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Archive for the ‘Wellness for Parents’ 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, ACSM Personal Trainer

Want to eat local and healthy produce from Chicago area farmers?

Farmer's Markets

Farmer’s Markets Fresh!

 

Check out this helpful map and schedule of Chicago farmers markets from DNAInfo here. The City of Chicago’s Farmer’s Market schedule is here.

A helpful Seasonality chart to show when eat type of fruit or veggie is in season is here. 

Why shop at Farmers Markets? CUESA (The Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture website explains 10 reasons to shop at Farmer’s markets here. Huffington Post (also affectionately known as HuffPo), finds even more reasons to shop at farmer’s markets in their post, 15 benefits of Shopping at a Local Farmer’s Markets here.

 

Why do you shop at local farmer’s markets?

 

What is your favorite Chicago area farmer’s market?

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

For many years, we’ve been offering gift certificates for sale in our WWM booths inside Whole Foods. However, customers have asked us if there is any way they can buy gift certificates online. We are happy to report that starting today, Working Well Massage is now offering gift certificates for our chair massage stations through our website!

Brian gives a relaxing chair massage at our Lincoln Park Location

Brian gives a relaxing chair massage at our Lincoln Park Location

Giving the gift of massage for the holidays let’s you make gift giving easy and appreciated! We offer individual gift certificates in increments of 15, 20 and 30 minutes. We also offer packages of 5 gift certificates and packs of 10 in increments of 15 or 20 minutes.

When you purchase your gift certificates online they will be mailed to you within one business day, along with a WWM brochure so that your gift recipient can learn more about using our massage services before he or she comes into the booth.

To purchase your gift certificates, go to the WWM website and make your selection. The website will guide to through  the purchasing process.

 

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

It’s helpful to receive comments on this blog. Comments often lead to new resource and connections. A recent Working Well Resource commenter, Julituli, directed me to Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky and her blog on Psychology Today, The How of Happiness.

I read through Dr. Lyubomirsky’s blog and found an intriguing post on Martin Seligman’s latest book, Flourish.

 

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Dr. Lyubomirsky’s review summarizes the premise of Dr. Seligman’s book, that we should focus on “flourishing” versus the overused term, “happiness.” Dr. Lyubomirsky makes the convincing agreement that, “Research reveals that happy people are not self-centered, gratification-seeking hedonists lacking in meaning or fulfillment.  To the contrary, hundreds of studies have shown that happiness relates and leads to such positive outcomes as creativity, productivity, effective coping, satisfying marriages, close friendships, higher earnings, longevity, and strong immune systems.” and she cites this as reason enough to continue to use the term “happiness.”

I’ve followed Dr. Selgiman’s work since I first heard the term “positive psychology.” His research has led to the creation of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness which teaches  resilience training for our nation’s soldiers to help them prevent incidences of PTSD and suicide and to help them cope with, not only the impact of serving in wartime, but of coming home to a life so different from what they experience in the field of battle.

Merriam Webster defines the word “flourish” as to grow well: to be healthy; to be very successful: to do very well, and to thrive. According to Amazon’s summary of Flourish, Dr. Seligman asks, “What is it that enables you to cultivate your talents, to build deep, lasting relationships with others, to feel pleasure, and to contribute meaningfully to the world? In a word, what is it that allows you to flourish? “Well-being” takes the stage front and center, and Happiness (or Positive Emotion) becomes one of the five pillars of Positive Psychology, along with Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment—or PERMA, the permanent building blocks for a life of profound fulfillment. ” In addition to stories of how the U.S. Army is now trained in emotional resilience, the book provides the reader with interactive exercises to help you explore your own attitudes and aims, with the goal of helping you get more out of life and to well, flourish!

If you want to learn more about how to Flourish, check out Dr. Seligman’s book, Flourish.

To read more of Dr. Lyubomirsky’s blog, go to The How of Happiness.

Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky

Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D.

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

A few weeks ago I had the chance to visit an amazing toy store, the Magic Tree Bookstore in Oak Park. It was full of colorful, educational, and fun, toys, books, and games. With Winter coming around the corner, having interesting games, toys and activities for active kids who will soon be cooped up inside is a great strategy for parents. Magic Tree has crafts, magic trick sets, basic loom making kits, all kinds of clay and art supplies, educational coloring books (Color a dinosaur!), easy snow cone and ice cream makers, colorful chalk, frisbees of all sizes, candle making kids, superhero action figures and a few play areas for kids to play while mom and dad, or grandpa and grandma shop.

 

Magic Tree Bookstore's Helpful Friendly Staff

Magic Tree Bookstore’s Helpful Friendly Smiling Staff

And play isn’t just for children. Adults can benefit from play as well. In, The Benefits of Play for Adults, from Helpguide.org, authors explain how play can help adults reduce stress, be more creative and increase productivity at work. Magic Tree is one of the few remaining stores that sells games like Settlers of Catan and games that encourage cooperation instead of competition like Cauldron Quest.

Excellent books, cards and toys at Magic Tree Bookstore

Excellent books, cards and toys at Magic Tree Bookstore

There’s something for everyone, young and old. Bubbles, balls and building materials for your own kids or the kid in you. Play can be a great stress reliever, no matter how old you are.

Magical Toys from Magic Tree Bookstore

Bubbles and more!

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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
http://imgur.com/JibDPTV

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. 

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