How To Recognize and Handle Toxic Anger

Toxic Anger

Are you feeling angry? How often? Every time you drive home from work? Every time you have a conflict with a family member? Every time you read the news or scroll through social media? Understandable. Common, even.

But today I hope you’ll stop and consider whether all the anger you experience in your life is really necessary. In fact, not only might your level of anger be unnecessary, it might be making everything in your life worse.

What is anger, exactly?
We tend to think of emotions as good or bad, positive or negative. Anger is one of those feelings that’s often labeled bad or negative. Looking at feelings that way is not always useful, though. Here’s why. If someone invaded your home and started taking your things, you’d be angry, right? Is that a negative feeling? Not if it motivates you to do what you have to do to protect yourself, your family, or your property. In that case, your anger is a very good feeling for you to have.

Anger’s primary function is to protect us–to get our hormones into gear so we’re ready to put up a fight that might be necessary to our survival. Fair enough. So let’s apply a little test, shall we?

Think about the last time you were angry.

What happened?

How did you react?

How did it feel in your body to feel that way?

Most importantly:
Was your life actually in danger?

Chances are, no. If so, the anger you felt was toxic. You’re using it to hide from your feelings, deny your own vulnerability, or to run from a challenge. If so, your anger isn’t really protecting you–it’s harming you and the people around you.

What are you yelling about?
It’s often been said that anger is a secondary emotion, and to some extent, that’s true. We tend to slip from a more difficult emotion into anger because anger is simple. It’s kill or be killed! It doesn’t get much simpler than that. You may find, though, that it doesn’t exactly help you with complex problems that aren’t life or death.

Confirmation bias
Anger can also rise when you feel your grip on the world is slipping away from you. It can arise from beliefs that, when carefully examined, really make no sense, or at least don’t amount to a life and death struggle. See if these common, but silly ideas that tend to cause anger sound familiar:

“Life should be fair,” for instance. Or “this person should be able to anticipate my wants and needs!” or everyone’s favorite “They should drive exactly the way I would.”

What to do with it?
Practicing more mindfulness helps. Check in with yourself. Get curious about what you’re feeling and why. If you lash out in anger and don’t know why, ask yourself. Talk to a friend, or write about it in your journal. Are you passing over a challenging feeling you’d rather not confront, but which needs your attention?

This sounds hard, but even a toddler can do it.

Children’s Advocate and Entertainer Fred Rogers wrote a song you might remember from your own childhood, but it outlines with crystal clarity the best way to handle and subvert toxic anger.

Watch, and think about what these words mean. How could you put them to work in your own life?

Choose to live the good life.

The staff of The Good Life Massage are not psychologists, psychiatrists, or mental health professionals. This article is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only, and should not be construed in any way as professional counseling or advice. People with severe mental and emotional problems should seek help from trained professionals and physicians.

Tom Gunn is the blog editor and marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to build your brand or enlarge your online presence by contacting him at tomgunn@gmail.com

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When NOT to Get a Massage

As much as we’d like to say that any time is a good time, sometimes it really is best to reschedule your massage. Massage has a significant impact on the body, and that means you need to use just a little self-awareness before getting the table. If you get this wrong, the consequences range from mild discomfort to needing serious medical attention.

Injuries
If you’ve been injured, say on the job or in a car accident, massage can be extremely beneficial and therapeutic, depending on the nature of your injuries. Having said that, we highly recommend a doctor’s referral before you come in after an injury. Massage could actually aggravate your injury, making a bad situation even worse.

Yes, we’re trained professionals, but we’re not medical doctors. It’s crucial that you be honest with your practitioner and yourself before you get on the table.

After Drinking
We strongly recommend spacing out your alcohol consumption and massage. This is an easy trap to fall into on a cruise or some kind of vacation situation. If a couples massage, for instance, is part of a date night, make sure the massage comes before, not after, dinner or drinks.

Have you ever noticed that your practitioner will offer you water after a massage? That’s because massage makes you feel dehydrated … just like alcohol. Getting a massage after a few drinks might feel really good during the session, but you may really be feeling it in the morning.

“Uh oh. Am I getting this?”
Do you have that little tickle in the back of your throat? Are you feeling some queasiness or chills? Listen to your body. If you’re feeling some of the telltale signs that indicate that you’re about to get sick, reschedule your massage. (It should go without saying that getting a massage while you’re sick is usually a bad idea. But really–whatever you’ve got, we don’t want.)

In a way that’s similar to exercise, massage encourages circulation of bodily fluids, which can temporarily tax your immune system. If your body is already fighting a bug when you get a massage, you can expect to feel worse–definitely the morning after, and maybe even right after the session.

Pregnancy?
No problem. In fact, we highly recommend prenatal massage, right up to the time you give birth. There’s a myth out there that massage can actually cause you to go into labor. This isn’t really true.

Postpartum massage is also safe, in general, but if you’ve had a c-section or other complication, it’s best to clear it with your doctor first.

… But the money!
Your health is more important. Having said that, it’s understandable to be concerned about losing a prepaid session or having to pay for a session you won’t get because of a late cancellation. It’s true that we have a late cancellation/no-show policy, but we’ve been known to grant exceptions. Talk to your practitioner or a manager if you have health concerns around keeping your appointment.

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 of this blog, are not medical doctors. Consult with your physician before making any changes to improve your health.

Tom Gunn is the blog editor and marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can hire his services as a writer, editor, or social media expert at www.TGunnWriter.com.

7 Mendacious Massage Misconceptions

Massage is becoming more popular every day. The public is finally getting educated on what regular massage can do to benefit your mental and physical health.

Having said that, there are a surprising number of myths and misconceptions about massage that we feel the need to clear up here and now.

This came up as a subject recently in our post about pre-natal massage. In my interview with Christie Ellis, formerly of GLM, the following misconception about prenatal massage came up:

“Prenatal massage can induce labor”
I’ll let Christie take this first one:

“That is a myth! Massage does not cause labor. Acupressure can precipitate labor, and that would be on the level of applying director pressure on a very specific spot for two or three minutes every fifteen minutes over the span of about forty-eight hours.

So there’s no way to come in for a prenatal massage and come out a mother?
“(laughs) No! And to be clear, acupuncture and acupressure are very different than massage. We’re using much broader strokes with massage and there’s absolutely no concern that a nice foot massage could put a woman into labor.

“Another myth I would point out is that abdominal massage can cause miscarriage. That’s out there, too, especially for people who are concerned about the first trimester.

“I do think it’s important to have someone that’s trained for any sort of abdominal work, but massage in general is very safe for expecting mothers.”

But there are plenty of other misconceptions about massage out there. This should put a dent in a few of the more common ones:

“Sure, you feel great right after a massage, but the effects are only temporary”
This idea probably comes from those who really need regular massage, but only tried it once, and went back to the status quo after a day or two. If you suffer from chronic pain or posture issues, regular massage can be particularly beneficial in “retraining” your muscles and your body to be well and whole.

Massage Results take time

You wouldn’t expect to reach all your fitness goals with just one workout, right? Massage is the same way: long-term improvements in your physical health almost never come in the form of a magic bullet. It just takes time and persistence.

If cost seems to be a barrier to getting the treatment you need, you might not have all the facts.

“Does it hurt? It’s supposed to. Just let it happen.”
If you feel pain or discomfort during your massage, say something! While it’s true that some discomfort can be expected in treatment massage, you need to keep talking to your practitioner about your comfort and the treatment they’re doing. Even if a particular stroke or method is supposed to be therapeutic, your therapist can and should honor your requests. The kind of care you receive is entirely in your hands, and should be wholly directed by you.

What’s more, too much pain can actually be counterproductive. If you’re sincerely in pain, you’ll unconsciously tense up other muscle groups, creating the exact opposite of the desired effect for your massage.

“Massage releases toxins and cleanses your system”
Not really. It depends on what you mean by “toxins”. What massage does do is help stimulate circulation throughout your body. This can be helpful if you’re injured. Increased blood flow can be very beneficial in that case. That circulation can include run-of-the-mill cell waste, but there’s no medical magic in stimulating processes that your body routinely caries out anyway. You can get the same effect from vigorous exercise.

“If you don’t walk away feeling like a million bucks, you got a bad massage”
It’s true that, for most cases, people walk away from their massage feeling relaxed, limber, even a little euphoric. But while this is commonly the case, a good massage can sometimes make you feel, well, lousy–at least immediately afterward.

Are you fighting a bug? If you’re getting sick, a massage can sometimes accelerate how quickly you feel the symptoms. You may walk in feeling fairly well, oblivious to the fact that you’re about to get sick, and then get off the table feeling a little weak and achy. If that turns into a bout with a cold or the flu, we feel your pain. But you can’t blame the massage therapist or the job they did for making it happen.

Another scenario is when deep tissue treatment is called for and requested. When your practitioner needs to go deep below the surface tissue to release trigger points and send circulation to distressed areas, this may cause some discomfort both during and just after the treatment.

This can be the case for specialty treatments we offer, including deep transverse friction and myoskeletal alignment. People sometimes report feeling sore after these kinds of heavy treatment-style massages. That does not mean your practitioner did a bad job. In fact, that can be a sign that more regular treatment is called for. It shouldn’t hurt every time, and there should be significant improvement after a good night’s sleep.

“If you have cancer, massage will spread the cancer cells through your body”
This is basically impossible. Massage moves lymph, but cancer doesn’t spread through the lymphatic system. Metastization (the spread of cancer) is due to genetic mutation and a number of factors that have nothing at all to do with the functioning of the lymphatic system.

Having said that, if you’re a cancer patient, it’s wise to consult with your oncologist before scheduling a massage. Relaxation massage at any stage of cancer can actually be immensely beneficial, reducing depression and anxiety. Some studies have even shown that it reduces nausea and pain.

Are there any others you’ve heard that we didn’t cover here? Do you have any questions about massage and what it can do for you?

Let us know in the comments below.

You can also contact us by phone at 425-243-7705

or by email at support@goodliferenton.com

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 of this blog, are not medical doctors. Consult with your physician before making any changes to improve your health.

Tom Gunn is the marketing director and blog editor for The Good Life Massage. You can find him online at tgunnwriter.com

Amy Gunn, LMP is a co-founder of The Good Life Massage and has been a licensed massage practitioner since 1999. 

What is a Full Body Massage?

We get this question a lot:

“Full body massage … what does that mean exactly?”

It’s a fair question. Here’s what you might really be asking:

Where exactly and how is my massage practitioner going to touch me?

At The Good Life Massage, a full body massage includes

  • back
  • neck
  • shoulders
  • arms
  • legs
  • feet.

It is also at least 60 minutes long. When you come in for a full body massage, your practitioner will assume these are the areas you want worked unless you tell them otherwise.

A full body session may also include pectoral muscles, head, hands, or face, though these are usually done upon request.

Your massage practitioner will respect your boundaries. If you don’t want anything above worked on, please tell them. While it’s best if a full body massage is done with the client fully unclothed (though this is not strictly required), every client is strategically draped with sheets and towels. Draping is about more than modesty: it’s state law.

Which, while we’re on the subject …

Our full body massage is not a sexual service. In some circles, “full body” massage is a euphemism for services which are illegal in the state of Washington. The Good Life Massage is a legal, licensed massage clinic. In fact, we instantly stop any massage, report to authorities, and permanently ban any client who asks for sexual favors or makes sexual advances of any kind. By the same token, any practitioner found to be doing the same is instantly fired and reported to the authorities.

Your practitioner will ask if you have any particular areas you would like them to focus on before they begin. This is your chance to tell them about that ache in your side, that crick in your neck, that nagging pain you tend to tune out and kind of forget is there.

Is there an area you want your practitioner to avoid? Are you like me and have ticklish feet? Say so! Communication is crucial to having the best possible massage experience.

Not sure what to expect when you come in? Take a look at this video to get an idea for how it’s going to go.

Tom Gunn is the marketing director and blog editor at The Good Life Massage. You can find him online at TGunnWriter.com

Turtle Power, Part 2: 5 Ways to Slow Down and Be Happier

Last week we pointed out the 5 best reasons to aim for a slower pace of life. But slowing down is very easy to talk about. You may even be completely convinced of its benefits. But implementing it into your life is quite another thing.

This week, in part two of this post, we’ll get to some of the nuts and bolts of adopting a slower-paced lifestyle.

Take a day
First, you need to recognize the value of your own time. It can help to regularly take a day which in your primary focus is not to work, worry, or play any kind of role–but simply to exist.

Set aside a day off each week. On this day, try to avoid work of any kind, travel, social media, or consumerism. We call it a day of rest, and the benefits are both long and short-term.

We try to follow our own advice in our business practice, closing up shop every Sunday to ensure our employees have the opportunity to renew themselves and the important connections in their lives. We want the same for our clients, and hope that being closed one day a week will make it just a little easier to do the same.

Take some advice from Faith Hill: Just breathe! (Now that song is in your head! You’re welcome!)
When you wake up in the morning, take a few moments to breathe in and out, slowly and deliberately. Ease into it. As you go, take deeper and deeper breaths. Push away your thoughts about what will be happening today and focus on the white noise of your own breath, the feeling of the light that is your breath entering you and renewing you.

If you have a spiritual or religious tradition, this is the perfect thing to pair with whatever prayer or meditation ritual you may like to incorporate into your routine. In this way, you connect both with your own life, and with its source.

Relax!
Relaxation is more just an activity to incorporate into your routine, (though it definitely should be that as well).

Most people don’t realize that relaxation is a principle of work. The ability to relax is essential for any kind of worthy activity.

Senior woman focused with eyes closed while playing music outdoo
Relaxation is a principle of work. It takes effort to get started, but mastery comes after you stop straining, and start flowing.

Of course, you have to get your game face on and take on whatever task lies ahead. That’s the work part. But once you have your momentum going, there comes a point when you can stop trying so hard and let yourself get into a flow. You can’t get into that flow if you’re rushed.

Ever wonder why you can get through a whole day at work and feel like so little got done? Constant interruptions like meetings, phone calls, birthday cake in the break room–these all stop your flow and make it necessary to start and re-start your work throughout the day.

The late Ray Bradbury put it well when he said “Life is meant to be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and at other times move forward with it.” It’s in this state that truly great work, even art, can begin to flourish.

Recognize that civilization is overrated
We’ve inherited a lot from our parents and our ancestors, good and bad. It can help to notice what came from those who have gone before, and how they’ve influenced us without realizing it. The American propensity for overwork goes way back to the Roman empire, and probably even further.

But does that go-go mindset really make sense for you, now? By that logic, pushing your car’s engine to the red line at all times should make it run better, right? Wrong! That’s a good way to prematurely end the engine. So it goes with your life.

Yes, work. But over-work could be shortening your life and siphoning your joy. It may be time to question things it’s never occured to you to question before.

So many other factors come crowding in for the present, as well: the expectations of others, the expectations others put on us.

  • Do you really have to do this or that?
  • Is this or that commitment really important to you?

The first step in taking control of your own time is to recognize that it’s yours. Take it!

Realize that Mom was right …
Chew your food! This may seem like a little thing, but in this fast-food world, this little thing can make a big difference in your life. The speed at which you eat impacts how much you eat in any given sitting and how much you enjoy your meals.

Sunrise
In Tuscany, meals are meant to be cooked and enjoyed in the best way possible: slowly. Isn’t there something to be learned there?

And given that the number of meals you’ll eat in your life are numbered, isn’t it worth making sure each one of them counts?

On a related note, if you feel like fast food is threatening to dominate your diet, try our next suggestion.

Become your own personal assistant
This can apply to planning your meals or just your life in general. While we generally associate planning our lives with a fast-paced life-style, the opposite can be true if you know how to handle it. Planning your life gives you the chance to build lots of gaps between tasks and breaks where you can work them in. Many people find that for things like massage, exercise, focused relaxation, and other forms of self-care, planning is the only way to go.

Imagine how you would feel if, yes, you had your day mapped out for you, and that you had plenty of time for every task?

You may not be able to afford a personal assistant, but a little extra time spent planning your week, say, on Sunday nights in front of Netflix, could help you hit the breaks and slow down.

Be well.

Tom Gunn is the marketing director and blog editor for The Good Life Massage. You can find him on Twitter @tomgunnpoet.

The Power of No

Charity.jpgYou are a giving person. You care about your family and friends, and even try to help strangers whenever you can.

worn out.jpgBut some days you just can’t take it anymore. You’ve been worn down, turned over, and worn out on the other side as well.

How did this happen?

You may be suffering from a lack of balance in your life.

It may be time to start saying no.

“No”: the other magic word
There’s nothing wrong with being the giving, loving, loyal, valuable individual you are. But sometimes it’s important to remember that you are valuable no matter how much or how little you do. Your value as a person is inherent and infinite. No failing or mistake or limitation on your part can take that away.

Sometimes you need a chance to remind yourself of this. But you can’t do that if you set expectations for yourself too high and commit to too much.

“Can you take on a part of this project for me? I’m just swamped.”

“Do you mind watching my kids tonight? My sitter backed out at the last moment.”

“We were looking for someone to chair the dance committee. Would you be willing to help out?”

If you say yes to one of these things, you have to live with the reality that you may have to say no to the other two. This doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you a mortal human being with a predicted lifespan of roughly 80 years only 24 hours allotted to you each day, just the same as everyone else. Thinking you are more than this is a lie you tell yourself, and it’s not doing you any good.

Saying no to things can be powerful because it can get you out of your own way. You’re acknowledging the truth about yourself–that you need care and nurturing just like everyone else. It’s amazing how easy it is to lose sight of that, and lose yourself in the process.

How do I find myself again?
It doesn’t have to take long, and nobody will resent you for taking care of yourself first.

Happy teen

Take a walk.

Study and practice the art of relaxation.

Get a massage.

Breathe.

Results!
Piling your plate with too much may give you some sense of being a busy, accomplished person, but buckle up: other people may not see you that way.

sad little girl.jpg
Your kids may see you as being too busy to give them the attention they crave.

Depressed man working late at nightYour boss may see you as someone who struggles to follow through.

Worried Young Couple In BedYour significant other may be sensing you drifting away.

Mother and Daughter Happy.jpgWhen you take care of yourself, you’ll find that all the people in your life will light up as you engage them more fully and completely with your whole self.

So when you hear that little voice in your head saying you’re “too busy,” that voice may be exactly right.

And now you know what to do about it.

Tom Gunn is the marketing director and blog editor at The Good Life Massage. Follow him on Twitter @tomgunnpoet

5 Relaxation Tips to Transform Your Life

Relaxation is a major component of staying fit, but it’s more than just doing nothing, and it’s anything but a waste of time.

At The Good Life Massage our mission for our clients is wellness. When most people hear that word, they might think of eating vegetables, exercising, drinking lots of water, etc. Those things are all great, but relaxation is one often-overlooked habit in planning for wellness. Real relaxation requires full attention, uninterrupted time, and maybe even some gentle discomfort.

Relaxation is as crucial to your body’s functioning as the strain of a good workout. Your body needs to work to both extremes in order to maintain a full range of functionality throughout your life. In other words, your body needs to move, yes. But it also needs to be able to be still and truly at rest.

Relaxation vs. Fun
In our language we tend to conflate relaxation with fun. Relaxation can and should be fun to some extent, but not all things that are fun should be considered true relaxation.

Shockwave_coaster_sfot
Roller coasters, to many people, are great fun! They’re also very stressful, and are not generally relaxing.

TV shows, movies, Internet: fun! But are they truly relaxing? They involve sitting still, but they also usually involve your mind going elsewhere. These things are designed to inflict some stress on you, to make your mind race, to put you on the edge of your seat, even make you cry. Not only can these activities eat large amounts of valuable time, they can compromise your mind/body connection.

True relaxation is a rest for the mind as well as the body. It increases and improves your mind/body connection. When was the last time you sat quietly enough that you could hear your own breath, or even your own heartbeat?

A rested mind is creative, patient, agile, responsive, and alert. A rested body can adapt to stress more readily and can relax more quickly once stress has come and gone.

This is what makes relaxation a component of wellness. When you’re well, you can handle daily stresses, including the part where the stressors have passed.

Relaxation can also improve sleep patterns. When your body becomes good at slowing down, it succumbs to sleep more readily when it’s time to hit the pillow.

Truly Relaxing Activities
Relaxation doesn’t have to take long. Just fifteen minutes a day can make a huge difference in your state of mind and sense of well-being. Below are some truly relaxing activities you can start today. Turn off your phone, give one of these a try, and see what happens!

Go for a Slow Walk (and leave the headphones at home!)

Try to pick as natural an environment as possible, but one which will be safe and easy to walk through, preferably a hiking trail, public garden, or a park. While you’re out, breathe deeply. Listen to the small sounds your body makes. Notice the sights and sounds of the world around you. Let the cares of the day drift away and try to stay focused in the present moment.

Places like Coulon Park here in Renton offer a relaxing lake view, a picturesque arboretum, and smooth walking trails.
Places like Coulon Park here in Renton offer a relaxing lake view, a picturesque arboretum, and smooth walking trails.

Massage

This one is self-serving, we admit, but it meets all the criteria above and then some. We use music of your choice, or none at all, and give you the option of adding aromatherapy and other soothing enhancements. A 60 or 90 minute massage can re-invigorate the senses, improve circulation, and help you build a stronger mind/body connection.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

YouTube abounds with audio meditations along these lines. This isn’t the mystical miracle hypnosis of the audio cassette era. This is a guided exercise usually performed lying down or from a sitting position that increases mind/body connection by systematically helping you relax the major muscles of your body. You’ll be taken through a series of movements involving flexing and relaxing your muscles while breathing deeply. This can reduce anxiety, relieve insomnia, and increase focus when practiced regularly. This usually takes anywhere between fifteen minutes and a half hour.

Sit in Silence

You don’t have to pray, meditate, or listen to new age music. Just stop! Listen to your own breathing.

Notice your thoughts as they enter and exit your mind, but try not to give them too much focus.

This is easy, can take as little as a minute or two, and can help you slow down your day’s frantic pace

Take Your Breaks at Work!

Washington State Law requires that you get two paid breaks in a full work day, so use them. If you set that boundary with your boss and co-workers, they’ll generally respect it. Make good use of that legally mandated time by doing some of the things above, even if it’s just a brief moment of silence. Studies have shown that the people who take regular breaks are not only happier at their jobs, but are more productive.

Trying some of the above exercises can help you re-think what it means to really relax and help you develop a whole new relationship with the stress in your life.

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 of this blog, are not medical doctors. Consult with your physician before making any changes to improve your health.