Wellness Wednesday

How Often Should You Get a Massage?

I get asked a lot by new clients how frequently they should get a massage, often in relation to whatever specific issues they hope to address in our sessions.

A lot of massage therapists will probably tell you once every couple of weeks, or once a month. My answer is usually this: There are some situations where you need to have a sequence of treatments in a short period of time; an injury or condition is affecting your daily quality of life, and two or three sessions in a week, or a session once a week for two or three or four weeks would be the most beneficial, until the condition is more manageable.

Otherwise, if you’re seeking massage for ongoing maintenance and general wellness, I don’t think the specific frequency matters so much, but instead, the fact that you do get a massage at a regular frequency, whatever that means for you. I have clients I see once a week, twice a month, once a month, and once every two months. These clients typically schedule their next session at the conclusion of their current one. I think that’s optimal, provided it works for your schedule and budget. It’s said that planning your vacation in advance and being able to look forward to it is just as important as the time you’re actually on vacation. I think similar works for regular massage sessions (or any other kind of self-care, for that matter.) Seeing it on your calendar and knowing it’s in your future is part of the experience.

Are there benefits to getting massage more often? Absolutely. When you get a massage once a week, or once every two weeks, for example, you feel less the need to address everything in every session. We can address the upper body only, or even just the neck and shoulders, if that’s where your tension is in one session, and focus on the lower body the next. But the more important thing is that you’re scheduling regular sessions for whenever works best for you.

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

The Stories We Ourselves

I am fascinated by the stories we all tell about ourselves - to ourselves, and to others - and how those stories shape our daily lives. Kurt Vonnegut famously said in one of his novels, "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to me.”

***

I am lucky to have little trouble falling and staying asleep. I have a two-year-old son who is experiencing separation anxiety during the night, so “staying asleep” and sleeping in general are relative terms right now, but on the whole, I sleep well. I don’t suffer insomnia. Give me five minutes, and a semi-comfortable surface, and I can fall asleep easily. (This is sore point for my spouse, who often takes at least an hour to fall back asleep if she’s woken during the night.)

I say all this to say, I don’t have much knowledge in the way of sleep medications, such as Ambien.

I learned something interesting about the sleep aide recently: One of its side effects is short-term amnesia. Another interesting fact: Studies have shown those who take the drug get an average of only an extra 18 to 29 minutes of sleep a night.

It’s possible that Ambien doesn’t so much increase one’s quantity or quality of sleep, but simply makes one forget about not sleeping, It might work primarily by taking away the memory of not sleeping. A good portion of a person’s anxiety and fatigue the next day often lives in that story.

“I didn’t sleep well last night.”

That’s not to say the drug doesn’t work. It just may work differently than the way we commonly think it does.

In the first few months of my son’s life, there were a lot of nights I got only two or three hours of sleep, and a handful of nights where I got no meaningful sleep at all. One of the ways I powered through was to get out of bed at the appropriate time, make some coffee, and try to “forget” that I hadn’t slept.

That wasn’t a great substitute for actual sleep - I certainly still had a good amount of new “parent brain” - but it certainly helped.

***

“I have horrible posture at work.”

“I bet I have the most jacked up back you’ve ever seen.”

“I don’t do near as much exercise/yoga/stretching as I should.”

Massage clients frequently tell me all the ways they don’t do, or are not, enough. How they don’t take as good of care of themselves as they should. In my first few years as a therapist, I unfortunately fueled that tendency in my clients. My training was clinically-based, and we were taught in school to highlight and point out areas where clients can improve, self-care exercises, stretches, etc. This lead to me often giving unsolicited advice about what was “wrong” with my clients.

I’ve grown out of that, luckily. I still provide this information, but I do my best to make sure the client is open to hearing those suggestions from me. Sometimes, people just want to get a massage and relax, and maybe work out some tension and knots, and don’t necessarily want to be told what they need to do better when they just want to enjoy their post-massage glow.

I now strike a balance in my practice of giving self-care advice when it welcome, and perhaps just as important, when I have a client who is mentally beating themselves up for not being/doing enough, I encourage them to give themselves more credit, and hopefully, disrupt the stories they tell about themselves about not having good enough posture, not stretching enough, or the like.

Self-care is important. Self-betterment is important. But it’s also important to feel you’re doing the best you can.

***

“The body hears everything the mind says.” - Naomi Judd

What Others Think of You

26230295_1597478970319798_7390151365561907214_n.jpg

During my senior year in high school, I wrote a stereotypically high school emo essay I’m glad were for my eyes only in my private journal. Stripping away all the emo emo-ness of it, the piece was a reflection on how I had been teased mercilessly by many of classmates in grade school and middle school, but even after having come much more into my own as a person in high school, a generally well-liked student, if far from one of the cool kids, I still saw myself as the person I had been before, and showed up to school everyday expecting my classmates to begin treating me that way again. “Nice try, Fruitmire. We remember who you really are."

The truth, I conceded in the piece, is that I rationally knew my classmates actually didn’t think much about the person I used to be, or even the person I was at present; they probably were too wrapped up in their own lives, not to mention their own insecurities, to spend much time thinking of me at all. 

Nevertheless, I let my imaginings of what they thought of me partly dictate how I felt day to day. I compared it to being in a prison cell that the guards had long ago unlocked and walked away from, but I remained because I had been there so long, I felt I belonged there. 

OH, THAT PIECE WAS SO DAMN EMO.

This journal entry crossed my mind for the first time in years the other day. I’ve long ago left concerns about my high school classmates' opinion of me behind, but I still too often dwell on other's opinions of me, something that's not helped at all by social media. (Man, I'm glad social media wasn't a thing when I was a kid.)

A reminder I occasionally need: People aren't often concerning themselves with what I'm doing, and if they are, well, that's more a reflection on them than me. 

In case you need this reminder today as well...

Dennis

 

Unwind. Let go.

Image courtesy of Massage World

Image courtesy of Massage World

 

Self-care is not a luxury. 

Yesterday, a client told me what they needed from the session we were about to begin. "I just need to let go. I try to control everything. I just need to let go of everything for a couple of hours, and feel okay with that." 

***

Later, another client talked to me about how he looked forward to returning to jiu jitsu training once he rehabilitate from his recent surgery. Running drills, being in a choke hold, trying to figure out how to get out of it, or deciding whether you need to tap out, he said, gets you out of your head for a while, and makes the high stress of his job matter much less for a short time.

***

Last week, a personal trainer shared with me she has had only one massage in her life, and while it was a perfectly good session, she couldn't relax. All she could think about was the more worthwhile things she could be doing instead of getting a massage.

***

I know yet another person who feels that way - someone who becomes an odd mix of anxious-bored about halfway though an hour massage, dwelling on what else he could and should be doing, and his eagerness to get to that once the massage is over.

That guy would be, the guy writing this post,  a massage therapist.

***

Being able to let go and unwind is hard. Even for bodywork and wellness practitioners who should know better than anyone the importance of it. Sometime recently I read something to the effect of, "If you think you don't have 10 minutes to meditate, you actually probably need 20 minutes."

Meditation, massage, exercise, whatever type of self-care helps you let go of the rest of the world for a while - when you feel like you simply don't have the time for it, that's probably when you need it most.

There are articles and blog posts ad nauseum giving tips and tricks and quotes about finding the time for yourself, and I won't assume here to add anything more of note to the echo chamber, other than a simple reminder that taking time for yourself to recharge, to unwind, to let go is important. 

Self-care is not a luxury. Without regular self-care, no one does their best, and they eventually burn out. I would even argue that a lack of self-care is, in a way, an act of selfishness and maybe even a little narcissistic - how important do you think you or your work is that the world can't spare you for a half-hour to an hour every day, a few hours every week, while you tend to your own mental and physical state? By taking care of yourself, you set yourself up to give your best self to the important people in your life.

Keep this in mind as the new year begins, and remember if nothing else these two things: Self-care is not a luxury, and when you feel like you don't have the time for it, that's probably when you need it most. 

 

A Few Tips for Keeping Your New Years Resolution

download.jpg

A new year is about to begin, and with that, many are contemplating new resolutions. Here are a few tips for helping to stick to your goals for 2018:

Keep It Simple

Self-help guru and professional dilettante, Tim Ferriss, on taking on new goals, suggests asking this question: “What would this look like if this were simple?"

In other words, how can you make the logistics of sticking to your resolution as simple as possible, lessening the chance you’ll abandon it after a couple of weeks?

A personal example: For the month of this December this past year (2017), I decided I was going to post a Vlog (video log) a day on social media. I had started doing this back in November, and fizzled out after a couple of days. I had done this previously back in 2016, and I made it all the way through the month, but I didn’t feel like I had gotten much out of it. For December, I made some adjustments, kept it simple, and I stuck with it. 

- I began almost every video recording the same three things - me weighing myself in the morning, pouring my first glass of water, and popping a vitamin in my mouth. None of these are particularly noteworthy, but having three activities to film without much thought gave me a start every day and got the ball rolling. 

- I recorded many of my videos while giving my dog, Jessica Jones (a jet black whippet / lab mix with big eyes and floppy ears), her morning walk, and I made that part of the deal. While I often had something to say, I wasn’t necessarily the most articulate, and I didn’t look my best either. I didn’t have to; these were just musings during my morning dog walk. Less pressure. 

- I edited on iMovie - a simple, uncomplicated app on my phone. Aside from the longer days, like Christmas day with my family (my son’s first Christmas), it never took me longer than 5-10 minutes to edit together a Vlog of the day.

I’m not suggesting anyone else do a Vlog a day, but again, this is how I stuck to it: I kept things as simple as possible, and put some items (the first three activities I filmed every morning) on almost automatic so I didn’t have to give much thought to them every day. 

Take a look at your resolution and ask yourself, “What would this look like if it were simple?"

Keep Yourself Accountable

You can accomplish this in whatever helps keep you motivated. If posting pictures and status updates on social media helps you, by all means, go for it, and don’t let anyone shame you for it. (I’ve seen some friends comment online they had stopped posting their exercise and diet updates after being mocked for them, and have even seen the argument that such posts are a form of fat-shaming others who are struggling with their own diet and weight. As long as you’re posting with good intentions and focusing on your own journey, it’s your wall. Tell your story.)

Another option is to put daily reminders in your phone or on your calendar, and tick them off every day once you’ve accomplished them. (I do this for my daily language lessons on Duolingo.) 

You can also enroll the help of a friend to keep you on track (the dad joking-loving side of me loves the term “accountabili-buddy”), or there are even a number of accountability apps that work in a financial incentive/penalty.

Remember: Falling Off the Wagon Doesn’t Mean Staying Off the Wagon

This is a tough one I’ve had to learn over and over: If you backslide - If you miss a couple of work outs, have a few days of bad eating, go a few days without practicing that musical instrument, that’s not a failure. It’s a set back. Perhaps take some time re-evaluate, figure out how you can better keep yourself on track, and start again. 

Don’t Start on January 1

The first day, and even the first week of a new year is a bit of a mess, what with recovering from the holidays, New Year’s Eve celebrations, and possibly returning and getting settled back in to the regular work week. Wait a few days, and add that change to your life when everything else is as close to normal as possible.

Best of luck in 2018, and thanks for reading!

Dennis