Get Crazy Excited (Like A Kid Before Christmas) About Something

I’m a Star Wars Geek. Nerd, if you will. Yeah, I’m well aware the terms “geek” and “nerd” have technically different meanings but I’m honestly not picky about being called one versus the other and respond to both. I love the Star Wars series. LOVE. I may not dress up or debate canon but trust me when I say the love is strong with this one. I’m seeing the new film in 6 5 hours (got distracted watching trailers and such again) and I seriously can’t focus on anything. Tick tock tick tock.

(Uh, Jenn? You have a hard time focusing on a good day.)

Right? So you can see how this would be particularly troublesome for me. Remember the movie Up and the dog who got distracted over and over by “SQUIRREL!”?

(Yeah, Jenn.)

I’m like that with “STAR WARS!”.

(You need help, Jenn.)

You bet I do! I need help getting to the theater on time to avoid the lines!

(We’re shaking our heads at you, Jenn.)

Shake all you want. I’m excited! And it feels so much fun! Giddy giddy GIDDY!

When was the last time you got so excited about something you were almost embarrassed about it so you tempered your public displays of happiness and enthusiasm? Like Christmas morning excited?

I feel like we lose that unbridled giddy as we get older sometimes. But it’s good to feel elation and delight. Anticipation. Good old gosh golly happiness and joy!

Get excited about things! Little things! Big things!

I get excited about picking up my kiddo from school. Coffee. Burgers. Fried Chicken. Sushi. Bacon. Movie popcorn. (Yeah, lots of food joy goin’ on in my world.) Snow days. Fuzzy socks. New episodes of Star Wars Rebels. Rewatching Star Wars movies. Rewatching The Clone Wars. Massage appointments. (Every. Single. One.) Coloring my hair. (Oh come on. Of course I color my hair.) Decorating the Christmas tree. Stringing Christmas lights outside. Christmas morning. My birthday. French fries. (Yeah, more food.) Painting a room a new color. Finally laying down to sleep at the end of a long day.

Lots of things. Doesn’t matter that it might be silly or everyday stuff. Some days the joy and excitement might vary, but it’s so much fun when these bitty bits of life make me smile. Excite me. Bring me happy.

Get excited about and look forward to something today. It feels so good!

Four point five hours and counting…

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DIY Marble Massage Foot Bath

Goodness it’s been a long day and my feets is wicked tired! So I’m sitting here, almost midnight, eating Twinkies (don’t judge), and watching Food Network’s Holiday Baking Championship.

But before I head to bed, I’m gonna treat my weary toes to a wee little treat: a marble massage foot bath.

It’s pretty simple, actually:

  • Find a plastic tub or such that your feet can fit into allowing a wee bit of movement. Don’t have one? I’ve been known to use a roasting pan…
  • Fill the bottom with marbles. (If you don’t have any, you can buy a tube of 320 marbles for $10 at Target.)
  • Fill with enough warm/hot water to cover your feet.
  • Sit in a comfy chair while you gently roll your feet over the marbles, pick up marbles with your toes, swish the water and marbles around, etc.

Now, marbles aren’t really quiet so if the noise is a bit too much, just throw a washcloth or hand towel in the bottom before you pour in the water and marbles. That will dull the sound a bit. Feel free to throw in some bath soap or mild essential oils if you know you don’t have a sensitivity. Me? I just like hot water in winter, cold/ice water in summer.

Now I just have to hide my collection of marbles from Kiddo who is suddenly enthralled…

Enjoy!

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Sometimes You Just Need a Nap (So, Nap!)

Many of you know that in addition to running my solo massage practice, I also teach at the Bancroft School of Massage Therapy. It’s a fun compliment to my practice. Scheduling isn’t too bad. I teach Wednesday nights until 10:15 pm and on Saturdays.

(Wait. Jenn? Did you say you teach until 10:15 pm? Like, at night?)

Yup, that’s right.

(Uh, haven’t you also told us that you’re a morning person? Like, you get up at 4:00 am seven days a week?)

Yup, also correct.

(You’re a nutcase, Jenn. We mean that in the kindest way possible, by the way.)

Ha! Yes, I’m a bit wacky. Did I also mention that I’m a mom and that children can be unpredictable and that today – which happens to be Wednesday – my kiddo woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed at 2:43 am? For. The. Day.

(O.M.G. How will you make through such a long day?!)

Yeah. It’s gonna be a tough one. But, here’s what I’m gonna do about it: I just scheduled in a nap for this afternoon.

That’s right: a NAP.

See, I know me. My spazzy brain has a hard time functioning after 9:00 pm on a good day. Plus? It’s only 8:27 am and I already have a raging headache.

Napping gets a bad rap in the US but research has shown that naps (20, 30, 40 minutes) can improve alertness, performance and mood without making you feel groggy or compromising sleep later. There are ways to improve the effectiveness of naps, too by keeping them short, not taking them too late in the day and avoiding taking naps in noisy areas. (You can read more about napping here at the National Sleep Foundation’s website.)

Now, while I take a nap sometimes to make my irregular schedule more manageable, napping to get through a more regular 9-5 day can also have benefits so one isn’t a completely weary mess at the end of the day. I personally like the idea of being alert and in a better mood when I might be spending time with my family after a long day. So even just putting my head down on my office desk for a short respite midday is refreshing. I think some view it as an irresponsible act, but I would actually argue that well planned naps that enhance one’s ability to fulfill responsibilities (versus replace them), are a smart, responsible option.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a nap scheduled. Nightie night!

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Preventative Care is Self-Care

Folks tend to schedule their massage sessions for when they already really, really hurt. (We’ll chat more about this real soon.) Similarly, folks tend to make doctors’ appointments once they are already ill or not feeling well. But preventative care can be huge in one’s self-care regimen.

What is “preventative care”?

Preventative care services are those health care visits/services you make with health care professionals to help ensure or maintain your health. Annual physicals, OB visits, vaccines and health screenings are some traditional examples of these services.

Why is it important?

If you only see your health care team when you are ill, they can’t get a complete or accurate picture of your health as a whole; they have no comparison to when you are “well”. It also makes it very difficult (or impossible) to identify as health problems do arise.

Is my yearly physical enough?

Actually, what kind of preventative or maintenance care one has can very quite a bit.  I’m a middle aged female with no chronic conditions that call for monitoring. I have also decided upon what is probably considered a more tradition/conventional course of health care so my plan typically consists of an annual physical with my general practitioner (with standard blood work, vaccines and mammograms as recommended), OB/GYN visit, annual vision check, dental cleanings and dental check-up. But folks with chronic conditions will have other considerations. For example, those with diabetes may include endocrinology, podiatry and additional vision  services every year as part of their recommended maintenance care.

But perhaps you also have mental health professionals as part of your regular health team. Or chiropractic services to keep you in tip top health. Acupuncture? Medication management? Naturopath? Dietitian? Other specialists? Give a good thorough look at who you consider as part of your individualized health care team.

Take a full inventory and schedule well in advance

If I don’t list out all the health visits I need to consider, I’ll lose track and forget to make the time. Or my practitioners will be booked up and not be able to make the time for me when I am available. So, year end is a great time for me to take care of this for the following year if I haven’t already. Sure it means I am scheduling it way in advance, but if I want this to be a priority, it works well for me to block these visits out before life can crowd them out of my schedule. Maybe I can even cluster them together to have the least impact on my busy schedule.

So go ahead and have that apple a day, and consider seeing your doc anyway!

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Easy Peasy Salt and Sugar Scrub for Hands and Feet

 

Long week? Yeah, me, too. Don’t get me wrong…it was fun and all. I had a week of awesome clients and a number of days teaching, too. I love doing both, but it still takes it’s toll on my hands and feet.

Both massaging and teaching have me on my feet for hours. Plus, I am a serial pedestrian so my feet literally take a beating as it is not uncommon for me to be walking 11,000+ steps on a typical day. (And some days that’s higher if kiddo and I are on a Pokemon Go adventure!)

And sure, my hands are in oils, creams and lotions much of the day but they are also washed in hot water and soap over and over. And over. And over. And when I’m not washing them, I’m throwing antibacterial gel on them. Or sitting out in the cold at the playground with Kiddo who has decided he much prefers my gloves to his own when the New England air has taken on a winter chill.

My weary feet. My chapped hands. What’s a girl to do?

Whip up a super duper quick, no measure, kitchen only ingredient exfoliant to revive my worse for wear distal extremities! (Also known as an easy peasy salt or sugar scrub.)

Here’s what you need:

  • salt or sugar (any kind so long as they are granulated, not super fine or powdered)
  • oil (olive or coconut are my favorite and always on hand)

Here’s the drill:

  1. Pour some salt or sugar in a bowl.
  2. Add some oil.
  3. Mix.
  4. Massage all over hands and/or feet for a few minutes.
  5. Gently wash off with warm water and gentle soap.

Voila! Soft and cozy hands and feet! And seriously simple. I never measure; I just throw some together at the spur of the moment when I feel like a tired hand/weary feet pick me up. Sometimes, I’ll throw some chopped up fresh lavender or rosemary from plants I have on hand if I’m feeling oh-so-fancy, but usually I just go with the plain and simple 2 ingredient combo.

How do you decide if you want sugar or salt? If you’ve never used a salt or sugar scrub, start with sugar as it is gentler. I learned the hard way that salt is highly irritating for me. (Picture, if you will, me screaming in the shower roughly 16 years ago as I try desperately to wash off a salt and oil scrub – Christmas gift from my now husband – off my burning skin. You’re welcome for the visual.)

Only other note? Try not to use a scrub like this more than twice a week as it can actually toughen the skin if used too much. But once a week or so is a super nice quick treat…for men and women alike! (Dry, weary skin knows no gender, my friends).

Off to the kitchen for some mini spa self-care!

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Let It Go And Move Forward

Today was supposed to be a different blog post. I wanted to talk about ways to get better sleep and how sleep is important to self-care.

But plans changed. A quick meet up turned into an evening with friends. I don’t regret it and, just like yesterday’s post suggested, I’m celebrating the fun times had.

Just like it’s important to celebrate what was accomplished in a day, sometimes one must actively move on from what wasn’t. So one isn’t weighed down by dwelling on what could have been. There’s a quote I’m quite fond of that I had hanging in my office for some time when I worked in Information Technology:

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

I so like the down to earth, practical nature this puts forth. As if it’s giving me permission to be human, to have not been perfect today.

That there is always tomorrow  to try again…

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Celebrate Today’s Victories (Whether Big or Small)

With holidays around the corner and To Do lists reaching epic ginormous insurmountable proportions, it can be hard at the end of the day to think about anything except all the things I didn’t get done. All the items that will be carried over to another day. The failures of today lingering as my day comes to a close.

But what if instead of focusing on all I didn’t do, all that I wasn’t, why not turn that around? Why not celebrate and pat myself on the back for all that I was, all that I did do?

So here goes. Here are my victories for today:

  • Rocked a comfy new dress.
  • Prepped some (awesome) gift bags for a local open house event.
  • Washed most of the dishes.
  • Surprised myself by finding clean clothes in the dryer. (Yay!)
  • Made my son a lunch he actually ate.
  • Remembered to attend a parent teacher conference.
  • Enjoyed an impromptu lunch date with my husband after said conference.
  • Displayed my son’s Elf on a Shelf before he got home from school. (Since I forgot last night and our Elf starts his visits on December 1st.)
  • Kept some snarky comments to myself. (Hear! Hear! Let’s celebrate the strength required for inner dialogue!)
  • Wrote this first of a series of 25 blogs posts that I decided (late) yesterday to embark upon.
  • Kept my son alive and well.

Any of these earth shattering? Not really. One could argue that many of these are very typical, run of the mill things that I should be able to accomplish on any given day. Especially that last one. (But those of you who have witnessed my oh so active child on the climbing wall at the playground after school know that my ability to keep him alive any day is cause for celebration.)

So since so many of these are basic life things, are they really worth celebrating? Really worth patting myself on the back for?

Heck. Yes.

Some days are harder than others. Some days are easier. Some days, if my biggest accomplishment was that I was able to get out of bed before noon and function then so be it. That’s cause for celebration. Kudos to me!

What did you do today? What did you accomplish? Did you make one kick ass cup o’joe? Make someone smile? Show up to an appointment on time? Remember to take out the trash?

Let’s put off beating ourselves up for what we didn’t get to, what we weren’t for one day.

Pat yourself on the back, yo! Kudos to you for all you did today!

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Do I need to get naked for my massage session?

 

Short answer

Nope. Absolutely not.

Long answer

(You knew there was going to be a long answer.) For a while now, I’ve found many massage therapists and bodyworkers saying, “Undress to your level of comfort.” Even I had fallen into using this phrase, but have come to think it’s way too vague. People new to massage have no idea what that means. Heck, I’ve been receiving bodywork for 20 years and I’m not even sure what that means. (My “level of comfort” as far as clothing goes typically involves a fluffy polar fleece sweatshirt and baggy, softer than soft sweatpants.)

That being said, here’s some info that may help you decide what you want to wear (or not) during a session:

First, no matter what, you’ll always be covered (draped) with a sheet and a blanket. You’ll never be left feeling exposed or chilly. I will only undrape areas I am working on, respecting and protecting your privacy at all times. When I work on an arm, I fold the sheet back and tuck it under your arm so it’s secure. (Drafts are bad, yo.) I follow the same protocol for each leg.

Decided you’d like abdominal massage work today? (Yes, this is a thing and it’s wonderful.) For women, I use a soft cloth to cover your breasts and tuck it around you like a wide bandeau top so that your abdomen is exposed, but again, your privacy is still respected and protected. Don’t want to expose your belly for abdominal work? Not an issue. I can work over the draping.

When I work on the full back, I fold the drape down at the hips. If you’re wearing underwear, I may gently tuck the sheet around the waistband, to protect your clothes from massage oil. If you’re wearing a bra, I’ll work around it. If you’re wearing a tank top or shorts or long johns, I’ll work through it. Socks? I’ll work through those, too. I know plenty of very effective massage techniques that can be administered over clothing. Those of you who have seen or met me at sporting events or other public onsite massage gigs already know this.

If for whatever reason I feel I can’t effectively treat your issue through the clothing you’ve chosen to wear, I’ll tell you, and we’ll figure out another approach.

‘Bout the only garment I would ask you remove? Your shoes. Especially if the weather outside has made them muddy or wet.  This might seem obvious to some, but it may not to others. Honestly, though? I’ve had folks leave those on, too. I might just have you hang your feet off the edge of the table to protect my equipment or I’ll put an extra towel/blanket underneath.

And jewelry/fitness trackers/other accessories? Either way. If I will be working an area extensively like the neck or hand/forearm, you may want to take off any necklaces or bracelets because I don’t want to risk damaging your valuables with massage oil or by accidentally pulling on them. I also don’t want to risk hurting you if I accidentally press or pull the item into you. I understand that some pieces (wedding bands, lockets, gauges, etc.) may be difficult to remove or have strong sentimental value where you prefer not to remove them. Again, I can work around.

One more really important thing

Please know that regardless of your level of dress on the massage table, I don’t care and I’m not judging you. This massage is about you and it’s important you feel comfortable. For some people that means leaving some clothing on. For others, it means taking it all off. Your preferences may vary from session to session as well. There is no right or wrong as it’s your massage session.

Posted in Frequently Asked Questions, Let's Talk Massage | 5 Comments

Honoring Space (In Its Many Forms)

(Pardon the references to the Christmas holiday. I started to draft this in December, forgot about it and just decided to pick up where I left off. Enjoy!)

One of the best things about getting massage is discovering or noticing something new with each session and my session yesterday did not disappoint. I had planned for my massage to be as the winter holiday season was winding down on purpose. (For some, it is over, but my family won’t see what Santa left under our tree for our 7 year old until Tuesday the 29th. At roughly midnight. Because, as parents, we should excel at planning. But don’t. It is what it is.) The hustle and bustle and some unexpected bumps along the way made my decision for a day after Christmas massage a no-brainer.

And what new and wondrous things did I notice this time around? It wasn’t so much an actual thing as it was the lack of a thing…the emptiness, the solitude, the space.

Brain Space

It can be really hard to calm one’s mind any time of year, but especially at holiday time. I had a really hard time settling into a calm state yesterday. Even as I was settling into the warm coziness of the table, I discovered my heart was racing. There was still so much to do! So much to think about! To plan! (Even though it was the day after Christmas. Ugh.)

But on the massage table? No. Nothing was going to get done there. (Well…not nothing. In a way, everything was going to get done.)

My brain had been full for weeks and that was exactly why my To Do List was still a mile long. Just like when one’s belly is so full after a ginormous meal, it can be hard to function and plow forward if one’s brain has been a glutton. I needed some light and air to make its way in and free up all that grey and white matter tangle.

Making that space can be hard and different techniques work for different folks. When I schedule a relaxation massage (versus a regional or injury rehab type of session), I try to really just let go. The best way for me to describe it is analogous to when you are looking at a visually crowded picture and you allow your vision to get all blurry and unfocused. That’s what I allow my thoughts to do until there is nothing individually recognizable in and of itself. Thought mush. Then space fills in the full. I’m able to hear the music. Feel the soft. Experience the warm. Let my limbs go. Put my nervous system on calm.

And this mental massage drunk doesn’t make me useless. Far from. I’ll awake clear headed and (usually) able to think in an organized way without overwhelm. Mental breaks of all different kinds have shown over and over again to improve mental clarity and productivity/efficiency.  (Little bits on that here and here and here.)

But before I dive right into Task Master Extraordinaire, I enjoy the yummy feeling of my new found brain space.

Anatomical Space

Between the comforting pressure of muscle softening and melting, sometimes a massage therapist will provide some controlled, slow pulling of my neck, my arm, my legs. Traction. Such a harsh sounding word for what can be such a lovely sensation. After weeks of feeling tight and compacted from stress and days of raw, damp cold, I felt shorter and kinked up.

But man you add some traction after the muscles and nervous system have been given permission to be all lackadaisical and smooshy? Ahhhh…

Done correctly and with care – not rushed, not sudden – traction can open up just the teeniest tiniest bits of space in the wrists, knuckles, shoulder, elbow, hip, all along the vertebrae, ankles and even toes.

And the result? I feel longer. Taller. Even more graceful as the joints don’t feel sticky and sluggish anymore. (Well…as graceful as I am capable of feeling. I’ll take what I can get.) No, inches weren’t added, but sometimes all that’s needed is a micron here and there of anatomical space back where it got crowded out.

Personal Space (My personal fave…)

Sometimes this concept of space begins way before you even touch the table. Arriving at a massage appointment, we can be so anxious to throw off our clothes with such speed and hit the table as soon as we can that sometimes we risk personal injury. (You think I am kidding, but I can hear you whisper yell “OW!” when you stub your toes on the table leg.)

Some of y’all are SO eager, you start undressing even before I leave the room. Whoa there, Nelly. Go ahead and take your shoes off if you like. (I usually take that as the hint to hurry along so the session can start.) But some of you have barely left the waiting room and sleeves are coming off. Maybe I find this so odd because as the mom of a young child, I find being able to dress and undress completely alone positively glorious. (Seriously.) We are so rushed to feel the touch that we forget to feel the space.

But I noticed it yesterday for my massage the second the therapist left the room, closed the door behind her and I was alone. I love visiting with family and going to holiday gatherings and feeling the warmth and bustle of those I love around me.

But I also love their absence.

The space of just me and the emptiness that surrounds me. The me and just me. I absolutely love being embraced with space sometimes. And I can tell that some of you appreciate this quiet alone moment as well. (And that these cherished moments of solitude may be few and far between…)

Sure, there are also those folks that don’t need their personal space to be empty. “You can stay in here while I get changed…I’ll just be a minute.” That’s all well and good for you and I can appreciate your comfort level, but can I tell you something? You may not need the space, but I do. Yup, the therapist. I need some space and boundary before (and after) our session. Don’t worry, provided you arrived in a timely fashion, my leaving the room for you to change won’t affect the time of your session. But I need to do that to respect your privacy/personal space and mine.

All Three Work Together

It’s wonderful when all three of these come together to allow the other in or encourage the appreciation. Personal space opening the door for brain space. Brain space permitting anatomical space to be found. And back ’round to personal space to enjoy them all before the world creeps in again.

And it will.

But first, take the time to feel that space, that positive and personal impact of empty.

That space is yours alone and helps make you, you.

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Happy Single-Tasking Day!

Oh my gosh! It’s that time of year! Can you feel it? The buzz? The excitement? I’m so giddy!

(Uh. It’s February 21st. What’s that?)

Oh my gosh! You mean you don’t know?

(No.)

It’s Single-Tasking Day!

(This is a thing?)

It is a thing! I found it on the web, so it’s a thing! It appears that folks can’t really agree on whether it’s the 19th or the 21st or the 22nd, but it’s a thing. They are probably so mixed up on when it is because we are all so busy multi-tasking all the time.

Multi-tasking. It has its place for sure. But I’m not sure it’s all that good for us or our productivity. Turns out I’m not the only one that thinks that. Did you know that only about 2% of the population are truly gifted multi-taskers, meaning their brain productivity doesn’t actually decrease on an activity when they attend to more than one task? WOW. That statement right there really did honest to goodness surprise me. Especially when you consider how many of us try to accomplish a million things all at once all the time.

(Hmmm…if Marvel or DC Comics created a Got-It-All-Done Girl or Batch-Tasking Boy, I wonder what their outfit would look like…)

Yo. I lost you. Focus.

I get caught up in it, too. Right now, I am trying to write this post, direct my 8 year old on the downfalls of Kit Kats for breakfast, listen to a podcast, massage my achy foot with a tennis ball and plan my meals for the day week. Oh, and where did my coffee go? How can I get the laundry to levitate out of the washer to switch it to the dryer? Did I pay that bill yesterday? I’ll just bop over to another app to take care of that. Oh look! Facebook!

WHOA. What happened? I catch myself deviating from my best laid plans of following my carefully crafted To Do List and sometimes I need to go all Vanilla Ice and say to myself, “All right stop, collaborate and listen…

(Seriously, Jenn? You do this?)

I have been known to. If you’re gonna pull yourself together and get your proverbial ducks in a row, it may as well be to a beat.

(We’re all gonna be singing Ice, Ice Baby now. All. Damn. Day.)

I fail to see why this is a problem.

As I was saying, multi-tasking has become a way of life. It seems such a shame to need a day dedicated to single-tasking, but I get it. Lately, I have been trying to take small steps to get back to meaningful single-tasking every day, such as:

  • Trying to be more realistic about how much I can reasonably accomplish in a given, dedicated time frame.
  • Saying “no” more. I can’t do it all and I’m getting comfortable with that. Even Wonder Woman can’t text and fly her invisible jet at the same time.
  • Putting my phone in another room when I really need to focus on people or a task at hand.
  • Setting aside specific times during the day when I check and answer emails and messages.
  • Sticking to my list. If I remember something new needs to be done, it has to go to tomorrow or something on today’s list needs to come off.

These little things will hopefully allow me to be more focused on tasks at hand. Bonus? If I focus on a task, I tend to enjoy it more. Okay, maybe not folding laundry. That requires multi-tasking with podcasts or dancing to get done at all. But things like a good workout or even lesson planning for my classes is more fun if I can just do that. Multi-tasking is still a large part of my day, but I’m of the mindset that every little bit counts.

Now, It’s also National Sticky Bun Day*, so first things first: I’m off to focus all my energy on acquiring some cinnamon roll goodness.

Then I’m off to conquer the world. One single step at a time…

*You still think I joke about food holidays? You don’t know me very well.

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