Know Yourself: 5 Body Myths

Know Yourself - 5 Body Myths

We talk a lot in this space about forging a strong mind-body connection. But an important part of that connection involves educating yourself about what your body really needs and how it really functions. Here’s a little uncommon sense about your body.

Sorry, but eating carrots doesn’t improve your eyesight
This is a bit of propaganda form World War II that worked a little too well. Great Britain had actually developed night vision, so the government spread the word among civilians that they could enhance their vision at night by eating more carrots. It’s not true, but the myth has persisted. Sure, eat your carrots, just don’t expect it to bestow super powers.

Stretching before a workout doesn’t prevent injury
Injury is may be less likely if you stretch before athletic activity (though even that’s still in dispute), but don’t let stretching make you think you’re invincible. Don’t get us wrong, stretching is good! It gives you optimal range of motion and ensures your muscles change and adapt with the most benefit and the least pain.

Fever? Cold? Feed both
The rationale behind the old saw “feed a cold, starve a fever” is that your metabolism is the source of a fever, which isn’t wrong. But when you’re sick, whether you’re suffering cold symptoms or a fever, feed you body with vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Eat when you’re hungry, and drink plenty of fluids.

Nosebleed? Don’t tilt your head back
It’s almost instinctive to throw your head back during a nosebleed to keep the drips of blood from falling, but resist the urge, and recognize that your mom as human and fallible as the rest of us. Tilting your head back can actually cause you to swallow or even choke on your own blood! Instead, hold your head level while pinching your nose just below the bony part until the bleeding stops. If the bleeding persists for more than a half hour or gets worse, get immediate medical attention.

Laugh at Star Wars and Victorian novels all you want, but you really can die of a broken heart
According to the American Heart Association, the links between mental health and heart health couldn’t be stronger. Broken Heart Syndrome is real, so act accordingly. Sure, eat a good diet, stay active, get plenty of sleep, but also nurture you closest relationships. They might just mean the difference between life and death.

Question your assumptions! Interrogate “common sense” just to be sure, especially when it comes to your health.

Tom Gunn is the blog editor and marketing director of The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to build your brand with logo design and content marketing by contacting 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

4 Early Warning Signs You Need A Massage

4-warning-signs-that-its-time-for-a-massage

Is it time for a massage? Don’t answer so fast. Your body could be telling you, and you don’t even know it.

They say ignorance is bliss, but it can also be very expensive. That pain in your neck could become debilitating, preventing you from working and enjoying your life. Consider the cost of doing nothing, and you’ll see why it’s wiser to take care of yourself from the beginning.

Exhaustion
Are you getting to the end of a normal day feeling like you just did a 50 mile hike? Do you seem to fall asleep the moment you get comfortable? Your body may be working harder than it has to. This could be due to bad posture, poor sleeping habits, a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, or all of the above.

Regular massage can help you feel like yourself again and boost your energy by improving circulation. Massage can also help correct poor posture, making it easier to rest and move your body more naturally.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, massage is one of the best treatments for that. A study by the Mayo clinic found that patients reported better sleep and lower fatigue than a control group. It really does help.

Loss of muscle control
For athletes and musicians, control is everything. Power and energy in using your muscles is important, but control is what turns that power into inspiring wins or beautiful music.

You may not be in pain, but if you’re noticing control errors in your playing, it might be time to schedule an appointment.

Pain that goes away–for a while
Headaches are the most common form of this, but pain can be your body’s way of sending you subtle and not-so-subtle messages. You may try temporary measures to find relief (aspirin, hot or cold packs), and you feel better…for a while. But if the pain keeps coming back, you’re not getting the message.

The message almost always has to do with self-care, but how to best interpret that message depends on the situation. If you just had a massage yesterday, you probably need to rest your body from the usual strain, and probably need additional treatment down the line anyway. But if it’s been some time since your last massage, and the pain keeps coming back, it might be a good time to schedule your next one.

Loss of emotional control
Your feelings are like lightning calculators, taking the input your brain receives and manifesting a tidy sum response to that input. What most people forget is that your feelings are responses–not just to what happens to you–but what’s happening inside you as well.

Pain can be like an annoying sound in the background–you may almost forget it’s there or how irritating it is–until, suddenly, it’s gone. Your body can develop a tolerance for it, a numbness. But your feelings and emotions aren’t so easily distracted.

Irritation in the body can come out as irritability with friends or with yourself. Are you feeling more sad for no apparent reason? Are your responses to things more dramatic than usual, in either a happy or sad/angry direction? Do you ever feel like you’re watching yourself react, but can’t stop the reaction?

Regular massage can help you stabilize your emotional responses by reducing the input your mind is receiving from within–quieting that noise of the body so you can respond to the stresses of life in a balanced and healthy way.

Do any or all of these describe you? Consider a massage. It really isn’t just a luxury, and you really don’t have to be rich to get it on a regular basis. And it could be a lot less expensive than trying to go without it.

When you come in, be open with your practitioner about what you’ve been going through and what you need. The more you tell them, the more effective the treatment will be.

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 a freelance writer and social media editor. He is also the editor of this blog and the marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can see more of his work or hire him at www.TGunnWriter.com

Turtle Power, Part One: 5 Reasons Slow is Better

Pretty businesswoman experiencing road rage
Is faster really better? How many times have you been aggressively passed on the highway by someone who just has to go faster than you, only to look over and see them next to you at the next traffic light?

This post is part I in a two-part series. Follow our blog to catch the next installment!

Slow down! Sure, you could probably stand to break your lead foot habit. But slow is more than just a mode or an easier-to-catch version of speed. It can be the way you live your life–a philosophy that can absorb you and enrich your life in ways you may never have considered.

Here are GLM, we try to embrace this way of thinking in everything we do. Of course, we’re prompt and we stick to our schedule, but the way we structure that schedule is informed by this idea: slow is better.

For example, some massage clinics only leave a five minute gap between appointments in which the practitioner is supposed to be able to change the sheets, run to the restroom, take a deep breath, greet their next client, and start the next session.

We actually extend that 5 or 10 minute gap to 30 minutes. We do this not just for the practitioners (though we’re thinking of them, for sure), but for our clients as well. If the clinic becomes a revolving door of clients with therapists striding up and down the hallway in a rush to get the next person on the table, that doesn’t create a relaxing environment for anyone.

Further, we believe stress can actually be contagious. If a therapist is hungry, exhausted, rushed, flustered, and stretched to her limit, is it really likely that some of those feelings won’t spread to the client through the touch therapy?

If your massage practitioner doesn’t have a chance to slow down and take time for self-care, and to make sure the job is done right, we will never be capable of giving the kind of massage you deserve and need.

Think for a moment about how that same principle might be expressing itself in your own life.

No, really.

Stop skimming this at light-speed for a second, close your eyes, and think about how rushing might be harming your life. Just a second or two is enough, but take all the time you need.

Go ahead, we’ll wait.

What did you come up with? Write your answer down somewhere.

Answering some of these questions might help:

How could your rushing around and “busy-ness” be effecting your spouse/partner? Your children? Your co-workers and subordinates? Do you really like living life at high speed, or do you just have problems with procrastination? Is being busy too much a part of your self-image and sense of worth? It might be time to questions those ideas.

Let it go
Is being busy a part of your self-image and sense of worth? It might be time to questions that.

If you’re still not convinced that slow is better, we have at least five reasons you should consider lifting your foot from the gas pedal of your life.

Greater awareness
When you’re slow, you’re present in the moment. You’re experiencing the precious time of your life as it passes irretrievably into the future. You’re living your life as it was meant to be lived.

How much time do you have left on earth, anyway? You have no way of knowing for sure. Speeding through your life may help you believe the lie that you’re packing a lot in, but are you really tasting it? Do you appreciate how fragile your life is, and how quickly it’s passing?

The span of your life is like an ice cream cone on a hot day: you better savor it, because it won’t last forever.

Slow is cheaper!
Moving, thinking, living at high speed comes with a high cost. In your rush to get things done, you may find that you all-too-easily stay busy while not actually getting much done at all. While checking to see how fast you’re moving, you may not be noticing in which direction you’re going.

Ever hear the expression “Haste makes waste?” Old proverbs like that get passed along because they’re catchy, sure, but also because they’re true. Have you really saved time rushing out the door in the morning at top speed if you forgot something important and had to go back for it?

Moving fast, isn’t
Don’t believe me? How many times have you been aggressively passed on the highway by someone who just has to go faster than you, only to look over and see them next to you at the next traffic light?

For most things in life, you’re not earning any extra points for speed. So why not take your time?

If a job’s worth doing…
It’s worth doing right, which means taking the time it takes to do a task with your full attention. Here’s a mind blower: you know that multitasking thing you’ve heard so much about in job descriptions? It doesn’t exist. Human beings aren’t capable of it.

You can do one thing–ONE–at any given time, and no more. You may be able to shift between things rapidly, but only one will ever have your total focus in the moment. Remember that the next time you’re playing with your kids, or when you get behind the wheel of a car.

Where you place your focus and attention truly matters.

Your physical health
Ongoing stress can tax your body in ways you don’t realize. It increases the risk of heart disease and several kinds of cancer, not to mention high blood pressure and hypertension. Slowing down puts you in tune with your body’s natural rhythms and pace.

While vigorous exercise is important, consider the exercise methods that also bring outstanding health benefits, but which are much slower by nature.

Handsome young man resting after workout in gym
Working the free weights–slowly and steadily–increases muscle control and endurance.

Yoga and tai chi are great examples of this kind of exercise. But this approach isn’t limited to eastern traditions and practices. Even good-old-fashioned weightlifting has benefits when you decide to slow down your reps and focus on control. Your mind can focus more intently on each motion of your body as you go through your routine. If possible, consult with a trainer for a session or two. You might find that your form is much worse than you ever thought!

Also, slow-lifting increases your muscle endurance, de-emphasizing the explosive motion and training your muscles to endure great weight for longer periods of time.

Are you convinced yet? If you’re not sure where to begin, that’s understandable. In the next part of this series, we’ll address the nuts and bolts of throttling down your life and living with more intent and focus.

Tom Gunn is the director of marketing and blog editor at The Good Life Massage. You can find him online at http://www.tgunnwriter.com.