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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What type of massage is best for you? (Part II)

  • pexels-photo-2757661You’ve decided you need a massage, now what kind do you want? It really depends on your goals. Most people either want to reduce pain or stress and frequently both.  It can get a little confusing when you look at a menu of services (and prices) or google “massage” and get everything from sports therapy to facials.  Most places will describe their services and you can always ask in advance. If you know someone who has been to a therapist, ask about the options that person offers.
  1. Primary goal: Pain relief – If you primary goal is to relieve pain, you Continue reading

What type of massage is best for you? (Part I)

I like to say that massage is like ice cream: there are many flavors and it just depends what flavor you’re in the mood for today. Types of massage run the gamut from spa-like treatments to energy work to clinical sessions that are almost like physical therapy. When you are considering what type of massage to get, ask yourself three questions:

  • Why are you seeking massage?
  • How do you expect to feel afterwards?
  • What are your preferences?

Why are you seeking massage? Sometimes people are given a gift certificate or a friend has recommended they try massage so they are simply testing the waters. More often they have had some past experience, such as a chair massage, and want a more in-depth experience. I am having more people being referred to me by other health professionals like physical therapists or chiropractors who want their patient to either extend or enhance treatment through massage.

How do you want to feel afterwards?  As a massage therapist I generally have people come to me for one of two reasons – either to relieve stress or relieve pain. There is a connection between physical and emotional pain and massage can help both. You may want to feel less stressed and more encouraged and having someone focus entirely on you for a whole hour is bliss. You may have a physical condition (such as plantar faciitis) or recovering from surgery (rotator cuff, for example) and want to feel less pain and have a greater range of motion.  Massage can address both the physical and emotional at the same time.

 

What are your preferences? First-time massage clients may want to consider what they prefer or expect from their experience. Do you prefer to remain clothed or are you ok being covered in a drape? Would you rather have light or firm touch? Do you have any allergies to scents, either in lotions or laundry soap? The answers to the first two questions will help you with this one. Your therapist will adjust to make you feel comfortable.  I have had clients who simply sat in a chair while I worked on them due to broken arms or Parkinson’s Disease. Others leave their socks on as a reminder that they don’t like their feet being touched.

Whatever your “flavor,” this is your time and your dime. Don’t feel locked into what your therapist thinks is best for you if you don’t like it. Each therapist has his or her own technique and specialties and can probably refer you to someone that is a better fit for you if needed.

 

What is Neural Reset Therapy?

Do your shoulders achimg_20150919_171951550e from driving or working at the computer? Maybe you’re a runner and no matter what, your hamstrings just won’t loosen up and you’ve got a big run ahead of you. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could have your pain greatly reduced or even eliminated in minutes? Neural Reset Therapy has done that for many people. In this article I will explain what it is and how it is done.

Neural Reset Therapy, developed by Lawrence Woods,  is based on several neurological laws and works through the nervous system. (For a more information about the science behind this, read about Sherrington’s Law of Reciprocal Inhibition and Pfluger’s Law of Symmetry.) The nervous system is the “communication system” of your muscles, so to speak. In NRT (Neural Reset Therapy) the nervous system is stimulated in order to relax or “reset” the tight muscle.

These stimulations are done by the therapist gently rocking, shaking, moving or tapping specific areas, usually while the client offers slight resistance. For example, if your thigh is tight, the therapist may have you hold a certain position and give resistance while the therapist either taps a muscle with a reflex hammer or does some shaking or jiggling motions.  This sends a message through the mechanoreceptors (special nerve bundles which respond to stimuli) to reset the troublesome muscle.

This therapy is generally done fully clothed, although it can be worked into a regular massage. It is simple, easy, and effective and you should feel immediate improvement unless there are underlying conditions or other muscles that need attention.

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Just as in any massage technique, NRT is not for everyone. A few people have conditions that don’t allow it or simply prefer other modalities. And as in other techniques, the benefits last until the muscle is tightened again. Just like cars require regular maintenance with use, so does your body.

 

The next time you bring yours in for a “tune-up” and the therapist suggests trying a little NRT, you will know what to expect.

For further reading: “Stimulus and Response” by Ralph Stephens from Massage Magazine, November 2014

How to Deal with Leg/Foot Cramps

There you are, enjoying your run or swim, relaxing after exercise or maybe just sleeping in your bed, and WHAM! A cramp hits you in the leg or foot. Often just moving around or walking it off will do the trick, but sometimes they are persistent, and never pleasant. Here is a brief overview of what they are, some home remedies, and how to avoid them.
Causes: A cramp is an involuntary contraction of a muscle. They may be caused by dehydration, overuse, holding the muscles in one position for a long time, or muscle strain. A cramp can be brought on because there is not enough blood being circulated and is cured by switching positions or changing the action. A lack of minerals (potassium, calcium, and magnesium) or nerve compression can also bring on muscle cramps. Exercising in extreme heat or not warming up sufficiently before exercise can cause cramps. Certain physical conditions such as torticollis and restless leg syndrome can also bring on muscle cramps.
Avoidance: Prevention is always preferable, so be sure you keep hydrated and are getting your vitamins and minerals. When you are training or exercising more, punch up your diet with nutrient rich foods such as baked potatoes, pumpkin seeds, and dairy products. Be sure you are warming up and stretching before rigorous activity.
Remedies: Our first response is usually to move around or rub the muscle, which often help. If not, here are a few more ideas:
• Ice
• Heat
• Warm bath with Epsom salts
• Press into the cramping muscle and hold for 10 seconds, and repeat as needed
• Massage with 1 part wintergreen oil to 4 parts carrier(vegetable) oil
• Massage with basil oil
Drink two ounces of pickle juice or eat a pickle slice
• Pinch your upper lip
For hamstring – put your weight on the affected leg and bend the knee
For quadriceps – do a quad stretch
• For bottom of foot – flex foot so the toes point toward your nose
• For anywhere in lower leg or foot – lie down, straighten leg, and have someone give a firm slap to the bottom of your foot
(For an interesting discussion on the pickle juice tip, go to Runnersconnect. )
Most of these “cures” are based on one of three theories, the first being that the body is low on electrolytes, hence the pickle juice trick. The second being that the nervous system needs to be disrupted or reset, which would account for the pinch-the-lip and slap-the-foot tips. Finally, the idea that the muscle needs to re-establish blood flow, so massage and movement help. No matter what theory you hold, when a cramp hits, try whatever works best for your body. And remember, eat healthy and warm up to prevent them in the first place!