Preventing Burnout

I’m noticing a lot of educators feeling burned out as the school year draws to a close. While they face different challenges than I do, the route to wellness follows the same general direction. Keeping one’s energy up requires a multi-pronged approach: refill positive energy, plug energy leaks, and release negative energy. I put together a list of easy strategies that you might find helpful.

Doing these practices throughout the year will help build up your life force energy, and therefore overall health and happiness. Doing them during a time of acute stress can protect mental, emotional, and physical well-being. As a proponent of alternative and complementary therapies, I’ve explored holistic techniques for protecting my health over the past two decades and strive to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to stress management.

pexels-photo.jpg

  • Get out into nature (trees and running water are ideal, but an urban park is a good substitute if that’s what’s available to you) and put your bare feet on the earth. Google “grounding” or “earthing” if interested in the reasoning.
  • Soak in epsom salt baths with pure lavender essential oil.
  • Consistently eat quality protein. Humanely raised grass fed beef or pasture raised chicken and eggs. Humus. Organic nuts. Yes, it’s expensive; you are worth it.
  • Reduce intake of refined sugar. Seriously- this is so helpful! Paleo desserts are pretty yummy and satisfy my sweet tooth without crashing my blood sugar or triggering inflammation like traditional desserts do.
  • Unplug. As much as possible, take a break from all electronics- especially 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Practice pranayama/ breath exercise. Inhale for a count of 4. Hold breath in for a count of 4. Exhale for a count of 8. Trick your brain into thinking you’re relaxed.
  • When spending a marathon day doing desk work, take dance breaks.  A friend who recently survived a PhD acquisition turned me onto the Pomodoro technique, a time management method which breaks work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. During the break intervals, I like to get up and move my body.
  • Get Reiki and/or massage 🙂 from someone who is not burned out! Allow a professional to help you recharge your batteries.

What techniques do you use to help manage intense stress and prevent burnout? I’m always interested in learning new tricks!

Getting the Most out of My Massage

Today it’s my turn to get on the table and receive a nurturing, nourishing massage. Yay!!! I’m so enamored with the benefits of gentle, healing touch that I aim to get at least two every month. Massage is a huge part of my mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health care plan. It’s my goal to use holistic, alternative, and complementary medicine to cultivate the optimal health available to me.

treatment-finger-keep-hand-161477.jpeg

In order to get the most out of my session, I want to arrive in the most relaxed state that I possibly can. That way I can sink even deeper into my treatment, reaping the most rewards available to me, and experiencing the greatest peace and relaxation. Some days, the most relaxed state that I’m able to conjure up is, well, loosely described as a hot mess. And that’s just perfect. If I’m upset or agitated, there’s no greater cure than healing touch. I leave feeling like I’ve been restored to my essential, loving self.

However, when grace allows and I begin my treatment from the maximum state of relaxation I can achieve on my own, the therapist helps me arrive at a whole new level. So I take the time to meditate and clear my mind. While this is obviously not necessary and most people enjoy a massage without preparing for it with meditation, I’ve noticed that when I don’t, I spend the first 20-30 minutes just settling into my session. When I’ve meditated beforehand, I settle almost instantly, allowing myself to sink deeper quicker. For the same reason, I like to do some gentle yoga in preparation as well.

Over the years, I’ve come to recognize that late morning seems to be a really good time for me. I’ve eaten a hearty breakfast earlier and it’s mostly digested by then but keeps my blood sugar stable; I’ve hydrated quite well and don’t need to worry about a full bladder disrupting my treatment. I like to dry brush, so that I’m more able to absorb all the healing qualities of the natural oil being slathered on my skin.

Because I’m aware of the value of treating the muscles of the face, scalp, and upper neck that attach to the skull, I prioritize these benefits over my appearance. I don’t mind walking home with massage hair, and I imagine what people notice most about me is my calm presence and radiant glow. On the rare occasion that I have somewhere fancy to go, I let my therapist know to avoid my head and I protect my locks by tying them up out of the way.

Naturally I don’t want to feel rushed and I want to receive every minute of massage bliss, so I allow plenty of time for getting there calmly. It’s a beautiful day outside, and I’m blessed to have a gifted therapist within walking distance of my home, so I make time for a leisurely stroll there and back. Hurrying to or from a massage is a great way to eradicate most of the benefits by triggering stress hormones. No thank you! I make space in case I encounter every single red light, a long lost friend who wants to say hello, or an adorable puppy.

Perhaps the most essential strategy for getting the most out of my holistic health care via massage is to communicate my desires and needs clearly at the beginning of my session. I tell my therapist two or three things I’d like to focus on, as well as anything I’d like to avoid. Because I’m healing a torn meniscus in my knee, range of motion or stretching makes me nervous, which is the exact opposite of relaxation, and to be avoided for now. I have some tension in my neck that needs some therapy, so I mention that as well.

Now my work is done. I get to lie back, relax, and receive. I enjoy the greatest rewards when I turn off my thinking and let the therapist do the job for which s/he has been highly trained. Micromanaging is a sure way to interrupt the flow and interfere with my ability to release stress. Assuming that I know the best course of action discounts the therapist’s skill, experience, and intuition. Generally, I have a blind spot when it comes to my own tension patterns as I can’t see the bigger picture. Unless something is painful, or I’m uncomfortable in any way, I get the most out of my massage by allowing myself to receive the gift that is being offered to me.

Over the past 15 years, I’ve probably been the recipient of over 400 session! I’ve only had a handful of what I would call “bad” massages, several mediocre massages, and loads of really wonderful massages. As I’ve been perfecting my receiving technique, I’ve noticed that much of the responsibility for experiencing a great massage is mine. Practicing the above strategies makes a huge difference for me, and I hope it will for you too.

 

Simple Headache and Computer Posture Antidote

Today my Reiki students helped me name this extremely useful position. Beach pose! It’s a powerful complimentary and alternative medicine and holistic therapy remedy for a wide variety of common complaints that arise from less than ideal posture.

ltere frau entspannt zuhause auf dem sofa
Beach pose

It’s my number one recommendation for people who suffer from headaches or neck pain, work at a computer all day, or do massage or any other activity with the arms forward (pretty much everything, right?!). When there’s only time for one hand position for applying Reiki, this is a good choice. If you have just 3-5 minutes, put yourself in this position, and invite the healing energy to flow. The results are instantaneous and potent.

There are benefits available to those who haven’t been trained in the magical powers of energy healing. This pose is a slight, gentle backbend; a counterpose to computer slump. It reverses the forward hunching, chin jutting position many of us find ourselves in when sitting at a desk behind a keyboard. It opens the chest and throat, encouraging respiration and circulation, and lengthens contracted muscles in the chest and neck.

But that’s not all! It puts the upper trapezius into slack, counteracting its habitual overstretched position and offering an invitation for this poor, overworked, unbelievably tight muscle to reset. Taking the strain off of a muscle that has been locked in an overstretched position not only relieves pain, but stimulates a physiological healing response. This technique is called positional release; it is super gentle and incredibly potent. Just like Reiki!

Wait, there’s more! Placing the body in this relaxed, confident posture sends a signal to the brain that all is well. Clearly we are safe and secure if we are willing to expose our vulnerable belly and throat. Add a few deep breaths, and now we’re triggering the relaxation response, feel good brain chemistry, and decreased blood pressure. All from lounging in a chair, wherever we may be, in the middle of the day! Just a few minutes can initiate a cascading effect of relaxation, which promotes productivity, focus, and pain relief. And the only side effect is a better mood. 🙂

The modification for someone with a shoulder injury that prevents the hands from going behind the head would be the Scarlet O’Hara pose, with the back of the wrist to the forehead. Switching sides after two minutes allows for equal shoulder release. If that’s too much for the shoulders, simply broadening the collarbones and looking up ever so slightly can do the job.

I call this strategy “stacking practices”. Accomplishing multiple goals with one action is the opposite of multi-tasking. Beach pose can positively affect the nervous, glandular, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, energetic, and emotional systems simultaneously. It fits in with my model of working smarter, not harder and addressing the root issue rather than attacking the symptoms. Give it a try, and let me know what you think!

 

Holiday Madness

Here we go again! Thanksgiving is still over a week away and already I’m seeing Christmas decorations in some local stores. This season can be overwhelming and super-stressful for so many of us. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the busy-ness of holiday traditions and seemingly endless to-do lists. It’s no coincidence that it’s also a season of colds and flus as we run ourselves ragged.

I encourage people to evaluate their intentions before overcommitting. Learning to say “no” is often one of the healthiest and empowering actions we can take when an activity is not aligned with our goals. Allowing time for rest and restoration is important all year long, but invaluable in the colder months of long, , dark nights. Choosing to stay home and recalibrate rather than overeating, overdrinking, overgiving, or overspending can be so supportive of health and well-being.

For those who are determined to push through and do it all, I highly recommend scheduling some healing support. Why wait till things go wrong, till the immune system crashes, the headaches descend or the low back gives out? Prepare yourself and prevent the aftermath of overdoing by making time for a massage, Reiki or acupuncture treatment, a trip to the chiropractor or hot baths, extra yoga or dance classes, or whatever you favorite mode of relaxation may be.

Make it a priority now and get it on the calendar! Save yourself the misery of getting sick or injured or suffering from stress and tension. Having two jobs, my own business, plans to travel to the Michigan tundra for a family Thanksgiving, an upcoming move to a different home, and all the other ordinary everyday stuff I’m loading up on self-care practices; including eliminating all inflammatory thoughts and foods, boosting my immune system with plant medicine, and receiving treatments from my awesome team of holistic health providers. Seriously, I don’t mess around!

If you’re wondering if a session with me would be helpful, let’s schedule a complimentary 15 minute phone consultation. Even if you’re not in the Philadelphia area, long-distance Reiki is an excellent option to stress relief, recharging batteries, and keeping life-force energy flowing and balanced. If we’re neighbors, let’s get you on the table for a therapeutic massage or Reiki treatment! Check out my website for details or contact me to schedule.

Reiki and Sugar Addiction

Note: in this post, I’m referring to refined sugar; products of the sugar cane plant, as well as all its nefarious aliases and chemical substitutes. According to UCSF there are 61 names for sugar! No doubt this list will continue to expand as consumers get savvier and manufacturers get trickier. I’m not interested in the naturally occurring sugars found in whole foods which will be included as grams of sugar on a product label; I am strictly interested in the list of ingredients for this article.

I’m participating in a panel discussion through Weavers Way Coop in Mount Airy, Philadelphia on the topic of sugar addiction. Event details here. I will be sharing the stage with a nutritionist and a life coach, both of whom will provide valuable information. As a Reiki practitioner and massage therapist, I’m not qualified to discuss the effects of sugar on the body. As a recovering sugar addict and facilitator of body-mind-spirit healing, I do however bring a great deal of experience and awareness of the emotional component of changing one’s diet.

I think at this point we all know that sugar is not healthy for us. No one wakes up in the morning thinking, “I’m going to eat healthfully today, where are the donuts?” In fact many of us have a plan in place to avoid sugar, pack well balanced snacks and lunches, and nonetheless end up succumbing to the sweet temptress despite our best efforts. If you’re one of those rare people who can take or leave sugar, more power to you! Perhaps you can sign up for medical testing to see what secrets your body knows that could benefit the rest of us.

This is the piece of the puzzle that captivates me:  why do so many of us fail when we try so hard to avoid harmful sweets? Yes, sugar has indeed been shown to be addictive; some claim it’s more addictive than cocaine. It’s certainly more readily available; in certain environments it’s downright difficult to avoid. Most every gathering I’ve ever been to was centered around some variation of cake. Ack! I will leave the proof of the addictive nature of sugar to the nutritionists and scientists. If you’re doubtful, check out the movie, That Sugar Film. It’s morbidly fascinating and deeply disturbing. But better to know the monster that lurks in your cupboards than to allow it to control your behavior from the shadows. Right? 

In addition to the biochemical nature of addiction, I notice that many of us (myself included) are compelled to eat sugar for emotional reasons. It can be a balm for a broken heart, a celebration, a distraction from upset, and an attempt to soothe stress. Name an emotion, and I’m pretty sure I’ve used dessert to commemorate, numb, or avoid it. The problem lies in the fact that these strategies are hugely unsuccessful! Sugar does not alleviate stress; if it did, Americans would be the most relaxed people on the planet. When we stress eat,  the result is a stimulating chemical reaction in our bodies and quite possibly guilt or shame in addition to the original stress.

From my point of view as a holistic practitioner, the path to breaking the sugar cycle involves emotional healing and being prepared for the inevitable cravings. This is where the healing power of Reiki comes in. Reiki can support us in becoming aware of our feelings, allowing them to surface, and processing them in a healthy way. It can help open intuitive pathways that guide us on the journey and connect us to the wisdom deep within. And perhaps most importantly, it can provide comfort and support in the moments we become triggered and would normally turn to a cupcake or ice cream, or my personal favorite, chocolate chip cookies, for solace.

While the process of examining, handling, and releasing emotional discord can be messy, takes time and effort, and is by no means the popular route; it has the potential for deactivating the landmines that send us running to the pseudo-comforting arms of sugar. It is certainly more effective than white-knuckling it through every party you ever attend, or relying on will power and the knowledge of the damaging effects that sugar has on your health. If you’re interested in a free 15 minute consultation or booking a Reiki session, either remotely or in person to kick that pesky sugar habit, I’d love to hear from you. Check out my website for more information about the services I offer or to contact me.

Bodywork for that pain in the behind

I’ve been working with several clients lately who are suffering from hip pain. Interestingly enough, I myself have been experiencing the same discomfort! It seems I learn a lot about my own healing by helping others. Just to be perfectly clear, Dear Universe, I am totally open to learning under more joyful and comfortable circumstances henceforth!

While my practice is soundly rooted in supporting body-mind-spirit balance, I’m focusing simply on the physical approach for this post. Delving into thoughts and beliefs about security, support, and prosperity as well as a sense of connection to the divine do indeed factor into releasing pain in the hips. So does exploring inflammation, biochemistry and diet. But that is a story for another day…

In myself and the clients presenting with hip pain, I notice an imbalance in all the muscle groups that attach to the pelvis. It’s common for hip pain to manifest in the sacro-illiac joint, which is where the spine unites with the pelvis. Sometimes it gets labelled as low back or glut pain. I believe it is the source of the expression “pain in the behind”. It can be accompanied by shooting or throbbing pain or tingling down the leg. And it can range from mildly unpleasant to downright debilitating. I’ve had many a sleepless night due to this issue lately.

So say someone has pain in the left hip. It’s easy to concentrate on the back of the body on the left side. Clearly there is tension in that area (including hamstrings, gluts, and lateral rotators) that needs to be addressed. But looking at the big picture draws me to the right S-I joint. After all we have only one sacrum and one pelvis; any imbalance affects the whole structure. Often I find the piriformis (a muscle that attaches to the sacrum and tends to be a troublemaker!) on the opposite side to be more tense than on the problematic side! Clients are invariable surprised to realize this; but I’ve come to expect it.

Let’s not forget the hip flexors. (Side note: I have no idea why, but there seems to be a good deal of confusion as to where the flexors lie. They’re on the front side of the hip and include the quadriceps as well as that other troublemaker, the psoas.) Once again the client is startled to feel stiffness, achiness, or downright pain once they’ve turned over and I’m working on the anterior side of pelvis.

It’s impossible for me to say with any degree of certainty where the trouble begins. I can’t discern which of the muscles are compensated for or trying to prevent pain. What I absolutely can testify to wholeheartedly is that the whole lot is in cahoots. It’s impossible to effectively address pain in the posterior left hip without exploring the right side as well and both sides of the anterior pelvis. I explain to my clients that my goal is to get all the muscles communicating and operating peacefully rather than playing a tug of war. From there we can begin to suggest and foster harmony and teamwork in the muscular-skeletal system.

As a holistic practitioner, this seems like common sense to me. We are not working with  two thighs, two hips, and a pelvis.  We are working with one body that is seeking balance any way it can. To support that process, it’s super important to recognize all the players and get them on the same page. While my practice exists mainly in the Philadelphia area, I’m happy to provide coaching for those who reside elsewhere. Visit my website to contact me for details. Life is too short to suffer from a pain in the behind!

Radical Self-Care, Get to Class

Already I’m feeling the benefits of enhancing my self-care practices. Taking on a part-time job to enable me to pursue my dream of operating a Reiki practice has turned up the pressure, making it necessary for me to optimize my wellness routine. After exploring the rewards of doing less  and of  daily meditation, today I am renewing my devotion to yoga classes.

I’ve fallen out of the habit of attending classes regularly after moving to a new neighborhood. Traveling to my favorite classes has suddenly become incredibly inconvenient and I adjusted by finding some great videos online and stepping up my home practice. Yet I have been missing the magic that happens when practicing with others, the individual attention of an experienced teacher, and the personal growth that is possible in a class environment.

Yesterday I tried a class at a studio near my home that sounded just right for my particular needs: convenience, hands-on adjustments, knowledgeable instructor, and good timing. I was so delighted by the results that I have decided to block that time off on a weekly basis to continue my exploration. This commitment seems to be the most important part of self-care; intention without action is meaningless. So I’m devoted to getting there every Thursday, and if for any reason I’m unavailable at that time, I’ll choose another class as a substitute.

If you happen to live in the Philly area, I’m delighted to wholeheartedly recommend Alex at Magu Yoga in Mount Airy. She’s a true yogini and a wonderful teacher. If you’re not in the Philly area, I encourage you to do some research and find a class that is both convenient and inspiring. Without those two elements, it’s easy to flake. The rewards of attending a class regularly are priceless and the feeling of bliss after each yoga experience is a tremendous motivator to keep coming back.