time to learn about each one. The recipes give you options for use and different ways you can blend them together. This way, you’re actually using your oils instead of letting them gather dust (not that I would know anything about that!).

Savings For You

Simply Earth‘s essential oils are very reasonably priced. But I also have a coupon code for you! You have 2 options:

  1. Sign up to receive a monthly or quarterly subscription and receive a $40 gift card (via email). It can be cancelled at any time (but I don’t think you’ll want to).
  2. Or get $10 off from purchases of any oils from the website.

Here’s how:  Click the button below and when you’re ready to checkout use coupon code: BALANCECHAMPAIGNFREE

Shop Simply Earth

*The links to Aromatics International and Simply Earth are affiliate links. When you order from Aromatics International, we’ll both earn $10 credit and if you purchase through Simply Earth, I will earn a small commission. Be assured, I only recommend products and services I actually use and value.

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.   

Simple Shoulder Exercise for Less Pain

Got nagging pain in between your shoulder blades from working on the computer, texting, or doing yard work? Sure, massage can help, but we don’t always have a massage therapist handy when we need one!

I discovered this exercise this past week and I’m amazed by the pain relief after practicing just a few minutes:

You can read her article here: How to Get Great Shoulders!

So next time you have shoulder pain and your massage is too far away, try “The Quasimodo.” Don’t have a scheduled massage? Book one here.

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Reboot Your Mind and Body

Do you feel stretched in a hundred different directions?

Obligations, deadlines, appointments, meetings, work, housework, sports…..everything else! More often than not, it seems there aren’t enough hours in the day or days in the week for all that needs to be done. We’re on constant high alert. We’re always moving.

All this chaos can be hard on our bodies and minds. When this happens, we tend to be less mindful of our eating. Or chasing sleep like it’s a lively kitten. Or we get snippy with loved ones and coworkers.

The effects of this day to day stress are cumulative for most of us. Stiff joints get stiffer. Cranky shoulders get crankier, then one rogue golf swing or one heavy laundry basket makes it worse.

Massage is the mini-vacation you need. Without the sand in your shoes and having to pull your computer out of your backpack. Massage therapy is a reboot. It’s the control-alt-delete for your body and mind.

A massage resets your thoughts, slows your pulse, regulates your breathing, and recharges your mind.

Spend some time on one of our cozy massage tables, taking care of you. You can schedule online right here.

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.

FAQ: Do you ever get massage?

This is one the questions I get asked most as a massage therapist. And the answer is “YES!” Of course, I get massage. I love massage and I get one every chance I get. But at the very least two sixty minute massages a month. Ninety minutes if I can fit it into my schedule and budget. Sixty minutes just goes by too fast!

I get massage for the same reasons you get massage.

To relax. To relieve my aches and pains. To take a break from this busy world we live in where it seems like someone or something is always demanding your attention.

I get massage because it makes me a better massage therapist.

Not only does massage keep me feeling great so I can perform my best, it’s also one of the ways I make sure your massage is top-notch. When I get massage, I’m reminded of all the little things that make for a great massage.

It’s why I keep an eye pillow handy and have a cozy heating pad on my massage table. It’s how I learned to keep eucalyptus or peppermint essential oil close by, in case your nose gets stuffy. It’s how I discovered that combining Ashiatsu and Hot Stone Massage is out-of-this-world amazing!

When was your last massage? If you can’t remember, it’s been too long! Schedule one here.

How to Give Your Partner a Fantastic Massage

Two people holding hands

Everyone wants a massage, but sometimes making it in to see your favorite massage therapist (hi there!) just isn’t feasible. It’s in those unexpected and inconvenient moments that knowing how to give your partner a pretty great massage yourself can make the difference between a rotten day and a better one. But of course, this hinges on one thing: do you know how to give a good massage? Giving an at-home massage is not that hard. Here are my favorite tips:

  • Use firm pressure, but not hard. People get confused about pressure in two opposite ways. If your partner is smaller than you, you may have a tendency to use very light pressure. This is okay to a point (you probably won’t hurt anyone), but can be a little frustrating if your partner is tense or sore or, even worse, ticklish. On the other side are the people who come from the “no pain, no gain” school of massage. Don’t buy into this myth! Massage should be pleasant. If your partner has to tense their muscles and clench their jaw in order to get through your ministrations, it’s not helping.
  • Slooooooow doooooown. There are absolutely occasions where someone might want a fast-paced, vigorous massage. But unless your partner is getting warmed up for a race or ballroom dancing competition, this is probably not one of them. You’re not going to miss some key muscle if you take your time. If you seem relaxed, your partner is going to relax too. So take a deep breath, put your hands out, and make each stroke last.
  • If you meet a bone, leave it alone. There is one exception to the firm pressure rule, and that is bones. You don’t need to be an anatomist to recognize the ones that stick out, like knees, elbows, ribs, and spines. With little padding between them and the skin, these areas can be quick to bruise or feel painful. If you find your hands arriving at one of these bony landmarks (yes, that’s actually what massage therapists call them, it’s like reading a topographical map), you have two options: turn around and go back the way you came, or skim over them using gentle pressure and keep going with your massage on the other side.
  • Practice good body mechanics. If massage shouldn’t be painful for your partner, it also shouldn’t be painful for you. If you are hunched over, if your wrists are bent at an awkward angle, if you are using your thumbs or fingers in ways they weren’t designed to work, you will end up regretting the day you ever offered to give a massage. Use bigger muscles in place of small ones whenever you can: use your back to provide pressure instead of your arms, and your arms instead of your fingers. Whenever possible, push instead of pulling. When you move to a new part of your partner’s body, adjust your entire position, not just your hand placement. It may feel strange at first, but imagine if you tried to shovel snow by standing in one place and using just your arms to move the shovel from one side of you to the other. If that image seems ridiculous, you already understand why proper body mechanics are so important.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate.Really, you probably don’t need to talk to a massage therapist to learn that open communication between you and your partner is key to anything you undertake together. But it’s especially true in a situation like a massage, where one of you is more vulnerable than the other. As the massage giver, it’s important that you check in regularly: How does this feel? Would you like more or less pressure? Do you remember whether I turned the oven off? (Okay, maybe not that one.) The same goes for communicating your own needs. If you  are getting tired, or thirsty, or really need to leave for work, say something. Don’t leave your partner feeling guilty about enjoying a massage because you made a unilateral decision to sacrifice your needs for theirs.
  • Learn from the pros. As with any skill, one of the best ways to learn to give a massage is by watching the people who are already great at it. Getting regular professional massage (hello again!) and taking a couples massage class are both helpful. Barring that, YouTube is a fantastic source of tutorials for beginners. You can search for a style you like—Swedish massage is a great place to start—or an area you’d like to focus on, like the neck and shoulders.

If you follow these guidelines, you’re going to be fine.
You may not be winning any championships, but massage isn’t a competition. If you can give a caring, relaxing massage without hurting your partner or yourself, you’re way ahead of the curve on this one. And if you feel like you need more than that … well, you know where to find me.

Free Class with Healthy Tips for After Breast Cancer Surgery

SunflowerI recently heard about a free class offered at the Mills Breast Cancer Institute. I asked local Physical Therapist,  Kim Mills, to tell us about it.

This FREE class is available to ALL pre and post breast surgery patients (not just for Carle patients). Patients are welcome to attend the class before or after their surgery or even both, if they find that helpful, but the class content remains the same each time.

Classes are held monthly on the second Wednesday and fourth Friday at the Mills Breast Cancer Institute. To reserve your spot call (217)383-6636.

Can you tell me a bit about the Arise class and how it helps women who have had mastectomies?

The Arise class is designed to give breast surgery patients helpful information to further promote their healing process. This class is a one-hour class which includes scar healing techniques, gentle range of motion exercises, lymphedema education/prevention tips, and much more. Class participants have been grateful for the class and have stated how beneficial the information has been in helping them to know what they can and should be doing after their surgery.

The class has been named “Arise” because it’s so important for patients to realize the importance of getting up and getting moving again after their surgery (as long as their doctors haven’t given them any movement limitations).

What’s your favorite thing about the community here?

I Love how Bike-able this community is becoming and the many beautiful parks in Champaign/Urbana.

What’s your favorite local lunch place?

Favorite lunch spot would be Milo’s in Urbana! Lovely setting and delicious food!

Kim Mills, PT

 

Kim Mills is a PT who works for Carle Foundation Hospital. She’s taught this class since 2012 and is so thankful for the anonymous donor who makes this class possible through giving via the Carle Philanthropy Center.