By Susan Shekut, MA, Clinical Professional Psychology, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Today I came across an article about the effects of giving up sugar in our brains, Here is What Happens to Your Brain When You Give Up Sugar For Lent, published in The Conversation. Author, Jordan Gaines Lewis, who is a Neuroscience Doctoral Candidate at Penn State College of Medicine, explains the role of neurotransmitters and the body’s reaction to receiving pleasurable stimuli in the form of sugar. Unfortunately, as the brain becomes addicted to sugar, stopping your sugar intake such as by fasting for a religious reason, can have withdrawal effects similar to kicking the habit of hard drugs like cocaine and heroin. Although the article may be a bit complex as the author explains the neurological reaction of the brain to sugar, it is an excellent explanation of how our bodies react to the sweet stuff and why we crave it so much!

In another article in The Conversation, The Amount of Hidden Sugar in Your Diet Might Shock You, authors Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Sonia Pombo, Nutritionist at Queen Mary University of London, explain just how much sugar there is in food you might not think had sugar, including bread and cereal, nonfat yogurt, flavored water and even soup!  Check out their short article and chart to see just how much sugar is in the food you consume every day.

Interestingly, when we take the explanation of how we can become addicted to sugar and look at the amount of hidden sugar in our diets, it is easy to understand how people have difficulties curbing their sugar intake. And too much sugar intake can be part of the process that leads to Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome. Not to give us an excuse to overeat sugar, but before we can do something about a problem, we must first understand it!

Overcoming Sugar Addiction

If you do find that you have a sweet tooth or a full on sugar addiction, I hope these articles help you understand that resisting the sugar craving is not just a matter of will power. Just like being addicted to drugs like cocaine and heroin, people who feel they are addicted to sugar need help to overcome their sugar addiction. There are some drugs being tested to help reduce cravings, but cognitive behavioral therapy is also widely regarded as a helpful tool in combating addictions, including sugar addiction. Cognitive behavioral therapy does help people fighting addiction in a few keys ways. First a pychotherapist uses CBT to help clients to evaluate how thoughts and beliefs may be impacting  behavior and allowing the addiction to persist despite potential harm caused by excessive sugar consumption and then helps clients learn how to modify or change those beliefs and habitual thoughts which make it difficult for the client to manage the sugar addiction. Secondly, a psychotherapist uses CBT to work with clients to determine  a means to modify or change food consumption and other behaviors in specific ways to overcome the addiction. And according to the National Alliance for Mental Illness, (NAMI), “Individuals who undergo CBT show changes in brain activity, suggesting that this therapy actually improves your brain functioning as well.”

Psychology Today has an easy step by step method you can try to curb our sugar addiction on your own in their article, How To Get Over Your Sugar Addiction. Sherry Pagoto, Ph. D. explains how to “train your palette to prefer less sweet.” Her approach is in line with a CBT approach. However, if you feel your sugar addiction is beyond self-help, it is best to consult a licensed psychotherapist who can help you make the changes in your life that will allow you to overcome your sugar addiction. Living in a culture that provides not only an abundance of sugary food at every corner, even in Starbucks, professional help is often needed to build a support system and a behavioral plan to help fight the addiction.

By Susan Shekut, MA, Clinical Professional Psychology, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Random Acts of Kindness Week

Random Acts of Kindness Week

This week is officially International  Random Acts of Kindness Week! And to celebrate, one of our corporate social media clients is treating his staff to 20 minute chair massages! We decided to join in on the fun and we will be randomly giving away free chair massage gift certificates in the Chicago area for use in our two Chicago area chair massage stations this week. We think that giving a massage is always a kind thing to do, but giving away a free massage to someone in need is one great way for WWM to do our part and practice what we are preaching!

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation encourages us all to take this week to step out of our normal routines or comfort zones and try a new random act of kindness each day of this celebratory week.

What are random acts of kindness? Spontaneous acts of generosity, sweetness,  or kindness done without regard to getting anything in return beyond the satisfaction of helping others and doing good. Beware, if you decide to participate, because your acts of kindness can be contagious!

How To Get Involved: The RAK Foundation gives great ideas for random acts of kindness and explains three ways you can get involved.

1. DO: an act of kindness. Follow the motto: “do what you can… with what you have… where you
are.” Simply think through your daily routine and find one opportunity for kindness each day.
Maybe it’s complimenting the first three people you talk to or surprising coworkers with treats!
2. POST: your act of kindness on social media using #RAKWeek2015 – Help us flood social media with kindness and reach our goal of 100,000 acts of kindness documented worldwide by Feb 15!
3. SHARE: spread the word and share #RAKWeek2015 with one other person.

How does being kind help the person being kind?

According to the RAK Foundation website: “Scientific studies show that performing acts of kindness actually improve health and life satisfaction. They increase: energy, optimism, self-worth and our sense of belonging and connection in the world. PLUS they decrease anxiety, depression and blood pressure.” At Working Well Massage, we call that stress relief!

For Idea on random acts of kindness you and your family and friends can do at home, at work, or at school, check out the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation website here.
And keep in mind, you don’t have to wait for Random Acts of Kindness to do something nice for other people–and for yourself! You can make it a habit every day…and make yourself a little more energetic, feel a greater sense of belonging and connection to the world and decrease your anxiety, depression and blood pressure!

By Susan Shekut, MA, Clinical Professional Psychology, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

I’m happy to report that in January 2015, Working Well Massage, Inc. has been in business successfully for 15 years!

We are appreciative of all of our corporate clients, our chair massage clients at our chair stations inside Whole Foods Market and to our families and friends!

15 Free Massages to Celebrate!

To celebrate our 15 years in business successfully, we are giving away 15 fifteen-minute massages to the first 15 WWM clients who email us at info@workingwellmassage.com with the message “Free 15-Minute Massage” in the subject line.

Massages are then redeemable at either our Lincoln Park or our Gold Coast massage stations in Chicago. One 15-minute gift certificate per client. Clients must provide their full names, phone numbers and mailing addresses in their email to us in order to receive their 15-minute massage gift certificate.

Thank you Chicago area clients! We could not have done reached 15 years in business without you!

A Shout Out to Working Well Massage Staff

Working Well Massage is proud to have highly skilled, talented massage therapists on our team, but we are not only proud of our staff because they give great massages. We also think they are great people! Without infringing on the privacy of our staff, we do want to give them a shout out and tell you about some of their accomplishments.

Yuriy waiting for his next client at Whole Foods Gold Coast

Yuriy, One of our Wonderful Massage Therapists at Whole Foods Gold Coast

First off, through the years we have had a few team members that are veterans of the U.S Armed Forces. One of our team members has volunteered his time and effort to help out fellow veterans through the years. We also have had a number of our staff active in the arts community, with some of our staff also accomplishing some fame as actors, singers, dancers and writers. Other staff members teach yoga, provide personal training and corrective exercise. Some of our staff were born and raised in far off lands like Russia, the Ukraine, Morocco and Indiana. :) We know that moving to a different country, learning a new language and becoming a U.S. citizen is a huge brave undertaking and we are super proud of our team members that have made the move and now work with us to provide our clients with relaxation and pain relief!

We also proud of our staff that have taught in area massage schools and provide mentoring to fellow massage therapists at WWM and in the general massage community.  Many of our massage therapists are active in massage organizations, advocating for other massage therapists and providing free massages at charity events from time to time. And a few of our team members have left the massage field to go on to nursing, business, acupuncture and counseling fields. We miss them and wish them well!

Working Well Massage Clients

Through the years, we have given massages at five different Whole Foods Market locations and currently have booths in two Whole Foods stores, the Gold Coast and Lincoln park Locations. We are super appreciative of our successful partnership with Whole Foods Markets and look forward to many more years of providing Whole Foods shoppers and team members with our relaxing massages.


Working Well Massage has also been privileged to provide Chicago area workers with massage throughout the Chicagoland area for the past 15 years. To protect the privacy of our corporate clients, we do will no list specific names, but we will say that we are happy to be part of the wellness initiative at several successful financial firms, marketing and advertising agencies, Chicagoland area schools, at police stations and firehouses, mental health centers, hospitals, universities,  healthcare firms, software firms, publishing houses, photo studios, tax firms, condo associations, and manufacturing and distribution firms.

Multi-ethnic business portrait

We enjoy working with all of our clients and we believe that their success is as important as our success. So we hope that our relaxation and pain management massage services helps their staff be productive, happy and able to keep their companies working well!

By Susan Shekut, MA, Clinical Professional Psychology, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Corporate clients ask us how to help their employees incorporate more movement at work. It’s a tricky issue as most office work is done on a computer which requires the user to sit or stand in front of it for hours. Doing any repetitive movement for hours can lead to pain and muscle soreness. The key is to move frequently in different positions. Simply standing up periodically, stretching, going to the restroom or walking around the office lets your muscles take a break from the repetitive movements and stiffness of prolonged sitting.

Photo by Steelcase

Photo by Steelcase

Desks that allow employees to alternate between sitting and standing are helpful. Steelcase has a few options as well as many other vendors.

Here are some other tips on adding more movement into your work day.  Woman’s Health has this article, Easy Ways to Move More At Work.

For the science-minded, here is a promising pilot study from The Journal of Environmental and Public Health about helping employees remember to move more at work. A Pilot Study of Increasing Nonpurposeful Movement Breaks at Work as a Means of Reducing Prolonged Sitting. The study shows that passive prompts tend to be most encouraging to help people remember to move frequently throughout the day. The passive prompts were computer based  timed prompt that reminded staff s get up and perform some kind of “nonpurposeful movement.”  In the study, the software program used gave staff   a choice of 60 office-appropriate activities (i.e., walking, taking the stairs, and retrieving the photocopies). to complete. Employees were able to select the active, and choose the duration and intensity of each activity or nonpurposeful movement.    To read the full study, click here.

Even the government has gotten on the movement bandwagon and created a program to help federal employees move more at work. Click here for info about the Veteran’s Health Administrations Success With Increasing Movement at Work.

If all else falls, employers can provide push scooters for their staff. If the halls are long enough, people can push their way around the office! Roller skates and Roller blades in the office may be going too far though. Unless your office is the Fantasy Factory  at Dyrdek Enterprises.


By Susan Shekut, MA, Clinical Professional Psychology, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Happy New Year to Working Well Resource readers!

New Year's Eve at Navy Pier Chicago. Photo from Time Out Chicago.

New Year’s Eve at Navy Pier Chicago. Photo from Time Out Chicago.

We hope you enjoyed our blog this past year and we look forward to sharing more with you in 2015. New Year’s Eve is a time many celebrate and yearn for fun and excitement. This December 31, 2014, fellow Chicagoans, please make sure you are warmly dressed, have safe ride home if you go out and enjoy yourself without over indulging. We want to hear more from you in 2015!

Check out these blog posts for the latest in wellness trends for 2015:

Top health industry issues of 2015 (Do it yourself health care, Privacy versus convenience, expanding scope of practice and more!)

6 Fitness Trends for 2015 That Have the Experts Buzzing (Wearable monitors, streaming workouts, trendmill classes the new Soulcycle? and more)

Wellness Travel Trends for 2015 (eco-conscious travel adventures, fitness tracking on vaca, actual gazing versus photo blazing, airports with indoor green space

15 Top Diet Trends for 2015  (sprinkle superfoods, less beef, more green tea, good fats, and less complacent consumers!)

By Susan Shekut, MA, Clinical Professional Psychology, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Today a dear friend, who has a very generous spirit herself, shared a great resource,  The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose.” This  book that explores the science behind the relationship between giving and well-being. The book is timely in this holiday season with emphasis on giving and gifting.

The Paradox of Generosity Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose

The Amazon page describes the book as focusing not only on material giving to others, but on the many forms that giving can take. Authors Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson explore and illuminate the impact that giving has on people.  This book explains the The Paradox of Generosity study and uses data from an extensive survey of 2,000 Americans, over sixty in-depth interviews with people across twelve states, and analyzes  over 1,000 photographs and other visual materials. This study shows a consistent correlation between demonstrating generosity and leading a better life. According to the study, the more generous people are happier, suffer fewer illnesses and injuries, live with a greater sense of purpose, and experience less depression than less giving individuals.

I appreciate that the study did not measure giving solely through monetary means. Anyone can benefit from generosity, even if a person has little material wealth. Giving one’s time and energy, sharing a kind thought or simply giving undivided attention to another versus being preoccupied with one’s self, can be a form of generosity.

Working Well Massage has many corporate clients who make generous donations to charities, schools and communities. We value our client’s privacy and so we do not divulge their names nor their giving records, but we are proud to ally with our corporate partners and we celebrate their generous spirits! We at Working Well Massage also give to organizations and individuals who are near and dear to our hearts such as Climate Cycle, massage research related organizations and to our clients, business partners and staff!  Giving helps us stay healthy as people and as an organization. (Being balanced, selective, and private about our giving allows us to remain in business so we can keep on giving.)

Read an in-depth article about the book by the study authors, Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson, in Fast Company here.

Read a really intriguing article from PBS NEWSHOUR about the alleged stinginess of Americans and the reasons why so many of us having difficulty giving.  In the PBS article, Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson state that: “When it comes to generosity with money, time, skills and relationships, we know that relaxing, letting go, and giving away is not often automatic or easy. This is especially true in American culture, which from all sides constantly pounds home messages of scarcity, discontent, insecurity and acquisition. These messages may serve to grow the consumer economy, but they are often not good for the consumers.”


By Susan Shekut, MA, Clinical Professional Psychology, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Mercy Home Mentoring

Walking, dancing and playing all all great forms of exercise. Photo from Mercy Home Training.

In the article, “Exercise reorganizes the brain to be more resilient to stress,” we learn that Princeton researchers found that exercise “reorganized the brain” to make  anxiety less likely to interfere with normal brain activity and to reduce the stress response.  How did they find this out? They tested the effects of exercise and stress on mice. Mice who had regular exercise experienced less anxiety when exposed to stress (cold water) than mice who were sedentary.

What does this mean for us humans? First off, I know mice are not human, but they are mammals like us, and researchers often use mice to investigate potential impacts of  different experiences on humans. Secondly, anxiety is a huge problem in our modern world. If exercise can help us better handle stress (and, hint, hint, Winter has a lot of cold weather, which can add to our stress levels!) and help us be less anxious when exposed to stress, it is yet another reason to make regular exercise part of your daily life.

Keep in mind that exercise does not have to mean going to the gym and lifting weights for 3 hours. (Although that is fine too if that’s what floats your boat and you have time and energy to do so!) Expecting yourself to do more than you can do can create anxiety, so don’t set yourself up for failure by expecting yourself to become a gym rat to be healthy. Exercise can be going for a walk, doing yoga or lifting dumbbells in front of your television. The point is to sit less and move more to improve your ability to manage stress in your life!

Now, I’m going to get off my computer and get some exercise!


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