How to Offer Support to Families Dealing with Cancer

bridge supports

Families are in the trenches dealing with cancer every day. It’s easy to feel helpless when friends and people close to you are struggling. Since September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, we’re going to give you some simple things you can do to help those who are facing the dreaded “C” word.

Do. Don’t ask.

It’s easy to say, “let me know if you need anything.” What the family needs is someone to say, “hey, I’m making you dinner.” Or “I’m babysitting – just tell me what day (or night).” Don’t give them the burden of asking. Just offer it.

Gift cards go a long way.

Treatments can sometimes take a patient and family far from home. Do a little research and purchase gift cards for restaurants, hotel chains and gas stations near the hospital they are using. A gift subscription to Amazon Prime or Netflix may be helpful to someone who is bedridden. Some downtime and low key entertainment might be just what they need. And, of course, a massage gift certificate paired with an offer of babysitting is a perfect way to care for the care givers.

Remember the siblings.

Cancer affects the entire family. Siblings often are trying to navigate many emotions like fear and jealousy. Commit to a sibling and offer to be there for them. Be a friend. Be someone they can lean on and talk to. If you send the cancer patient a gift, make sure you give something to the sibling and include them.

Show up

Shortly after diagnosis, a family will receive calls, cards, and meals. Anything to help soothe the heartbreaking news. After time, these things fade away and the family is still traveling the long road. It could be months or even years. It’s a financial and emotional weight. Keep them in mind and reach out well after the dust settles.

It’s hard to know what to say to a family that’s struggling with cancer. But don’t disappear. Meet them where they are. Sometimes there are no words. Just be present.  Reach out and enlist the help of others to send cards, letters and other nice/silly/fun things that will brighten the family’s day. Even an “I’ve been thinking of you” text speaks volumes.

These tips might not seem like much, but it can mean the world to a family facing cancer. Long days and sleepless nights can be an endless cycle. Little gestures of kindness can bring the family loads comfort.

3 Reasons to Get a Facial Massage

Face and Scalp Massage

Back, shoulders, neck. These are the most commonly requested areas for massage in my office. But what about the rest of your body? Here are some great reasons to give facial massage a try.

  1. Release tension in the muscles of your face.The muscles of our face do a lot of work everyday. Chewing, talking, facial expressions. But these muscles are often overlooked in favor of a longer back massage. Facial massage can ease tension in the jaw and help relieve tension headaches.
  2. Overall Stress Relief. Massage is a great stress reliever. For me, a relaxing massage of the face and scalp is Ahhh-some.
  3. Radiant Skin. A lesser known benefit of massage is that in can keep your skin looking healthy. Massage increases blood circulation to the skin and can give your face a healthy glow. Relaxing the muscles of the face can soften fine lines.

Ready to relax?  Schedule a Massage

The Importance of Touch

What have you touched today? Your alarm clock, a toothbrush, a doorknob?

We touch countless objects everyday. Can you remember the last time you touched another person? Was it today? Last week?

Do you feel anxious even thinking about touching someone? We aren’t a high touch society.  We don’t touch strangers and we may even feel weird touching our friends and family. Touch is often associated with sexuality. Maybe you worry about sending the wrong message.

Are we missing out by shying away from touch?

Why touch?

Touch can speak volumes when words fail us. We humans can communicate surprisingly well through touch. In one study, participants were able to communicate anger, fear, disgust, love, gratitude, sympathy, happiness, and sadness rather well.

Touch can help us feel more connected to others. It decreases stress, helps build trust, and improves our overall well being.

It is the best way to comfort someone.

Tips for touch

I’m not suggesting that you go out and hug a bunch of strangers. Context matters and some people don’t like to be touched. You may want to ask permission, but you know your relationships the best. Here are some ways you can reap the benefits of touch.

  • Hold hands with a loved one, give them a hug, or give them a hand massage. You can’t touch someone without being touched. Research suggests that the person giving a massage or a hug experiences the same reduction in stress as the person being touched.
  • Touch yourself.  You may be surprised how much you do this already. If you bang your knee, your first reaction is probably to rub it. If you have a headache, you probably massage your forehead. So go ahead, and give yourself a hug.
  • Cuddle up with your pet. Yep, petting your cat can decrease your stress.
  • Get a professional massage. We massage therapists are masters at communication through touch. Massage has a reputation for digging into to your muscles and “breaking up knots.” Sounds pretty aggressive, but massage is wonderful at comforting, soothing anxiety, and easing stress. Words fail to describe how great a professional massage is at telling your body it’s okay to relax and just be. You’ll just have to try it for yourself.

So don’t be afraid to reach out and touch someone!

Got Pain from Sitting at a Desk?

Got Pain from Sitting at a Desk-

“Don’t your hands hurt?” I get asked this pretty often. But they don’t. Not really. If they start to hurt, I change how I’m doing things.

You want to know when my hands (and my neck, and my back) really hurt?  When I had a desk job. 8-hour days working at a computer, hunching, doing mostly data entry. Being so “busy” I worked through breaks and ignored my pain. Until it got really bad. Learn from my mistakes. Pain is your body’s way of saying “pay attention.”

Change it up

As much as you can, change up the way you do things. Stand up while you’re talking on the phone. Get a headset for your phone, so your neck isn’t in a weird position all the time. Raise your computer monitor (or set it on top of some phone books) so you don’t have to hunch over to see it. Starting to use my mouse left-handed made a huge difference for me. Sure it was difficult at first, but it gets easier if you keep it up.

Move your body

Get up and take a walk around the office. Do some neck stretches while you’re talking on the phone.

I remember feeling really silly, but I started doing yoga at my desk. At first, I would wait until the person across the hall from me got up to make copies. But then I didn’t really care. I would rather feel silly than be in pain! Or, get your coworkers involved. Take your “coffee” break together and do yoga instead.

Here are some of my favorite yoga videos to get you started. They come from YogaDownload.com*. The site offers several free 20 minute classes, classes you can  download for a few bucks, or monthly and yearly subscriptions. I love the variety and the convenience of being able to “take yoga anywhere.”

Case of the Mondays: This free class is a series of standing and seated yoga poses. What I really love about this one is that they demonstrate doing yoga in office attire.

Neck and Shoulder Relief: This class is free as well. You can do the entire sequence while sitting at your desk.

Therapeutic Yoga for Wrists, Shoulders and Neck: This is my current favorite class. It’s very thorough and all done while sitting.

Remember to put yourself first

What you do is hard work. It may seem easy, but sitting at a desk all day is difficult. On top of that, your job is probably stressful. Take care of yourself first.

Take frequent breaks, move your body, and get regular massage.

Your body will thank you!

*The links to yogadownload classes are affiliate links. Be assured, I only recommend products and services I actually use and value.

 

 

Strategies for Coping with Caregiver Stress.

What happens when a family member falls ill, and you find yourself taking on the role of caregiver?

There are many circumstances under which we may find ourselves in the role of caregiver for a sick family member. Your life can change overnight, and everything can be thrown in to chaos. Adding to the stress is the fact that you didn’t choose this. If you’re not careful, it can take a toll on your health and wellbeing. How can you deal with the stress and exhaustion that comes with filling this very demanding role? Continue reading “Strategies for Coping with Caregiver Stress.”

In Defense of Relaxation

Is life passing you by?
Is life passing you by?

You look at your watch. It’s five o’clock on Wednesday. Or it is only Tuesday?  You look at your desk barely visible beneath the post-it notes and paperwork. How will you ever get it all done? You clench your jaw at the thought. You have that throbbing headache behind your right eye again and your hands ache.

All you can think about is getting home, changing into those worn, blue sweatpants, and curling up on your sofa.

The next day is the same, and the next one. You spend every day of every week wishing it was Friday, but when it gets here you’re too exhausted to do anything but sleep.

Life doesn’t have to be like this. You can feel different. Massage Therapy can interrupt this cycle.

It’s Saturday and the sky is gray as you walk into Restoring Balance Massage. The room is dim, candlelit. The sound of ocean waves plays softly in the background. As you lay down on the massage table, you notice it’s heated. That feels nice. The massage therapist’s hands are warm as they slowly stroke you back. What seems like seconds later, your massage therapist softly touches your shoulder, in a soft voice “Anne, that’s our time for today. Please take your time getting up. There’s no rush.”

You feel awake. More like yourself than you have in months. You had forgotten what it feels like to be relaxed. You call your sister- “why don’t we go out tonight?”

Relaxation is not a luxury. Stress and pain are serious things that can affect the quality of your life. You owe it to yourself and the people you love to take care of yourself . Don’t wait!Schedule your massage today!

New Spa Treatments

Or a Mini Vacation

Eyes closed. A smile on your face. The sound of gentle, ocean waves. A cool breeze brushes your face. Sand between your toes.

Wish you were here-

Have a walk on the beach even when you don’t have time for an extended vacation. Check out the new spa treatments.  Be it achy feet, sore hands, or overall stress, a mini spa treatment can reinvigorate you. Twenty minute treatments easily fit into your busy day. At Restoring Balance Massage, I use high quality essential oils, jojoba, and pampering products for your massage.

Pamper yourself and decrease your stress at the same time. You deserve it!

Your Massage Therapist’s Top 5 Stress Reduction Tips and Tricks

I think we can all agree that stress sucks. It can lead to tense muscles, lack of sleep, and has been linked to many health problems: depression, anxiety, heart attacks, ulcers, and migraines to name a few. Massage Therapy is a great stress reliever, and while I make sure to get a 60 or 90 minute massage every few weeks,  I don’t always have a massage therapist handy when I need one (except for me, but I can’t really massage my own back).  Here’s a few of my favorite stress relievers:

My #1 non-massage stress reliever!

1. Play with your cat. Seriously, cat owners have less stress than non pet owners (dog owners have less stress too, but cat owners are #1 in less stress). What? You don’t have a cat? Did you know June is National Adopt a Cat Month? The Champaign County Humane Society and CatSnap always have plenty of cats that need a good home. If adopting a cat is too much of a commitment, they also need volunteers to help with the cats. It’s pretty fun; you get to pet cats and help out your local community.

 

Tell your stress to take a hike!2. Get outside. Take a walk. Or find a shady spot to read a good book. Just being in nature soothes my stress.

 

 

 

Yoga outdoors for stress relief.3. Do a bit of yoga. Bonus points if you do your yoga outside. Here’s a few short chair yoga videos. They were made by a local yoga instructor, Maggie Taylor. If you have time for a longer class, you can find her and other great instructors in Champaign at the Living Yoga Center and Reflect Yoga Therapy.

 

Aromatherapy for Stress Relief.4. Smell some essential oils*. Sweet Orange, Lavender, and Peppermint are some of my favorites. (*I get most of my essential oils from Aromatics International. They’re great. If you decide to buy some, use this link and we’ll both earn $10 in credit.)

 

Self-Massage5. Give yourself a massage! Did you know you can use a tennis ball to massage your back? It works great on your upper back between your shoulder blades.  Just position the tennis ball between your back and a wall. Take care with the pressure and don’t put pressure directly on your spine. It can be a bit tricky to get right, but if you can’t get someone else to give you a massage, give it a try. Of course, you can always call your favorite massage therapist and schedule a massage!

Do You Need a Massage?

Yes! You Need a Massage! My professional association,  ABMP (Association of Bodywork and Massage Professionals) puts out a great publication for massage clients. The Spring 2015 edition has a great article starting on page 9, titled “Yes! You Need a Massage.” The author discusses why massage can be beneficial even when you aren’t in pain:

“We automatically schedule routine maintenance for our cars, but all too often, we don’t give our bodies the same consideration. Fail to get your oil changed or your tires rotated, and you can count on some major problems down the road. Similarly, when you fail to pay attention to your body and provide it with the care it deserves, you may very well run into health issues that could have been prevented.”  -Brandon Twyford

So remember to take care of yourself. Don’t put off routine medical care. Make self-care a daily habit. And, get a massage!.

3 Holiday Shopping Tips

Happy holidays! Happy ‘getting stressed out, trying to do too many things and please everyone’ season!

Oh, wait. That doesn’t sound too great…

Nip stress in the bud

Let’s take care of that stress first, because less stress means a happier you. A you who is better able to take care of all the people who depend on you! A you who can enjoy the holiday fun, parties, and gift giving. So get a massage, take some time for your favorite yoga class, meditate, do whatever makes you happy.

Stick to a budget

Much of the holiday stress people feel can be attributed to money woes. Make a list and check it twice, making sure the gifts you choose are within your budget reach. And when you’re tempted to overspend, remember that things are rarely as meaningful as a kind thought or gesture.

Shop local

Shy away from the average stuff you get at the big box stores. Visit your local bookstore, bakery, and massage office (Hey! That’s me!) to get gifts and gift certificates that really mean something.

Check out the Lincoln Square holiday market where you can buy jars of local honey or handmade ornaments. Keep a stash in your car with some gift bags for last-minute “I can’t believe I forgot to get a gift for my kid’s teacher” type situations.

Bonus: When you shop small, local businesses, you are supporting your local community.

Here’s to a wonderful holiday low on stress and filled with fun!