Lovin’ Lavender Essential Oil

I remember walking into my massage therapist’s office and immediately being transported to another place. As soon as I inhaled that scent, my shoulders relaxed and a smile crept across my face as the tension inside me began to slip away. Lavender is known for its relaxing effects and can be found in everything from soap to coffee.  In the 1600s Queen Elizabeth enjoyed it in jam and tea form.

There are several types of lavender, often called English, French or Spanish, with English being the most common. It has a sweeter element and is commonly used in cooking, with some forms being specifically made and sold for that purpose. However, it is more often used for the relaxing aroma.

Its’ history can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. It requires sunshine and well-drained soil to grow and nowadays is grown around the world.  There are locally owned (Iowa) lavender fields, though Washington state claims the title of being the “lavender capitol.” https://ranchandcountry.com/. The oil is produced by putting the flowers through a steam distillation process.

You can purchase essential oils at a health food store, from a person in the business or with a company, or from an array of online options. I strongly advise you to start out buying in person and only purchase online when you know exactly what you are getting. Be sure that the bottle containing the oil is not plastic as oils could dissolve it and that it is dark colored (amber or blue) so that sunlight does not spoil it. Look for reputable companies that list both the common and Latin name of the plant and will provide the chemical background of the oil. For more helpful buying tips, check out this article: https://www.verywellhealth.com/tips-on-buying-essential-oils-88796

Lavender can be diffused in the air through a diffuser or by putting a few drops on a cotton ball. Besides reducing anxiety, stress, insomnia and depression, it is also known for its’ antifungal and antibacterial properties. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-838/lavender

You can put a drop of lavender oil in a lotion or carrier oil (such as almond or olive oil) and put in on your skin. A few drops in the bath or a foot soak could be helpful as well. Check out the sites below for more tips on how to use lavender and have a more relaxing day!


Pep Me Up, Peppermint!

I credit my mother with giving me a love for peppermint. We used to share a box of Junior Mints when she took me to the latest Disney film. Sometimes she would share her Dutch Wilhemina peppermints with me, and she always had a peppermint of some sort with her. But I didn’t realize peppermint has so many benefits.

First, let’s review some easily confused “family members” – spearmint and wintergreen. Spearmint, as the name implies, is a member of the mint family, but does not have as much menthol as peppermint, so it has a milder flavor. Wintergreen is more closely related to the evergreen family, which has methyl salicylate, a salicylic acid. All three are beneficial and in similar ways.

In 1753, biologist Carl Linnaeus classified peppermint as a plant species, but it is actually considered a hybrid as it does not produce seeds. Instead, it propagates by using runners and can spread rather quickly and easily. It prefers a moist, shady environment.

We are all fairly familiar with peppermint, both as a plant and a flavoring, and even in its’ use for upset tummies. But there are other uses, too. Studies have shown that peppermint tea can help with memory retention and alertness. https://medicalxpress.com

The aroma of peppermint can have a similar affect, even helping those with Alzheimer’s disease. Not only memory, but other mental functions improved as well, such as reasoning and attention span. https://nuscimag.com/aroma-in-action

An article by Worldhealth.net stated that, “Peppermint can help to reduce muscle and nerve pain, aid in digestion, and reduce inflammation, as well as having some antibiotic and antifungal activity. Peppermint can help ease intestinal spasms and symptoms of IBS, reduce gas, and help to stimulate production of bile within the intestines which further aids digestion.” https://worldhealth.net/news/peppermint-tea-may-boost-memory/

Peppermint oil can be used topically to reduce pain, but be sure to use a “carrier” oil, such as putting a drop of it into some olive or other oil, as it can be quite cooling to the skin. It can also be taken internally in small doses, but be sure to follow recommended guidelines when doing so and check with your medical provider first. https://www.webmd.com

By now you’re probably ready for a cup of peppermint tea and candies – or maybe peppermint stick ice cream with hot fudge sauce! What a sweet way to enjoy an essential oil.

What Does it Take to become a Massage Therapist?

Sometimes people ask me why I became a massage therapist, and to be honest, it was based on a joke. As an elementary special education teacher I was receiving a massage one day when I turned to my therapist and said, “You know, my next career should be as a massage therapist. I could handle the soft music and low lights.” Years later I realized that my husband and I would be the primary caregivers of our aging parents and that I needed a more flexible job. I took a year off teaching and explored massage therapy – and found I love it! It allows me to continue to give to others, to problem solve, and to put my family first.

People also ask what it takes to become a massage therapist.  Is there special training involved? How long does it take? These answers vary according to each state, school, and person seeking to become a therapist.

States vary on requirements for massage, with some having none at all to others requiring up to 1,000 hours of study plus passing a licensing exam. In states that do not require licensing, individual cities or communities may have local regulations.  In Iowa, where I live, a state license is required involving 600 hours of study plus passing a licensing exam administered by a national massage organization. Some communities also require a city license as well. These mostly consist of an application process, background check, and fees.

There is not a “national license,” but there is voluntary board certification, which requires 24 hours of continuing education every two years. Most state licenses require some form of continuing education, usually with part of it being hands-on while others include such topics as ethics, state law, and CPR.  In Iowa, 16 hours of CEU’s every two years with eight being hands-on are required. For information on what states require, check out this map at: https://www.abmp.com/practitioners/state-requirements

Massage schools vary in what they teach, how they teach, and how long it takes to complete coursework. Some are quite small with only several instructors that teach everything while others are large with a varied faculty. My school had a number of adjunct instructors with specialists coming in from around the country to teach specific courses. Students could choose to “major” in such areas as spa techniques, sport massage, reflexology, and others. Depending on school and  state requirements, it could take anywhere from five months to over a year to complete coursework. Clinical work is generally a part of the requirement and when I graduated, 100 hours of working on people in the clinic was expected, complete with evaluations.

When you are looking for a massage therapist, you may want to ask about their schooling and license requirements. Find out what classes or techniques they have studied and whether this would be a good match for you. If you are looking for someone with a specialty that they don’t have, ask for a referral. Often therapists will be able to recommend someone. To begin your search you may try one of these sites: https://www.abmp.com/public , https://www.amtamassage.org/find-massage-therapist/

Is there a silver lining to the Pandemic?

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The other day my friend and I, both small business owners, were talking about how our lives and attitudes had changed now that we are getting back into the “new normal” of work, school, and life in general. Pre-Covid-19 we would scramble to fit everything into our days, staying up late or getting up early to meet deadlines or work on projects. We would scurry from event to event, adding more to our schedules simply because nothing else was booked at that time, so why not? Then the pandemic hit and we went into the Quarantine Times. All but essential businesses shut down and we had day after endless day of time. I filled much of it, unfortunately, with hours of screen time learning about Covid-19, getting the latest news updates, and trying to figure out what that meant for my career. Fast forward to today where we are learning to live in “Coronaville” and putting the pieces back together in a social-distancing manner. Also, isn’t it interesting that this virus is destroyed by soap and water, sunshine and fresh air? And that to overcome it we should eat right, exercise, and rest? Our question was, why are we finding ourselves guarding our time now? Have our priorities shifted? I think this time has taught us some valuable lessons. Here are some lessons I have had to re-learn:

  1. Wash your hands. Use soap and water and scrub for 20 seconds; don’t just do a quick rinse now and then, but really consider where your hands have been and take time to do something about it.
  2. Eat right. Like many, I have packed on some “quarantine fifteen,” though not quite that much. Comfort foods are so tempting, but maintaining good health and a proper waistline are important, especially now.
  3. Rest. Getting eight hours of sleep has become a key priority now. Sleep is when the body restores itself, both mentally and physically, so setting aside time to wind down and not scheduling things later in the day get priority now. the-benefits-of-getting-a-full-night-sleep
  4. Go outside. Sunshine is important to our health. It boosts the mood and promotes healthy, naturally-occurring endorphins in the body. sunlight-makes-pleasure-chemical-body
  5. Exercise. Besides helping to maintain overall fitness and keep those unwanted pounds at bay, exercise helps boost feel-good endorphins. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/exercise-and-stress
  6. Focus on family and friends. With so many things being stripped away or stripped down, we have been forced to shift our priorities. Instead of work, travel, entertainment, we make an effort to connect with loved ones, whether it be through the telephone, letters, or online.
  7. Be nice. So much of what we do is to help others – wear a mask, keep our distance. But also other people need us to simply be nice to them – thank people for checking us out at the grocery store, delivering the mail, providing take-out meals, put up an encouraging sign or write a note.

So my basic take-aways from the pandemic thus far sound much like a mother’s advice – be nice to others, go outside and play, eat right, go to sleep, and wash your hands. Sometimes we just have to get back to the basics. Maybe, just maybe, this will be a nicer world when we get through this. It most certainly will be a cleaner one!

Want to feel better? Try a Little Kindness

Recently my brother told me about a time when we visited our cousins. He and my cousin Butch formed “The Litterbug Club.”  They would walk around town singing “The Litterbug Club – Bug Bug.”  Their slogan was “We toss our trash into the air; where it lands, we do not care.”  However, the most they could find to litter was one gum wrapper!  Sounds like a “cousin” thing to do, at least for boys!

Meanwhile, another cousin and I made up “The Good Deed Club.”  I don’t remember if we had a song or a slogan, but our purpose was to do one good deed a day.  I know we did something, but I don’t remember what.  Maybe we picked up the gum wrapper the boys littered!

Doing good for others also does good for us. In fact, there have been studies done to prove this. It appears that our brains actually respond positively to doing kind acts just as if we were doing something  pleasurable as eating! Giving to others could possibly lead to a healthier, happier, and longer life.  https://health.clevelandclinic.org/why-giving-is-good-for-your-health/

Another article states that people who volunteer monthly are 12% more likely to report being happy while those that volunteer weekly are 16% more likely. https://www.psychologytoday.com see also: https://www.sciencedirect.com

Kindness can also reduce stress and connect us with others in our community. https://www.actionforhappiness.org

These articles also provide suggestions on things to do, like volunteering in your community or giving financially to organizations. It can be a spur of the moment thing, like paying for someone’s meal in the drive through or letting someone cut in line, or a more scheduled event like helping at a senior center or food pantry on a regular basis.

In these strange times of quarantine and lack of community gatherings, giving may take more creativity. I have tried to encourage my neighbors by delivering May baskets with candies and tying balloons on the mail boxes. Since those in nursing homes have not been able to have visitors for many months now (or even leave their rooms for meals), I have started a letter writing campaign.  Each week I choose a topic, like family vacations, gardening, how my father taught me to drive, or a song my mother would sing, and write a short paragraph or two. I always ask a question that might get them to thinking or talking with the staff that may be reading it to them, such as what was their favorite holiday or what special childhood memories they have of summertime. The letter is addressed to Dear Friend so I can copy it a dozen times, then I mail them to the Activity Director at a local nursing home. It’s simple, inexpensive, and brings joy to someone who really needs it. I would love for you to join me in selecting a facility and doing something similar.

Whether you help feed the needy or simply hold the door for someone, I hope you will join me in spreading a little kindness. It’s the contagious activity worth spreading around!

How Safe is Massage in this Pandemic World? (Or “How Clean is my Massage part II”)

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When I wrote the blog “How Clean is my Massage” before the pandemic hit Iowa, I thought I was doing a great job providing a safe, clean environment; and I was, under normal circumstances. During my 10-week hiatus I studied up on the coronavirus/Covid-19 – how it spreads, how it is destroyed, how to lessen the risk of the spread. I took two online courses taught by people who had good backgrounds and great resources. I pored over the CDC, EPA, Public Health and Iowa Coronavirus sites as well as read many articles by leaders in the health and massage world. My questions specifically were how can I make massage safe for my clients and myself and when should I reopen my office? Based on what I’ve learned I developed a protocol for myself and my clients and reopened my office to current clients only on May 20, 2020. In this article I would like to share with you how I am currently operating my business.

First, I realize that there is no way I can eliminate the coronavirus in my office. My clients cannot guarantee they won’t pass it to me and I can’t guarantee I won’t pass it to them, but there are ways to greatly reduce that risk. Since we know that it spreads through airborne droplets, wearing masks and having good ventilation are key, which is why I require masks and have an air purifier in my room. Allowing extra time between clients gives the purifier time to work and any droplets that may have escaped to dissipate. Since wearing a mask would be uncomfortable in the face-down position, I have devised an “extended” mask by affixing a cotton pillow case to the headrest. I even tested it out and could breathe normally for 30+ minutes. While face-up, the client wears a mask and since breathing is slow and gentle, it is barely noticeable. Each client gets a freshly laundered “pillow case mask.”

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But the safeguards begin well before the massage. First, I take my temperature morning and evening to monitor my own health. I wear disinfected shoes that don’t leave the building, changing from my street shoes when I arrive. I now wear scrubs with a smock or apron over them which are changed after every client, along with my mask and gloves. Gloves are worn after the massage while I am cleaning and handling payment. Before I enter the massage room, I scrub with soap, water, and nailbrush up to the elbows for 20+ seconds and use a paper towel to open/close doors.

The entire office is cleaned/sanitized/disinfected between clients, including the restroom after every use. For this reason there are no longer magazines, brochures, upholstered chairs, or excess décor in the reception area or treatment room. All trash cans have been replaced to ones that have lids and are opened using a foot pedal. Gone are the coffee, tea, and mints. In my treatment room whatever cannot be put away has been covered. If a client needs a blanket, pillow, or massage tool, I take time to open the closet and retrieve it. If anything is out in the open during a session, it gets disinfected with an EPA-approved cleaner and all linens – including my lotion holster – are bagged up to be washed after each client. All pillows and the table have new covers that allow for this cleaning and even heating pads are enclosed in special cases.

My clients must fill out a new waiver specific to the coronavirus, wear a mask, and wash hands upon arrival. In fact, I lock the office until shortly before their appointment time, then greet them outdoors, attempting to keep the majority of non-essential talk outside of my small office. Facial massage is done only upon request and then with gloved hands. Hand massage is done last so that I can wash up within minutes – and allow the client to do so as well. My therapy room has a Client Sanitation Station with hand sanitizer, personal wipes, and choice of disposable or freshly laundered cloth mask to use. While touch-free or pre-paid payments are optimal, I have found that simply putting a plastic baggie over my phone works well, disposing of it after every use.

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While these measures may seem extreme to some, it is the “novel” part of the novel coronavirus that requires them. The more we learn, the better prepared we can be. I want everyone to feel safe, whatever their personal belief may be.

Trust is key in the relationship between client and therapist. The therapist trusts that the client is honest in relating all health issues and the client trusts the therapist to do no harm and keep their health as a priority. Especially in these times of extreme stress it is important to me to provide a safe, healthy, peaceful environment to help my clients heal mentally, emotionally, and physically. In all my dealings with other massage therapists across the nation, I think I can say that this reflects the overall feeling for us. May you have a healthy, peaceful day!

A Massage Therapist’s Open Letter about the Coronavirus Shut-down

20190723_143636It was just over a month ago that I was forced to close my office due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.  Since then I have been at home, making the occasional foray out into the world for essentials and to my office to water my plant and check the mail.  I have missed seeing my clients – visiting with them and serving them – and have thought of them often.

During this time I have taken some online classes, learned how to “zoom,” met online with other therapists, and kept up with the latest on how Covid-19 is and will affect our world, including my massage business.  I plan to reopen when it is possible, but am preparing for some changes.  Things may look a little different, at least in the beginning.  I still don’t know the specifics, but masks, aprons, and much cleaning will probably be a part of it.

While I am out of my office I have been exploring other ways to encourage people other than massage, like making short videos with stretches and ideas to bring peace and calming to people in this stressful time.  I’m also exploring how to make bath salts, sugar scrubs, and lotion.  And of course being with my family, doing housework and yard work.

I hope that soon this pandemic will be past and we can get together once again without fear.  It’s going to be different, but it’s going to be OK.

Until then, please stay safe and take care!

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How Clean is my Massage?

I was doing chair massage at a public art event when the next client sat down, suIMG_20141122_151905742ddenly looked at me and asked, “Is this clean?”  “Yes,” I replied.  “I sanitize the chair after every client and use a new disposable face rest cover.”  She then was able to relax and enjoy her massage.

In massage school I was trained not only in how to help people reduce pain and stress, but in sanitation. While therapists vary in what they do and types of cleaning agents used, every one I know is a stickler for cleanliness. Since in my state we fall under the Department of Public Health, there are mandates we must follow.  Here I will tell you the steps I take to be sure you can relax and enjoy your massage without wondering how clean things are.

Every client gets a freshly laundered set of linens. This includes sheets, face rest covers, pillow cases, towels, etc. If an item touches a client, it gets cleaned or replaced. The table is disinfected as is the chair in which he or she sat after each session. When I leave the massage room after a session, I immediately wash my hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, and I do the same before touching the next client. (For the CDC’s recommendation on hand washing, go to: Wash Your Hands.)  If I am unable to do so, as in the case of doing a chair massage or sporting event, I used hand sanitizer.

person washing his handMy studio is cleaned weekly or more as needed. Door knobs, light switches, and common spaces such as desks and reception area chairs are also cleaned regularly with disinfectant. This is done more so during the cold and flu season. (At this writing the coronavirus, COVID-19, is on everyone’s mind.)

Fortunately I am in good health, but if I feel under the weather, even if it’s just sniffles, I reschedule clients. I also like to diffuse some essential oils known for their purification.  My nails are kept short, hang nails trimmed, and skin moist to help prevent chapping and reduce paper cuts.

Your health is my priority. I want to provide a safe, clean, professional office so that you can relax, de-stress, and heal.

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