Swim Into The Wave: How Hiding From Your Emotions Can Destroy You

Swim Into The Wave

For experienced ocean swimmers, waves are just part of the challenge. So it is with life. Waves of emotions can throw us for a loop disorient us, and confuse us before we even have time to process what we’re going through. Unfortunately, our cultural biases have taught us to handle our feelings in exactly the wrong way.

Quick fix
What do you do when you’re hungry? Grab a bite (whether it’s nutritious or not). What do you do when you have a headache or some other kind of pain? Pop a pill. The tendency to want to avoid pain and discomfort is not only understandable, it’s completely natural. But it’s not always the best way to handle things, particularly your feelings.

What’s the quick fix for bad feelings? Take your pick! Food. TV. Pornography. Alcohol. Drugs. Everyone seems to have a favorite. You may feel good temporarily, but put off your self care indefinitely and you’re in for a world of hurt.

Here there be dragons
Think you have total contol over your feelings? Think again. You can control how you respond to what you’re feeling to some extent. But the stronger the feeling is, the more difficult it is to control your response in a given moment. You may soon find that you’re repsonses to things are way out of proportion and make no sense. This is often because of emotional problems you’re refusing to address properly.

So, guess what happens when you try to ignore, cover-up, or otherwise run from what you’re feeling? It gets strong. Your feelings are like a monster that feeds on your resistance. The more you ignore it or deny it’s there, the bigger it gets.

It’s like the dragon in this excellent children’s story:

The more the child bought into the mom’s argument that the dragon didn’t exist, the bigger it got. Before long, it was carrying their whole lives away from them.

Keep going
Winston Churchill said “If you’re going through Hell, keep going.” The only way out of an unpleasant feeling is through it. This is true for even serious emotional trauma and grief. Mental health professionals are trained in guiding their clients and patients through the process of feeling and re-living their trauma in the most vivid and detailed way possible. It’s not pleasant at all. But neither is surgery.

Even a massage, when used for treatment, can be very uncomfortable. There seems to be a principle at work that dictates that in order to overcome physical or emotional pain and to heal, one must feel it completely.

Ride into the wave, or risk drowning in it.

Tom Gunn is the marketing director and blog editor for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to assist with your brand development and marketing my emailing him at tomgunn@gmail.com

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The Enemy Within – Hidden Muscle Tension That’s Making You Miserable

The Enemy Within

What is muscle rigidity?
Your body is a miraculous machine for coping with stress. But, like any machine, it occasionally manifests a bug–a bug that can turn into a serious problem.

When you face stress, your trusty allies, your muscles, contract and tense. They become rigid as your body prepares to fight or flee whatever stressor you’re facing. In this way, your body is trying to keep you alive. You may not be facing a threat to your life when a client or your boss yells at you, but your body doesn’t know the difference. When that stressor passes, your muscles are supposed to relax, because everything is fine.

But what if everything isn’t fine? Suppose, after being yelled at by a client, you start to drive home and almost get into an accident? Or find that you’re overdrawn in your bank account? Suddenly, your muscles are tensing up yet again. If this level of stress keeps up, your body will get the message to always be ready to defend itself, keeping your muscles rigid and tense. While many of your muscles may relax as the stressor passes, some of them may stay rigid in an effort to keep you alive.

This can happen whether the stress is unexpected, or if you intentionally inflict stress on your body through exercise.

Mindfulness
Suddenly the friendly muscles that have been trying to keep you alive have become your enemy. Not only are they not really helping you survive, they’re making everything worse. As the stress continues, more and more of your muscles become tense and rigid. This can develop into debilitating chronic pain. It can affect your posture and create a chain reaction of tension as your body twists itself into a knot trying to stay ready for whatever fresh hell you might be in for.

What’s even more insidious is that you may not even notice this happening until it manifests as a persistent pain. This rigidity and tension can build up in your body, filling your senses with a kind of tense “noise” you eventually stop noticing. After all, you’re too busy pleasing your boss, avoiding car accidents, and balancing the checkbook, right? The busyness of life can easily make you ignore the stress and tension that’s mounting in your body until it manifests as some pain or disease that won’t be ignored. Unless you do something about it.

Those of you who have received massages before may understand this from personal experience. As your massage therapist releases tension throughout your body, may help you discover mucles you didn’t even know were there. As rigid muscles are gently encouraged to become soft and smooth, little pains that have become like background noise are suddenly, blessedly silenced.

Book your next massage when you’re done reading this.

The cure
There are several ways to prevent a build up of muscle rigidity caused by stress. Our favorite, of course, is regular massage, but even that isn’t a complete solution. In any case, not everyone can afford regular massage (though it might not be as out-of-reach as you might think).

Mindfulness is key. Do things that will strengthen your mind-body connection. You can start with something as simple as turning off all distractions during your meals. The point is to help yourself become more aware of your body and what messages it’s sending you, to tune in enough so that you can detect persistent tension and small pain signals coming from your muscles and connective tissues.

Exercise, however moderate, can dramatically reduce muscle rigidity and tension. Yes, exercise can be stressful on your body. It’s supposed to be! Inflicting moderate stress on your joints, muscles, and heart in this way helps your body be more agile in coping with the every-day stressors and hassles that come your way. Remember, though, to consciously and deliberately relax your muscles after tensing them in that systematic way. Stretching is a great way to do this, but there are other methods you can do any time.

Progressive relaxation
Progressive relaxation is a guided meditation practice that helps you turn your attention to each muscle group in turn, breathing deeply. Your guide talks you through putting each muscle group through a slight tension and then relaxation, literally from head to toe. Many of these exercises can be found for free on YouTube. There are several excellent recordings done by psychiatrists and other professionals available for sale at a very reasonable price. It usually only takes 10 to 30 minutes, and is well worth the effort. It’s almost as good as getting a massage, and can even be a great way to help you sleep better.

Massage, exercise, and progressive relaxation are the primary ways to cope with stress-induced muscle rigidity, but more important than these is to try to manage the amount of stress in your life. This might entail some dramatic lifestyle changes as you try to slow your pace and live your more deliberately and with a stronger mind-body connection. If you’ve recently experienced a series of dramatic or traumatic life events, the psychological component may also need to be addressed with the help of mental health professionals.

But why bother? You feel fine, right? Do you, though? Check in with your body regularly. What does it need? What do you feel from day to day? Nobody lives in bliss all the time, but you’re not supposed to be totally miserable all the time, either. Emotional pain, like physical pain, is sending you signals to make a change in order to help you survive. Listen to that, and take to heart some of the suggestions above.

As with everything on this blog, none of this information should be construed as medical advice or care. The employees of The Good Life Massage, including the writers and editor of this blog, are not medical doctors. Consult with your physician before making any changes to improve your health.

Note: stress is not the only cause of muscle rigidity. It can be a symptom of a number of diseases including Parkinson’s, tetanus, multiple sclerosis, and many more. This post refers only to muscle rigidity caused by stress. You may need to consult your doctor for chronic pain or stress that won’t go away through some of the means described in this post.

Tom Gunn is the marketing director and blog editor for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to help develop your brand, logo, and content marketing strategy by contacting him at tomgunn@gmail.com

Don’t Sabotage Your Massage! – A Pre-Massage Checklist

Don't Sabotage Your Massage

Have you ever been disappointed by a massage? It’s bound to happen eventually if you get regular massage, but there are a lot of factors that go into what kind of experience you’re going to have. Not everything is in your control, and we certainly try to hold up our end of making your experience soothing and therapeutic, there are some simple things you can do as well.

Before your massage …

Drink water
We’ve covered the risks of dehydration in this space before, but a lot of it bears repeating. When your muscles are tight, waste can build up in there. Massage releases that waste, so it helps to come in hydrated to give your body the best chance of flushing it out.

And don’t forget to grab a cup of water aftewards.

Wellness Check-In 1: Am I sick?
Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and check in with your body before you come in. There are two questions you want answered, and the first of these is “Am I sick?”

Pay attention. Are you feeling much more tired and achy than usual? Is there a tell-tale tickle in the back of your throat warning you of an on-coming cold or flu bug?

In these situations, it’s best to cancel. We’ve had clients come in feeling a little under-the-weather who got their massage, then had to pulled over to vomit on the way home. Massage is great for your wellness over-all, but it can aggravate an oncoming or present illness. Please don’t hesitate to cancel in this situation! If you’re sick, a massage does more harm than good.

Wellness Check-In 2: What do I need?

The second health check-in you need to do is related to your massage and what you need most. Again, close your eyes and take a deep breath. Bring your attention to your back, your legs, your neck, your shoulders in-turn. Where are you feeling the most tension or pain? Make a mental note of it (or an actual note of it on the intake). That way, when your therapist asks what you need worked on for your massage, you’ll be ready to tell them exactly where you need the most attention.

Get your work-out in
If you’re planning to exercise that day, make sure you plan to get it in before your massage, not after. Some athletes may get a massage before a training session, but certainly not before an event or a game. For the rest of us, massage can relax and warm up your soft tissues to the point that you’ll be at a higher risk of sprain or strain if you jump right into vigorous activity.

Getting your massage after your workout, however, can be a great way to maximize the benefit of the massage. The simple reason for this is that you’re coming in with muscles already warmed and ready to work on! It saves the therapist time relaxing your muscles and soft tissues, and allows them to do deeper work, faster, and with less discomfort on your end.

Like many of the things on this list, this isn’t absolutely essential, but you may find it helps you get the most from your session.

Take a shower
This kind of dovetails in with the last one, but whether you work out beforehand or not, you may feel less self-conscious about any possible odors. Plus, the warm water will have helped you relax, and you’ll be even more prepared for a relaxing and productive session.

Show up early
This is a great idea, even if you don’t need to fill out our intake paperwork for your visit. The worst thing you can do to sabotage your massage is to come in completely frazzled, or worse yet, late, and not even get your full session time.

On the other hand, giving yourself time to arrive early will help you physically and mentally prepare for your session. Our waiting area was created with your comfort and serenity in mind, and we really don’t mind letting you wait for your session time. Take a minute to take some deep breaths. Listen to the sound of our signature waterfall. This is a great time to do that wellness check-in mentioned above.

We pride ourselves on giving clients their full as-advertised time on the massage table: sixty minutes means sixty full minutes of massage, not fifty or forty-five when the transition time is factored in.

If you must eat, eat light
You don’t want to be distracted by intense hunger during your massage, but if you must eat anything beforehand, go easy on the portions. Most people feel queasy when getting a massage after a big meal. They may even feel like they overate, even if they didn’t. Save your meal for after your massage. Eating afterward can be a great way to shake the fuzzy “massage brain” feeling many experience after a session.

Doing these few simple things will help you get the most from your massage experience, and reflect a lifestyle that’s slower-paced, more delibarate, and happier.

Tom Gunn is the blog editor and marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to assist you with content marketing, social media, or brand development by contacting him at tomgunn@gmail.com.

Drawn In: A Primer on Aromatherapy as a Massage Enhancement

Drawn In

We do a lot to at The Good Life Massage to help our clients feel relaxed, and to create an atmosphere of calm and healing. This can be done with all five senses–our specialty being touch, of course. But our second favorite way? Follow your nose.

Our aromatherapy session enhancement is the ideal way to give your massage a little dose of emotional healing. Massage already has great benefits for mental health, particularly depression, negative body image, and others, but adding the aromatherapy enhancement gives that aspect of your treatment a powerful boost.

Skeptical?
It’s understandable. There are no studies or evidence that aromatherapy can heal or cure disease. But that’s not what it’s for, and we make no claim to that. It’s undeniable, though, that aromatherapy has an impact on emotional health and well-being.

Still skeptical? When was the last time you smelled fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies after a hard day? Or coffee as you try to wake up on a rough morning? Smell is potent in shifting mood, and in activating memory and emotion. You might be surprised what the right aroma can do to activate your senses and metaphorically turn your world from black and white to living color.

Our treatment
Our aromatherapy enhancement is simple, but highly effective. You can add the enhancement at any time, even at the last minute. You’ll be offered a wide selection of essential oil blends to choose from. All our oils are naturally sourced. Some of the oils have been blended for a certain effect, or diluted for safety, but each is a natural product of real plants. There are no artificial fragrances added.

You may find that you have too many choices to pick in only a minute or two! Talk to your massage therapist about the different aromas, their qualities, and what they’re good for. Also, this blog isn’t a bad start for learning more about what we have to offer.

Your therapist will begin your session as usual, but will have you lying face down. You’ll be prompted to take a deep breath while the therapist holds a small pool of the essential oil under your face. This gives you a powerful hit, and instantly helps you relax before your therapist has even begun working. In fact, your therapist will be able to go deeper in less time if deep tissue treatment is what you’re after.

The therapist then works the essential oil into your skin throughout the massage, allowing the aroma to interact with your body heat. This causes the aroma to linger over and around you, embracing your senses with comfort and a feeling of well-being.

In my personal experience, when I’ve had this done, I’ll be face down on the table with my eyes closed. I keep thinking the therapist is holding their hand under my face again, because the smell comes back to me, ebbing and flowing in waves. But they’re not! It’s interesting to observe the little tricks your senses can play on you.

Add aromatherapy to your next massage today!

Tom Gunn is the blog editor and marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can hire Tom to help you boost your brand or logo design, or manage your social media and content marketing needs by emailing him at tomgunn@gmail.com

4 Things That Surprised Me About My Four-Hand Massage

4 Surprises from my Four Hand Massage

I don’t normally use such a personal tone in my posts, but today I feel I need to make a notable exception.

We’ve posted about four hand massage on this blog before, but now that I’ve had a taste of this epic massage experience first hand, I thought I’d pass on exactly what it was like for me.

The idea behind a four-hand massage is this: two therapists (generally with two hands each) massage you at the same time. This is usually handled in a way that one therapist is working on the upper body while the other works on the lower body, and then they may switch. Hypothetically, one can work on the right side while the other works on the left, but this was not my experience for this session.

If you’d like to book a four-hand massage for yourself, just let us know.

The two therapists I had work on me were Vanessa Mabra and Tianna Hull. Both have a reputation at The Good Life Massage for being able to do both relaxation and treatment work very well. Vanessa, however is a bit stronger on the relaxation side. This was a great combination.

I admit that it was a little strange to meet my therapist for the session and find that I was talking to not one, but two people! I’m not sure just why, but it was somewhat intimidating. There was no reason to be intimidated, of course.

They had me lie face down on the table to start. Normally I like music with my massage, but I settled for the soothing sound of waves from the white noise machine. I wanted to be particularly mindful during this session, paying close attention to what was going on with the massage and what I was feeling.

We began with Vanessa working my back, getting me settled in and warmed up while Tianna did some much-needed treatment work on my thighs and glutes. I’ve been walking and riding a bike around town a lot more lately, so it was badly needed. According to Tianna, I was pretty tight down there, which would normally mean that whatever work she did would have been somewhat uncomfortable, if not painful.

But here’s the thing:

I don’t remember and discomfort!

Vanessa was doing such an excellent job working my back and getting me relaxed that I didn’t even notice what was going on down there.

By the time Vanessa had moved up to give my neck and scalp a treat, Tianna was already working on the bottoms of my feet. I’m very ticklish there, but Tianna used just the right pressure on my feet in just the right places. Vanessa had made me feel like I was floating on a cloud while Tianna had made me feel like my feet had been replaced with a brand new set.

I had a 90 minute session, and it’s hard to imagine a better way to pack so much care into so little time.

I walked away with a lingering feeling of relaxation and well-being over my whole body I won’t soon forget. In fact, I dare say it helped me make some much-needed spiritual and mental adjustments. I found myself doing more self-care in the days that followed. I felt more connected to my body and my own needs in a way I couldn’t have expected.

If you’d like to try a four-hand massage, don’t hesitate. The cost may seem high for just one massage, and I get that, but it really is an experience that’s greater than the sum of its parts. It’s not just two sessions-in-one, but a form of nuclear fusion for massage–two skilled massage therapists combining their expertise to maximize both care and relaxation.

Four hand massage is also the ideal way to gift someone massage. It’s the kind of thing where someone you love might feel like they would want it, but couldn’t justify spending the money, even though they would really benefit from it. Trust me: it’s a gift they’ll be thanking you for repeatedly in the years to come.

Want a massage experience you’ll never forget? Book your four hand session now.

I was about to write that this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I’ll definitely be coming back for more.

Be well.

Tom Gunn is the marketing director and blog editor for The Good Life Massage. You can contact him about hiring him for your social media, writing, or marketing needs at tomgunn@gmail.com

The Power of Curiosity

What's in the Box Live Video

See this box? What do you suppose is in it? It could be anything. It could contain a bar of gold big enough to set you up for life. Or it could be exactly what talk show host Geraldo Rivera found in Al Capone’s vault: nothing. You don’t know. Would you like to know what’s in there? I’ll tell you in a minute.

Maybe you’re crazy to find out (stop watching, that graphic isn’t really a live video). More likely, you don’t really care. But you’re curious, aren’t you, even if only slightly?

And that not-knowing, that feeling of wanting to know but that you could find out with a little effort, is called curiosity. And that feeling is powerful, more so than we usually give it credit for. Think about it.

Your curiosity has the power to drive you to

  • Pursue new knowledge or skills
  • Develop new habits or break old ones
  • Lead you to new, creative solutions to perplexing problems

And that’s only the beginning. Curiosity is the driving force behind the greatest minds and innovators the human race has ever seen, including people like Elon Musk, Walt Disney, even Albert Einstein. In fact, Eisntein once attributed all of his success to it, declaring “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”

It’s a good buzz
Curiosity can do all this because it feels good! We’re wired to love novelty and challenge. Novelty is how our fake “live video” graphic got you to read this–a small thing, to be sure, but it’s enough to start something. When we find that the pursuit of novelty leads us to a challenge, that can be so exciting as to become addictive. Why else do you think some people become addicted to video games? Or mountain climbing?

Some have compared curiosity to an itch in the brain–one we scratch by finding the answers to our questions. It’s the reason clickbait continues to exist, no matter how media saavy society becomes, because curiosity is just that compelling.

So what?
Our hope here, today, is to make you aware of your curiosity–to get curious about it, if you will. Pay attention to it. Notice how it feels to be curious. Investigate what it is that piques your curiosity and ask why.

Mindfulness is a skill, one that might require some practice to develop, but it’s well worth it. If you want to improve your life in ways the seem difficult or perplexing, mindfulness and curiosity are likely going to be the keys to your success.

Some places to start are exercise, meditation, and regular therapeutic massage. Taken together, these good habits are the killer apps of mindfulness, establishing a stronger mind-body connection and empowering you to make whatever change in your life you would like to make.

Armed with this awareness, you can begin to understand how powerful your curiosity really is and how it might be harnessed to help you improve your life.

You can even begin to see how you can use curiosity the curiosity of others in leadership, communication, and education. But that’s a discussion for another time.

So, what’s in the box? You’ve just discovered it.

Tom Gunn is the marketing director and blog editor for The Good Life Massage. You can contact him at tomgunn@gmail.com

 

 

Know Your Therapist — Lisa Matters, LMT

Meet Lisa MattersLMP

Know Your Practitioner is your chance to meet our great LMTs and help you decide which one will best suit you. You might even learn something about the practitioner you’re already seeing. Our practitioners love building long term relationships with their clients and getting to know their specific needs.

By the way, do you have a favorite practitioner at The Good Life Massage? Leave us a review, and make sure to mention them by name. Your review will help others find the treatment they need from the practitioner who’s right for them. Plus, it’s a great way to say thank you for a job well done.

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lisa Matters, LMT. Lisa’s one of our more experienced massage practitioners. She does fantastic work, and we can’t wait for you to try a massage with her. Her massage combines a healing touch and a firm command of various modalities, making her one of the more skilled treatment practitioners here.

Get to know her by reading the interview or watching the video below.

Book a session with Lisa now!

Tell us about your life at home. What keeps you busy outside of work?
I really enjoy horses a lot. I have a two and a half year old grandson and three children who I try to spend as much time with as I can.

How did you get started in massage? What brought you to The Good Life Massage?
I got into the business about eight years ago. I was having a lot of chronic pain conditions that I sought medical help for, mostly conventional doctors, and no one was able to help me. And I was very frustrated. So I decided to go to massage school. I thought maybe if I learned about anatomy and physiology and about how the body works, then I would learn certain techniques that might be able to help me as well as others who struggle with the same conditions.

I graduated in 2009 from Everest College in Fife. I was offered two different jobs. I eventually started working at Massage Envy, was there for about three years, and then I decided I wanted to be in a more clinical environment because I’ve always been very treatment oriented in my work. So I got a job for a doctor working in Newcastle, and I’ve worked there for four years. And I’m working here at The Good Life Massage as well.

What’s your favorite part of this job?
Everyone’s always happy to see me. Probably just knowing that at the end of the session, there’s going to be something during that session that helped that person with their physical condition, and knowing that is going to enhance their life and make their life easier.

How is your massage unique? What keeps clients coming back for more?
I think my clients return because they know that I truly care for them and their well-being. I’m good at finding the problem, addressing it with the correct modalities and with, usually, immediate results.

What are your favorite health habits?
I think it’s important to take time for yourself, to find something you’re interested in. Practicing good eating habits and regular exercise.

Is there a client you’ve worked on who was particularly memorable?
I recently had someone come in who was having lower body trouble, mainly psiatic pain. He also had a condition called piriformis syndrome, and he was having difficulty with his work, with travelling, and just all of his daily activities. He had been to many therapists before and he hadn’t found any relief. The first time that I worked on him and did the lower body work that I felt was necessary, he was very grateful and left the clinic that day saying how much I had helped change his life already. And the next time that he came in for his session he continued to express to me how grateful he was for everything, all the pain relief that he had experienced, and that he’d never had a therapist do that kind of work on him before and had such relief. He started telling me how he was going to write this big article online about the type of work that I did, and how impressed he was with that.

When a client expresses their gratitude to me for the work that I’ve done, it’s very rewarding. That’s a huge part of this profession. I always knew that it was going to be rewarding to help people, and that was why I went into it. But I had no idea that it was going to be this rewarding. So, to see somebody walk away with such gratitude is huge.

Finish this sentence: “I wish my clients knew …”
I wish my clients knew just how grateful I was to be helping them.

Pick a superpower: flying or being able to turn invisible.
I would fly, but I don’t really know why. [laughs]

Thanks, Lisa!

We couldn’t be more excited to have Lisa on board. Book a session with Lisa now, while you still can! Her hours are limited, and she’s already building a steady following.

Tom Gunn is the blog editor and marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can reach him at tomgunn@gmail.com