By Sue Shekut, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

When someone we care about is in pain or has had surgery, it is difficult to know how to help them. For many people, time is the main healing agent. For others with chronic pain,  patience and respect for your loved one’s needs are important as time may not heal or reduce their pain. Watching someone you care about suffer can be stressful and difficult. I’m sharing some ideas for care giving a loved in pain below.


Keep in mind that when someone is in pain, they are likely to have less energy for conversation and may not be able to be clear about their needs. Offering help is kind, but general offers of help such as “let me know if you need anything,” puts the burden of determining what is needed on the person in pain. This kind of help may actually be more frustrating than helpful. Instead consider what your loved one may need and offer a few specific services or items they may need. For example, “Would you like me to read to you?” Or, “Let me know if you want to watch a funny movie.” “May I have someone come in (or come in myself) and clean your bathroom/home for you?”

Notice what your loved on seems to struggle with. Is it difficult for him/her to ask for help? Are there certain responsibilities (paying bills, cleaning, grocery shopping, prepare meals, etc.) that are difficult that you may be able to help with? Make a list and ask your loved one if you can help with any of those needs.

Consider your loved one’s energy levels and ask him/her the best time to call or visit. Even if someone does not “look” sick or tell you they are in pain or feeling tired, does not mean they are not feeling tired or need rest. Be mindful of your loved ones face and expression. If it seems he/she is getting tired, it may be time to cut the visit short or let your loved on sleep while you do dishes or other helpful chores.

Be a gatekeeper for other friends and family so that the person recovering does not need to speak to multiple people with updates. At the same time, if the person recovering seems to be able to handle phone calls and texts and finds that a good distraction from the pain, help make that easier by setting up pillows and a phone ear piece so that your loved one can sit or recline comfortably as he/she talks on the phone or texts.

If speaking is difficult for your loved one due to pain or fatigue, agree on a  few hand signals so that your loved one can tell you if he/she needs rest, pain medication or does not want to talk to someone. Rest is key in recovering from many illnesses. Try not to bombard your loved one with too many questions, excessive offers of help or with visitors, especially the first week after surgery. Quiet assistance, merely being nearby and not being overly chatty may be much appreciated.

Aside from kindness, patience and respect for your loved on, there are some gifts that may be helpful when a loved on is recovering or bed ridden.  This blog post shares great gift ideas for post surgical loved ones and also may have helpful for loved ones with chronic pain or limited mobility, “26 Surgery Recovery Gift Ideas – Cool Gift Ideas For Someone In The Hospital.”

Feel free to share your experience and ideas for helping a loved one through a surgical recovery or painful illness in comments below!

By Sue Shekut, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Working Well Massage now has an updated website that is easily viewable on your mobile device (smart phone, tablet and good “old-fashioned” computer screen). We’ve also redesigned our signage and added a new overhead sign at our Lincoln Park–Whole Foods Market location.

We added new photos of our latest signage and our friendly, professional massage therapists, Aaron Hanna and Cindy Bokhof. We plan on adding more photos and info over time. For now, check us out on your computer or mobile device and let us know what you think of our new look!


wwm screen shot edited

Working Well Massage Website

Check out our new website here.




By Sue Shekut, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Chicago has had a very wet Spring, like much of the U.S. Hiking in boggy muddy land is not as easy as hiking on dry land. Sitting inside and waiting for Summer to arrive can be frustrating. While we are waiting for Summer to warm up, it is a good time to start planning some hikes and getting yourself ready for warmer weather. Or venture out and brave the elements now!

Waterfal Glen

Waterfall Glen

Backpacker magazine recently posted lists of great local hikes in major cities around the U.S. They have a few good suggestions for Chicagoans in an article entitled Chicago’s Best Local Hikes.

Keep in mind that some of the best trails in the Chicago area at and near Waterfall Glen are lined with limestone (gravel), not dirt. So although they may be wet, the trails there won’t be as muddy! The trails also make mountain biking a bit more adventurous (versus biking a paved trail like at Tinley Park.)

If you want to brave muddy trails between Spring showers, Outdorky has some great tips for hiking in mud here. And SunValleymag.com has some additional tips of Spring hikes in muddy terrain Sun Valley Mud hike tips.

What are your favorite trails to hike this Spring? Share your thoughts in our comments section


By Sue Shekut, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

For those that are interested in fresh juice or a fresh smoothly with wholesome healthy ingredients, check out the new Pressed Juice Bar at Whole Foods Market in Lincoln Park!

Whole Foods Market-Lincoln Park, New Pressed Juice Bar

Whole Foods Market-Lincoln Park, New Pressed Juice Bar

I recall when most Whole Foods markets, and other stores, had juice bars…then over time they disappeared. The only way to buy fresh juice has been at a select restaurants. Then in the past few years, the availability of fresh bottled juices has expanded, from Odwalla to Naked to Suja and more. Some people miss the convenience and freshness of in store juice and smoothies! Whole Foods has responded to that demand.

Fresh pressed juice..and smoothies, too!

Fresh pressed juice..and smoothies, too!

Recently inside the giant Whole Foods Market at 1550 N Kingsbury,  the new juice bar also sells BluePrint Juices. According to Whole Foods website, these juices were created for juice cleansing. They pack each bottle is packed with raw, organic fruit and vegetable juices made with a special hydraulic juice press.

Fresh from the grocery aisles to the juice bar to you!

Fresh from the grocery aisles to the juice bar to you!


Why Pressed Juice Over Any Other Kind of Juice?

A  centrifugal juicer is one in which the blade spins around at a very high-speed which produces heat and can destroy some nutrients. A juice press operates at a slower speed and causes less oxidation. The juice press also uses pressure instead of heat to kill harmful bacteria in a process called “high-pressure pascalization,” or high-pressure processing (HPP). This is an alternative form of pasteurization. According to Whole Foods’ Blog, HPP maintains a high percentage of the juice’s minerals and nutrients. This increases the shelf life of the juice so that it can remain fresh and nutritional for several weeks.

Pressed juice that has pasteurized via HPP  can be shipped without fear of spoilage. This has allowed more of us to be able to buy  nutrient-dense, pressed organic juice!

By Sue Shekut, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

People often are at a loss for words when someone they care about has a serious illness, has a miscarriage, or a chronic condition, like fibromyalgia. Well-meaning coworkers may tell a person with a serious illness or loss, “Everything happens for a reason.” This type of comment is not usually helpful to someone with said illness. It implies that there is a reason the person is suffering or that they deserved their illness/pain.

What is helpful then?

Emily McDowell Empathy Cards

Emily McDowell Empathy Cards

Emily McDowell,  a cancer survivor herself, has created empathy cards for people with serious illnesses.  Her cards spell out humorous messages to friends or family with illnesses like cancer. Simply reading the card sayings is a quick What To Say (and Not To Say) primer.

Emily writes about the tendency for people to avoid those with serious illnesses because they don’t know what to say. Unfortunately, this often makes the person with the illness or loss feel even more isolated.Taking the time to think about what may be helpful and then reaching out to your coworker, family member or friend can be a great help to someone with a serious illness.

It may be helpful to put yourself in the other person’s shoes when you think of what you want to say. Think about what you want from friends and coworkers when you are ill. If you are running a fever and having gastrointestinal angst from the flu, do you want someone to say to you, “Everything happens for a reason.” Or, “Have you tried yoga for that?” Probably not. How about if someone tells you, “I’m sorry you are not felling well.  Would you like me to pick up anything for you from the store/take out your trash/cover your projects at work while you are ill?” The latter statements may be more appreciated.

Aside from the empathy cards and offers of help, one of the most helpful things you can do for someone with a serious loss of illness may be the most difficult thing for many people: Just being there. Listening. Caring. Sharing a humorous story about your day. Letting the person be, however they feel without trying to fix them: cranky, low energy, easily fatigued. And lastly, not taking it personally if the person with the illness or loss is too tired to talk or enjoy your company and wants to rest.

Check out Emily’s Empathy Cards here.

What’s Emily’s Story?

Emily McDowell, Greeting Card Great!

Emily McDowell, Empathy Greeting Card Creator and Spot Caller!

Emily McDowell, former advertising art director, writer and creative director, started her greeting card business on a whim in 2013. She put a Valentines Day card on Etsy and from there her work “went viral,” according to her website. Emily tells her own story far better than I, however so check out her story here.

To view and purchase cards from Emily, click here.

By Sue Shekut, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

This next week, the Rooted Center in Wicker Park, located at 2221 W North Avenue, # 1W,  is holding their first membership drive. Drop in this week to express yourself through visual art, movement, drama, creative writing, expressive writing and/or music all week…for free!


And every Sunday from 1-2:30pm, Rooted offers free self-care playshops! Register here to participate in a free Self-Care in the city Playshop.


What is the Rooted Experience?

When I met Rooted’s founder/facilitator,  Shruti  Sekhri, last week, she noted that Rooted does not provide therapy, but facilitates a way for people to experience connection through creative expression in a safe, non-judgmental atmosphere.  She calls her center, “A gym for the emotions.” The website calls the Rooted Center, “A gym for the emotions where Creative Arts are the weights.”

You do not need to be an artist, musician or writer to join or drop in to the Rooted Center.  The purpose of creating at Rooted is not to produce a piece or art of music, or movement, but to experience the process.

Who May Benefit from the Rooted Center?

According to the Rooted Center’s website, people who may benefit from the Rooted experience include those:

  • Wanting to take care of your soul and emotional well-being so you can rejuvenate and create personal resilience
  • Feeling stressed out from work-life off-balance or difficult events in life
  • Going through a transition in your life (e.g. relationship changes, new to the city, new parent)
  • Feeling creatively stuck or just in a rut and looking to explore new ways to get more out of life
  • Looking to find your path in life – to figure out what you are passionate about
  • Seeking genuine connection and wanting to be part of a community

Rooted schedule and sign up info here.

Try out Rooted next week and then let us know what you thought of your experience in the comments below!

By Sue Shekut, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Image credit: mediumclay http://imgur.com/JibDPTV

Image credit: mediumclay

Dog owners (and veterinarians!) will tell you that dogs are loveable, loyal and great companions. Service dogs have been used as an aid to the visually impaired for many years, acting as a human’s eyes out in the world. Those with emotional expression impairments and traumatic experiences now increasingly use service dogs to allow them to feel a non-judgmental connection with another living being, which can aid in recovery from post traumatic stress disorder. Service dogs also help keep children with autism feel safe and feel a greater sense of freedom and responsibility as the dogs allow the children to interact more easily with other people, according to an article in NJ.com, Service Dogs Can Benefit People Struggling with a Variety of Disabilities.

A new study sheds some light on the attachment between dogs and their owners. According to a study described in Science magazine,  “Comparisons of humans and dogs before and after they interact with each other have revealed notable increases in circulating oxytocin, as well as endorphins, dopamine, and prolactin, in both species.”

Dog comforts little girl.  - image credit: http://imgur.com/ql1pZ

Dog comforts little girl. – image credit: http://imgur.com/ql1pZ

Study authors, Nagasawa and colleagues, note that the changes in oxytocin levels in humans and their dogs as they gaze at each other may be similar to the effect that creates the bond between human mothers and their infants. Researchers posit that possibly one reason assistance dogs are able to help people with autism or post traumatic stress disorder is that oxytocin is increased through partly through this social gazing pathway.

Interestingly, while owners gazing in their dogs eyes increase oxytocin in both the dogs and their owners, female dogs show a stronger reaction to oxytocin effects by gazing longer at their owners when given oxytocin. However, pet wolves  and their human owners do not show the same reactions in oxytocin and gazing at each other.

For those with difficulties in healing from trauma tic events, or communication and social disabilities, service dogs are available. However, untrained dogs can benefit most anyone who wants to feel non-judgmental connection and puppy love!

Image credit: Elena Shumilova, Russian photographer

Image credit: Elena Shumilova, Russian photographer

For more in-depth details about this study and a similar study about dogs human and the relationship of oxytocin, click on this article from The Dodo: Dogs, Humans and the Oxytocin-Mediated Social Bond.

Where Do I Find a Service Dog?

To obtain a service dog in Illinois, contact Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, or check out the Service Dog Central website for links to other service dog providers and tips on selecting a provider.

Ami Moore, Chicago Dog Coach, from Ami Moore's website www.chicagodogcoach.com

Ami Moore, Chicago Dog Coach, from Ami Moore’s website http://www.chicagodogcoach.com

If you want dog training in Chicago, or to learn more about medical conditions which with service dogs may be used to aid humans, Ami Moore, Chicago Dog Coach has an excellent website and blog. She shares her knowledge about service dogs and children with autism here and about service dogs for those with PTSD here. 


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 739 other followers

%d bloggers like this: