How to Get the Most Out of Your Healing Session

I recently had a chat with my friend’s husband. He said he doesn’t get massages because the relaxation doesn’t last. As soon as he returns to work, the stress is waiting to pounce.

Fair enough! I appreciate honest feedback and it gives me a chance to address an issue that is likely common, but generally unspoken.

First, I want to point out that the health benefits of massage and Reiki remain even after the peaceful feeling wears off. Just like all deposits to your bank account are important, even if that money flows out immediately, so do all deposits to your wellness account help.

I can get nerdy and talk about nervous system regulation, neurochemistry, oxytocin and healing touch. I’ll just say for now that every investment, big or small, towards your health counts.

Second, there are ways that you can plan your session to get the most out of it. Why not set yourself up for success as much as you possibly can? It’s an act of kindness toward yourself to protect the yummy, relaxed sensations that massage and Reiki are famous for.

Here are some ideas:

  • If possible, schedule your treatment on a day off or after work. Many of us practitioners have evening and weekend hours. Sure, there is no punching out for parents or caregivers, but do your best to choose a time when you’ll have minimal responsibilities.
  • Give yourself some time afterwards so you’re not rushing to your next appointment.
  • Leave your phone on silent mode when you leave.
  • Avoid the news, emails, and social media for as long as possible.
  • Tell your people in advance that you’ll be unavailable for a few hours except for emergencies. Define what an emergency actually is!
  • Have a meal prepared, or at least planned, so you’re not wandering the grocery store aisles or the GrubHub menu in a foggy, hungry state.

And if none of that is possible, know that the relaxed feeling is just the tip of the iceberg of the benefits of massage. The majority of the benefits are much more subtle. The reduction of stress chemicals in your bloodstream, the boost to parasympathetic resilience, the increased circulation of the lymphatic system and blood, enhanced assimilation of nutrients, detoxification… I’ll stop there or else we’ll be here all night.

Third, an interesting point is that when you get bodywork on a consistent basis, you’re training your body and mind to relax more easily and quickly. There’s a sort of knowing that happens on an unconscious level for the folks who visit me regularly, that when they step into my office, the magic is already happening. It’s like a Pavlovian response- seeing the massage table triggers the benefits before the actual session begins. Clients frequently comment on this. So much so that I’ve considered adding a “napping” service to my menu so people can take a break from the real world.

Finally, I’ll wrap this up by saying the wellness effects DO last and we can work together so that the tangible effects do too. It’s always wise to engage in stress management. Not to make it miraculously disappear, but because we deserve some support in a stressful world. No treatment is going to erase the stress from our lives, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy the moments of relief that are available to us.

If you’re ready to schedule a massage or Reiki session, I’m here to help!

Three Simple Ways to Manage Stress

Managing stress is my number one strategy for being happy, healthy, and creative. It’s my long-term plan for healthy aging and what keeps me sane in a chaotic world.

Let’s start with what I actually mean by “managing” stress. I’m not talking about avoiding it altogether. As if! While I do make targeted efforts to minimize external stressors (by saying no to voluntary tasks that don’t bring me joy and being mindful about the amount of sensory stimulation I expose myself to), it’s not possible to avoid it completely. Certain kinds of stress, such as some challenges and physical exercise are even beneficial.

I’m also not talking about tropical vacations or spa days. These may or may not be helpful in managing stress, but they are too few and far in between to be relied upon. If you experience stress on a daily basis, you need a tool in your back pocket ready to go at all times.

What I am talking about is working with the stress that occurs in your life to prevent the potential damaging effects on your body and psyche. It’s not so much the stress itself that’s the problem, but the way your body instinctively responds to it, specifically via the fight, flight, freeze, or fawn (or the 4 Fs) mechanism. When you get stuck in a perpetual state of hyperawareness and survival, you’ve got all the ingredients necessary for chronic pain, fatigue, tension, anxiety, depression, illness, and burnout.

Why? When your primitive brain perceives a threat, it responds by preparing to run away, attack, hide, or … (insert other survival strategy that would have made sense to a cave dweller, but is not so much helpful to a modern day person) to survive. It deliberately shunts life force energy to the extremities, the heart and lungs, and senses. Digestion, detoxification, cellular repair, elimination, fertility, sexuality, focus, clarity, creativity, and all systems that are not essential in a crisis go offline. It’s not a problem when this happens occasionally, but many of us live in this state of having nearly all our energy usurped for action that never actually occurs.

Learning how to activate your body’s natural antidote to the 4Fs will allow you to experience more ease, vitality, joy, and peace despite outer circumstances. You can learn to become the eye of the hurricane rather than reacting to every dumpster fire that those around you might be starting, fanning, or lamenting. (I’d enjoy having more company here in the eye of the hurricane! There’s plenty of room for you in here.)

Popular culture would have us believe that turning to alcohol, comfort foods or social media is such a remedy. This is a myth. While there’s nothing wrong with mashed potatoes, wine or Instagram, in general, these are tools for distracting ourselves and have absolutely zero impact (make that zero positive impact) on how your body metabolizes stress hormones. They might make you feel better for a quick minute, but the 4Fs remain unchanged.

Instead, I’m inviting you to try something different. Something somewhat radical. Something that will actually help you feel better, not just feel less.

  1. Notice. The first step is paying attention to your inner landscape, so that you can recognize when one of the 4Fs gets activated. This means slowing down, tuning in, and developing a relationship with yourself so that you can recognize when the survival urges kick in. I’ve yet to meet anyone who learned this growing up, so it will take a bit of practice. Believe me, having access to this early warning system is immensely beneficial.
  2. Breathe. Breathing into your belly and gently extending your exhales sends a signal to the nervous system that you are safe. Adding an audible sigh is even more potent. Unless you’re in a business meeting, that is! Getting fired is unlikely to help your stress level.
  3. Shake. This is what animals do in nature, but generally we humans are too self-conscious to allow this impulse to manifest. It might not be appropriate in the situation you find yourself in, but as soon as possible, make your way to a private space, such as the restroom, and shake it out. Start with jazz hands, turn it up, let that movement spread to your arms, into your shoulders, neck and head. Let it flow down into the hips, let your knees jiggle, and and maybe lift and lower your heels, letting them thump on the floor. Keep breathing and keep shaking as long as time allows or until you feel a shift in your body.

Once you’ve turned off the alarm bells, it’s much easier to move to the next stage: prevention. Now that you have a strategy in place for dealing with stress in urgent situations, I’d suggest a follow-up; creating a daily practice to build up your resilience, a preventative strategy to minimize the amount of time you need to recover from an activated 4F situation. There are lots of ways to do this, and the only “right” way is the one that works for you and is enjoyable enough to keep you coming back.

Massage, Reiki, meditation, mantra, yoga and nature are tools that give me tremendous benefit. You might already have some tools ready to go or a list of things in your head that you’ve heard about and would like to try. Once you get out of the chronic survival mode that 21st century living seems to inspire, you’ll have a much better chance of following through and implementing any plan you make.

If your plate is overflowing and you just want to lie back and receive some nourishment and healing, that’s exactly what I do for my clients. Reiki and gentle massage are both incredible remedies for chronic 4F activation. You could schedule a remote Reiki treatment from anywhere in the world or a Reiki-massage or in-person Reiki in Philadelphia if you’d like some support managing stress and moving beyond survival mode. Or get on the mailing list to be informed about upcoming classes and learn how to heal yourself with Reiki.

September Special: Set-it-and-Forget-it Reiki Package

A friend recently shared about the new skincare products she was considering to combat the stubborn outbreaks she’d be experiencing. When I expressed my belief that the likely culprit was intense stress due to a major life transition, her response could only be described as “dagger eyes”. 

Clearly she knew that she was stressed, teetering on overwhelm. The thought of taking action to manage said stress would only be yet another complication in her already complicated life. Simple tasks like meal planning and laundry were already emotionally draining. There was no more room on her to-do list; even for something that would be of great benefit. 

Photo by Mizuno K on

It seemed obvious to me that buying expensive creams would not solve the problem considering that the problem was not a shortage of expensive creams. Her nervous system was overloaded from chronic stress, and sending out a cry for help via her skin. Other folks might get messages from digestive issues, headaches or migraines, insomnia or other symptoms of imbalance. Given that treating stress is my forte, I developed a plan. 

Reiki is a brilliant strategy for just this sort of thing. Not only does it relieve stress, tension, and pain, but also saturates the body in healing life-force energy, bolstering whatever systems have become depleted. Even better, it can be performed remotely, eliminating the need to show up for any more appointments. Clients don’t need to even make time in their busy schedules. How cool is that?!

I came up with a plan to offer 30 minute bursts of Reiki on a weekly basis, to be done on my part during working hours, but to be delivered when she was retired for the evening. (Yes, Reiki delivery can be scheduled in advance, just like Grubhub!) I frequently use this strategy to maximize efficacy by setting up the session during a time of maximum receptivity, often after the client has gone to bed. 

I created an 8-pack special so she could have consistent treatment over two months. Reversing the effects chronic stress can take time, especially when it is ongoing. It’s like trying to get out of debt without curbing spending; challenging but not impossible. It’s a matter of making more deposits than withdrawals. In this case we’d be making weekly deposits into her life-force energy account. 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or burnt out and unable to see your way through, a remote Reiki treatment series might be just the thing. It’s like a subscribe-and-save deal for wellness. Contact me to see if your goals are a good match for this program. It’s the most affordable package I offer; 8 treatments for the price of 7. I provide a weekly reminder and an opportunity to amend the session’s intentions. If you can’t or don’t wish to respond, I carry on with the intention we discussed at the beginning of our arrangement. You sit back (or not!) and do nothing but soak up the energy. 

Set-it-and-Forget-it Reiki, a strategy for the chaotic modern world. Like many of the special treatments I offer, it was born of necessity. I see a need and a strategy to meet that need organically unfolds. Eight 30-minute remote Reiki sessions, designed to be delivered weekly at the time that suits you best without any effort on your part. $350 if purchased by the end of September 2022. 

Coping with Ongoing Pandemic Trauma

As I was trying and failing to concentrate this morning, I realized that I was trying, and again failing, to use my willpower to override an emerging antsy-ness. I recognized the warning signs of my sympathetic nervous system activating and the need to intervene if I wanted to focus.

I have a rich and rewarding spiritual practice that nourishes me daily. My toolbox is overflowing with tools (outlined below) that support me on my wellness journey. Yoda himself would be impressed with all the tricks up my sleeve!

Yet, even with all this support, stress seeps through. Naturally empathic, I’ve learned to ground and shield myself every morning and clear my auric field each evening. Still, the collective fear of death, suffering, and loss occasionally affects me. For those who aren’t actively engaged in mitigated the psychological and physiological consequences of these strange times, the impact is even stronger.

Here’s the kicker: stress dampens the immune system. Immune systems are perhaps our most valuable resource, particularly these days. I don’t think it’s possible to avoid stress, but we can manage it and work towards minimizing its effects. Why this is not being shouted from the rooftops is a mystery to me!

I chose one of my favorite strategies to get energy flowing. Movement. Any form that is pleasurable can help. I have a particular affinity for rebounding coupled with electronic swing music.  While I was dance-bouncing, this blog post began to emerge, a good sign that concentration and creativity were back online, and my efforts were being rewarded after just a few minutes.

A Reiki chaser really cemented in a delightful state of ease and calmness. Anyone can learn Reiki in a short amount of time and gain lifetime access to infinite healing energy. I have an upcoming online class starting in a few days for anyone who wants to begin a journey of transformation.

Star of Bethlehem, a Bach flower remedy for energetic trauma, was the icing on top. I’m thrilled to have learned over the past two years that it is effective for absorbed trauma as well as the real deal. Plant medicine, including essential oils and herbal teas are a popular go-to in my house for all sorts of ailments.

I was back to my usual self in under 30 minutes.

Here’s a peak at what else resides in my toolbox, including links when possible.

Astrology. Knowing what’s happening in the cosmos and how it affects the collective and personal energies is fantastically helpful information.

Lee Harris provides super-useful energy updates every month that share pointers from the energetic realm.  

Nature. Fresh air, trees, and running water are incredibly restorative and great medicine for me and my sanity. This tree-hugger needs to get her boots muddy at least once per week.

Meditation. There are countless forms of this ancient art and something for everybody. In particular, I’ve been enjoying Mindful Self-Compassion practices lately.

Pranayama. An ancient technology for activating body-mind-spirit health. I stumbled upon this gem in yoga classes, which have been a backbone of my wellness routine for almost 30 years.

Mantra. Deva Premal and Krishna Das are a few of my favorite sacred sound vibration purveyors. Simply listening creates a shift in my consciousness. Chanting along is like dynamite for stuck patterns.

Connection with like-minded, open-hearted folks. ‘Nuff said! Even if it’s virtual, the sense of being seen and understood is a tremendous balm.

Laughter. I laugh at myself quite a bit! Sometimes my thoughts are utterly ridiculous. At least I can have some fun while choosing to think differently. Type “funny animal videos” in your search bar if you need to lighten up.

Nutrition. Many, if not most, of those hospitalized with the dreaded virus have similar nutritional deficiencies. I’m aiming to have zero factors in common with these people by using high quality supplements. It’s good to have an expert in your corner, such as a naturopath. Sadly, the medical system is severely lacking in this department.

Understanding trauma’s impact. Peter Levine’s work is relatively accessible to the layperson.

Understanding how the mind works. Rick Hanson’s classes and books are very useful. Thanks to him, I am aware that the mind is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones. Knowing this encourages me to pay extra attention to all the good in my life in order to enhance its effect on my neurochemistry.

Access to inner wisdom and spiritual guidance. Robert Moss and Sonia Choquette each have multiple books and classes that are invaluable for tapping into unseen resources.

Awareness of the power of thoughts and intentions. Louise Hay and Lynn McTaggart. (Forgive me, I’ve run out of patience for adding links! You can easily find all these wonderful people on your own.)

Teachers who have deeply influenced me include Tosha Silver, Caroline Myss, Marianne Williamson, Chameli Ardagh, Sharon Blackie, and Layla Martin. They all have an online presence for easy access.

This is hardly a comprehensive list. I do need to finish my project that got waylaid by the need to counteract the stress response. I really hope something above resonates with you and that you find some ease and calmness in your life by choosing to take action. It’s going to be a long winter, and it doesn’t hurt to have some tricks up your sleeve!

Are You Thinking Too Much?

Answering for myself, yes! Lately I have been finding myself in frustrating and unproductive thought loops much more than I’d like. Today, a message from Dr. Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist and meditation teacher, turned up in my inbox. Just when I needed it!

If you could use a break from perpetual overthinking, you might enjoy his blog post, Rest Your Weary Head. It’s full of simple, yet powerful tips for breaking the cycle. And if you need the CliffsNotes, just extend your exhales. It’s the easiest way to calm the nervous system down. Long, slow, full exhales are fantastic hacks when you need to bring it down a few notches quickly.

If at all possible, though, I highly recommend checking out his blog. I find his work to be easily accessible (meaning you don’t need a PhD to follow it!) and immensely beneficial. I’ve you’re wanting a more thorough intervention, I very much enjoyed his book, Hardwiring Happiness. A daily meditation practice has contributed greatly to the sense of peace I experience most of the time. It also helps me notice when I’m thinking too much and motivates me to intervene so I can return to the peaceful place. For me, the rewards are definitely worth the investment!

Leave the Red Zone, by Dr. Rick Hanson

My inbox is quite the mixed bag today! There’s an astrology report announcing super-intense cosmic energies and a weather forecast predicting a major winter storm in my area. All this on top of so many people already struggling with cabin fever. Massive snow seems to bring out either the very best or the very worst in Philadelphians. Some people gladly shovel their neighbors’ sidewalks and others get aggressively proprietorial about parking spots. All in all, I’m expecting a very interesting next few days!

If you find yourself stressed out, overwhelmed, frazzled or irritable, you might enjoy this blog by Dr. Rick Hanson. He outlines some simple techniques for cultivating inner calm despite outer chaos. Stress has major physiological affects which can negatively affect one’s health over time. I can personally attest to the beneficial results of these methods. The more consistently I apply them, the happier I am.

Whatever the world is throwing at you, there’s help to be had for minimal investment of time and effort. Safe, easy, and free plus the side effects of improving focus, relationships, and overall wellness? It’s a no-brainer for sure!

Ask Rick: What Can I Do To Minimize Holiday Stress?

I found these tips from Dr. Rick Hanson’s newletter to be very doable, simple and quite effective. “Slow down, do less.” Good advice for most of us during the season of cold, long nights. I’ve copied it below in case anyone needs some gentle guidance.
In your body, keep engaging the balance to the sympathetic nervous system: the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Potential ways to do this include long exhalations, relaxing the tongue, warming the hands, and relaxing the body as a whole.

In your emotions, keep turning to the small positive experiences available during the holidays: for example, decorations are pretty, oranges smell good, it’s fun to go sledding, kids are cute, and it feels sweet to make others happy. Then take a dozen seconds or more to savor the positive experience so that it can transfer from short-term memory buffers to long-term emotional memory, and thus really sink into you.
Take care of your body, emotions, thoughts, and actions.
In your thoughts, beware “shoulds” and “musts.” The things we do during the holidays are only means to ends: goals such as happiness, love, sacredness, generosity, and fun. If the means get in the way of the ends – as they so often do at this time of year – it is time to lighten up about the means. Keep coming back to simplicity inside your own mind as an end in itself: the simple truth that in this moment, each moment, you are actually basically alright; the simple fullness of being in the present, not regretting the past or worrying about or planning the future.

In your actions, slow down and do less. Keep coming back to your breathing as you look for gifts, do dishes, wrap presents, or visit friends. Don’t let others rush you. Be kind; cut others slack; this time could be stressful for them, too.

One last thought would be the reflection that the practices of thought, word, and deed that lead to sanity during the holidays sound like a pretty good way to live year round!

Shelter at Home, Tip for Sanity: Move Your Body!

I’m finding that all the meditation in the world doesn’t touch the edgy feeling of adrenaline in my system. It’s impossible to connect with the outside world without having a stress response. While I’m over here having a mostly wonderful stay-cation, many people are suffering. I don’t wish to ignore that, and at the same time I recognize that empathetic suffering won’t help them; in fact it diminishes my capacity to support anyone.

Movement, particularly movement that elevates the heart rate, helps the body to process stress hormones. If you are safely able to get your blood pumping, I believe you’ll find it very helpful. My rebounder, this mini trampoline pictured below, is my saving grace these days. There’s not much a vigorous 30 minute bounce can’t cure.

Yes, I know the gyms are closed. Your preferred form of exercise may not currently be available. You may have a tragic relationship with exercise due to 4th grade gym class. I get it. You don’t actually have to enjoy it to benefit. But once you get started, I suspect you just might! Please note that I’m not talking about enduring pain or physical discomfort! That’s not at all what I mean. I am talking about perhaps stepping out of your comfort zone for the sake of your mental, emotional, and physical health during this crisis.

There are all kinds of activities available for free right now online. Vinyasa yoga and fitness classes are more readily available than ever. If you have stairs in your home, a dozen trips up and down should do the trick. My personal favorite is dancing. All you need is your go-to foot tapping music and a little bit of space.

Don’t overthink it. It doesn’t have to be perfect and no one is judging your moves or lack thereof. Just choose a safe and sensible activity and give it a try for 10 minutes. Notice how you feel. Check in with your body. Does it want more? Need a rest? Tone it down? Ramp it up? It will guide you if you listen. You have all the information you need within yourself.

Just like any other journey, take that first step and let your inner wisdom lead.

Relieving Upper Back, Neck, and Shoulder Pain

Probably the top complaint I hear from clients is that of chronic and intense discomfort in their upper backs, necks, and shoulders. You’re probably familiar with the nagging sensation, usually beyond reach, often between the shoulder blades. You know, that spot that occupies way too much of your attention and won’t go away no matter how you try to work it out.

The reason that pushing on the spot that hurts (with your own fingers, a friend’s elbow, or a massage tool) doesn’t resolve the pain is that the pain is often a symptom of imbalanced posture in the upper body. Treating the symptom might feel good and bring temporary relief (hey, there’s nothing wrong with that!) but until the root cause is addressed, it won’t be very effective. It’s rather like running around putting out fires rather than taking the matches away from the toddler.

In today’s society, many conditions can cause the head to drift forward of the body.

  • The near-constant rushing and stress that has become common in our culture, and the physiological tightening of muscles that results.
  • The time spent with arms forward of the body: typing, driving, sewing, drawing, holding and nursing babies, etc
  • The long hours spent looking at screens
  • The tendency to be mentally inhabiting the next moment and the next place rather than being present here and now
  • The desire to energetically protect one’s heart
  • Feeling unsafe and wishing to hide emotionally
  • Every other scenario that induces slouching or hunching

Ideally the ears should hover over the shoulders, allowing the vertebrae to support the weight of the head. When the head is chronically positioned forward of the torso, those tired and achy muscles of the upper back are working overtime to hold the head up. Muscles on the front of the neck and shoulders become shortened over time, and those on the back become overstretched.


This image comes courtesy of Erik Dalton, a world renowned bodyworker, educator, and creator of Myoskeletal Alignment Techniques. It shows the simple physics of how the weight of a 12 pound head increases to 42 pounds when it is held 3 inches forward. Those muscles are cramped and fatigued because they’re overworked and overextended! Pummeling and poking them is not the answer.

The remedy is in returning the head to a more neutral position. The work of the massage therapist is primarily in releasing the tight anterior neck, chest, and shoulder muscles. Some therapists would argue that working on the muscles of the upper back only make the problem worse! I personally believe that this is an extreme view, and that some soothing Swedish massage of the back can help by releasing trigger points and encouraging circulation. The most important step, however, is one of awareness and continuously correcting posture throughout the day.

I’ve helped clients to overcome this chronic problem that had plagued them for decades. Through a combination of managing posture and stress, targeted stretching on a daily basis, and receiving a maintenance massage once or twice each month, they’re able to experience freedom from near-debilitating pain. Once they stopped treating the symptom and began working with the cause, the results came quickly.

If you’re frustrated that your valiant efforts are not producing desired effects, consider that you might not be treating the source of the problem. Put down the fire extinguisher and gently but firmly remove the matches from the hands of the pyromaniac toddler.

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.