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Archive for the ‘Mental health’ Category

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

In my role as a massage therapist, I spend a lot of time trying to help people relax their nervous systems, allowing them to “de-stress” and feel their bodies relax, thus reducing muscle and mental tension. In my role as a psychotherapist, I do something similar, helping clients learn to manage emotional and psychological stress in a more functional way, to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and PTSD, along with reducing need for relying on addictive coping skills like substance use.

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Photo from livebold&bloom.com

Working with clients that have social and communication deficits known as Autism Spectrum Disorder, or previously known as Asperger’s Disorder, requires a good understanding of the nervous system and how being in a highly activated nervous system state (known as flight or flight or Sympathetic Nervous System mode) tends to shut down Executive Functioning processes like problem solving, decision making, impulse control and working memory.ae_mainlogo_tagline-9-300x136

Asperger’s Experts, my new favorite website for learning about Asperger’s and Autistic traits, provides a wonderful video explaining how people with Asperger’s tend to process information and sensations and gives really great tips on how to work with children and adults with this disorder.

When humans are in fight or flight mode, the brain and body is trying to save the person from perceived harm. It’s not a good time to learn or listen to directions or face social anxiety fears. People with Asperger’s tend to be overwhelmed by sensory input and thus tend to be in sympathetic mode much of the time.  This makes it super difficult for them to learn social and communication skills unless they have taught how to handle the overload and self soothe or calm themselves down.

Danny Raede explains the Sensory Funnel here. My favorite quote is this, “Lack of social skills are a symptom of being too overwhelmed and in Defense Mode. And until you get somebody with Asperger’s out of defense mode, you won’t be able to teach him social skills. It’s like taking somebody in Iraq that’s involved in an active battle and saying, hey, do you want to learn how to knit? And while they may want to make sweaters, they have more important things on their mind. They’re just trying to stay alive.”

When parents work with children, when managers work with employees and when people in relationships  become emotionally overwhelmed, we can all experience a similar feeling of not being able to think clearly, control our emotions and make decisions. Learning how to manage our sensory overloads and self soothe are valuable skills for us all, and even more important for working with people with Asperger’s and Autistic traits!

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

Happy Thanksgiving to all our readers, clients, friends, families and to our staff!

Turkey Run State Park. Photo by Sue Shekut.

Turkey Run State Park. Photo by Sue Shekut.

Gratitude is in the name of today’s holiday: Thankfulness is defined by the dictionary as appreciation, gratitude.

According to scientific research, expressing gratitude is actually good for our health! in her article,
7 Scientifically Proven Benefits Of Gratitude That Will Motivate You To Give Thanks Year-Round
in Forbes magazine, Amy Morin, provides us with helpful ways that gratitude improves health.

• Gratitude helps us expand our social support network, important to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and give us friend to turn to when we need emotional support.

• Gratitude improves physical and psychological health. People that are thankful tend to take better care of themselves, feel happiness and a sense of well-being.

• Gratitude increases our ability to feel empathy and reduces our tendency to become aggressive.

• Gratitude improves our self-esteem and reduces our tendency to make social comparisons which can leave us feeling less than. When we look at what we have rather than what we don’t have, we tend to feel more satisfied and less envious of what we feel we lack.

• Gratitude improves our resilience helping us heal from trauma and making us more resistant to the negative effects of difficult circumstances in the future.

I am grateful to be able to provide hundreds if not thousands of massages for the past 16 years at Working Well Massage, grateful to have such wonderful clients and team members and relationships with partners such as Whole Foods Market and River North Wellness Center and grateful to be able to blog about it!

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

For some time, the research behind massage therapy has shown that massage can reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression and improve the ability to get good nights sleep.

In the Institute for Integrative Health Care, Leslie DeMatteo, LMT, MS,  wrote a good article that sums up the symptoms of anxiety and explains that the way massage therapy helps is to help you sleep more soundly and massage also reduces muscle pain.  For more details, read the article here!

Massage reduces anxiety!

Massage reduces anxiety!

Want the “official word” On anxiety and massage therapy? Read the American Massage Therapy Associations position statement with multiple research articles referenced here.

If you are in Chicago and want to reduce your anxiety,  stop by one of our chair massage locations inside Whole Foods and let us help you relax…in minutes!

 

7 days a week, we reduce anxiety and muscle pain at Whole Foods Lincoln Park and Whole Foods Gold Coast

7 days a week, we reduce anxiety and muscle pain at Whole Foods Lincoln Park and Whole Foods Gold Coast

 

 

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

I’ve been lifting weights (also known as resistance training), since I was  a young woman. I am by no means a body builder and at some points in my life, I have lifted less and my body has paid the price (less energy, less muscle mass, feeling more sluggish and low energy). Overall,  I feel much better when I lift weights, even dumbbells, or especially, dumbbells because many weight machines are made for people who are taller than I am.

Weight training isn't just for young people

Weight training isn’t just for young people

Men’s Health posted an article about a study from Penn State College of Medicine that indicates that lifting weights can help us live longer. Dr. Jennifer Kraschnewsk and colleague’s study, Is strength training associated with mortality benefits? A 15 year cohort study of US older adults, found that adults 65 and older who reported that they participated in strength training twice each week had 46% lower odds of all-cause mortality than those who did not. The association between strength training and death remained after adjustment for past medical history and health behaviors.

Another study, “Mental health benefits of strength training in adults,” by O’Connor, Herring, and Carvalho  shows that resistance training also helps us maintain our cognitive abilities (ability to think clearly), longer as well as having other important mental health impacts such as reducing anxiety (American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 4(5), 377-396.).

I try to lift 2-3 time a week with dumbbells and bodyweight, nothing fancy, just the basic muscle groups.

What is your weight lifting routine?

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

Deep breathing from Anxiety Therapy Online

Deep breathing from Anxiety Therapy Online

The Wounded Warrior Project on Facebook. recently posted about another study on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) treatments for veterans.  This study looks at effects of meditation on PTSD in improving outcomes and helping vets become less dependent on medication. (It’s confusing I know, meditation and medication, but follow along!) The article, “Meditation may reduce PTSD, medication in soldiers in UPC.com,” by Stephen Feller, explains that Dwight Eisenhower Army Medical Center’s Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic and Augusta University researchers conducted a study mounted the study that taught active duty military personnel with concussions and PTSD to use transcendental meditation as part of their recovery. The study demonstrated that meditation techniques helped reduce the anxious, hyperactive state that is common with those suffering from PTSD symptoms.

According to Fellers article: “One month into the study, 83.7 percent of the meditation group had stabilized, decreased or stopped taking meditation, while 10.9 percent increased their medication dosage. Of the non-meditation group, 59.4 percent had stabilized, decreased or stopped using drugs, while 40.5 percent increased the amount of medication taken. Similar patterns were seen at two- and six-month follow-ups.” That’s good news for military and civilians with symptoms of PTSD.

How does TM help those with PTSD and concussions? Feller states that meditation helps people tune out distractions and feel an inner calm that helps reduce the amount of stress hormones in the brain while meditating.

Want to learn how to meditate via transcendental meditation? Go to the TM website here and learn more.

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

The story about lead contamination in Flint, Michigan’s water supply is all over the news the past week. but lead contamination is not solely a problem in Flint. Any home with old pipes, or that obtains water from sources that are contaminated, can have lead in the water coming out of the tap.

From guelph.ca website

From guelph.ca website

Pregnant women and children are most vulnerable to the effects of lead ingestion, but there is no “safe” level of lead exposure. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) website, “Lead in the body is distributed to the brain, liver, kidney and bones. It is stored in the teeth and bones, where it accumulates over time. Human exposure is usually assessed through the measurement of lead in blood.”

The WHO website goes on to explain how the higher lead levels affects children’s health specifically, causing  coma, convulsions and, in some cases, death. Children who survive severe lead poisoning may experience severe cognitive declines and behavioral issues.  Kids with lower levels of lead exposure may have lower intelligence quotient (IQs),  shorter attention spans and increased antisocial behavior, and do less well in academic achievement.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has information on how lead can get into your water and how to get your water tested here.

And outside Chicago, according to Vox, lead contamination in water is not just limited to Flint, Michigan water. Check out this article on Vox, “It’s not just Flint — every major American city has hazardous amounts of lead hurting kids” for information on lead contamination in New York City and New Orleans as well as other areas.

Chicago parent has specific tips on how to protect your children and family from lead exposure in your water here.

To learn more about preventing and treating lead exposure, check out, “9 Ways to Prevent and Deal with Lead Poisoning,” from Parents.com.

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