Posts Tagged ‘Stress’

By Sue Shekut, MA, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Licensed Massage Therapist, and Owner, Working Well Massage

Clutter can be stressful. And Marie Kondo’s new Netflix reality show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo shows us how to declutter and keep our spaces neater and less stressful. her approach seems to be only keep those items that bring you joy! Check out the trailer here. 

Japanese cleaning consultant, Marie Kondo is known best for her book “the life-changing magic of tidying up.”  In the book, she explains that to declutter, it is best to use category approach versus approaching declutters little by little or by  a room approach.  Her KonMari Method leads to lasting results and the book reports that most people that use her method remain clutter free over time.


How Does clutter lead to stress? According to Psychology Today, Clutter can increase uncomfortable feelings of anxiety, feeling overwhelmed and lead us to feel guilty and unfocused. Read more here, in Why Mess Causes Stress: 8 Reasons, 8 Remedies by

Sherrie Bourg Carter Psy.D.

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

I came across an interesting and, in my view, important blog today called KevinMD.com. (Founded by Kevin Pho, MD, KevinMD.com is the web’s leading destination for physician insight on breaking medical news.)

Kevin-Pho-MD, Founder of KevinMD.com

Kevin-Pho-MD, Founder of KevinMD.com

The blog is written by medical doctors and covers topics about health care in general from a doctor’s point of view. Sadly, as I read some of the posts, I realize that doctors are as frustrated with our health care system as we are. Many of them want to help their patients but health care billing and payment cause them to make some hard choices in order to survive. In the post, Why I decided to opt out of Medicare as a provider by Dr. Natasha Deonarain, it is clear why continuing to see Medicare patients is not financially feasible for many physicians. I also believe that relying on insurance companies and Medicare separates people from their own health care decisions. Health care can be costly, but there are other options for routine checkups and basic medical needs.

In another blog post, by Dr. Doug Olson, Primary care doctors may no longer be needed, he explains how nurse practitioners (with nurse practitioners complete 2,300 – 5,350 hours of education and clinical training during five to seven years, compared to physicians’ standardized path of 21,700 hours over 11-12 years) and physician assistants can see 80-85% of the patients medical doctors see. Dr Olson believes that “we need to develop systems that get that select the 15-20% of patients that need a physician.” In his view this is  a better use of primary care physicians training and expertise is to treat the more complex medical cases while the nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants treat the remaining 80% of less complex cases. as patients relatively healthy folks can self select our health care providers by only going to primary care docs if they need complex services, and using Walgreens, Target and other urgent care centers for simple colds, flues and minor injuries and illnesses. And recently in Chicago, there is a service that offers doctors making house calls, Chicago Express Doctors.

Chicago Express Doctors

Chicago Express Doctors

Massage Therapy and The New World Of Health Care

So where does massage therapy fit into all this? First off, I acknowledge that at least in the State of Illinois, massage therapy is not really a recognized health care option. According to the scope of practice for Illinois Massage Therapists, we are to provide massage therapy for the purposes of general health and well-being, but not to treat nor diagnose illnesses. Yet one of the most reported benefits of massage therapy is stress reduction (which can be thought of as pertaining to “general health”). The health effects of stress on the body include numerous illnesses and can even lead to injuries. KevinsMD has an article on How the stress of caregiving can lead to stroke. The Mayo Clinic reports that many health problems can be effected by stress including stomach pains, headaches, chest pains, sleep problem and anxiety. According to WebMD, “Seventy-five percent to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.”

So what does massage therapy do for clients with stress-related ailments? According to one research study at Duke University, massage therapy was shown to reduce self reported stress in patients with brain tumors. Another pilot study showed that stress levels of inpatient psychiatric patients were reduced after massage therapy. And, according to the MayoClinic, massage therapy can not only reduce stress, but lead to other health benefits as well.

I do not think massage therapy is s substitute for medical care. And I do not think massage therapists should try to act as doctors nor prescribe nor diagnose illnesses. But I do believe that massage therapy sessions can be a source of relaxation, a time for our nervous systems to ramp down to parasympathetic mode versus ramping up to sympathetic (flight or flight) mode. Allowing ourselves to be cared for, relaxed and to spend time in an environment of reduced noise, stress and constant demands allows our bodies to better do what they do naturally: our hearts beat, our immune systems fight off infection and our lungs and muscles allow us to work, move and life. Allowing our bodies to stay healthy means less needs to visit the doctor so our medical providers can focus on us when we very sick, not for routine illnesses and injuries. For this reason, I think that massage therapists can offer stress relief BEFORE we get an illness, a stress-related injury or just plain get cranky from stress!

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

Chicago police officers face a myriad of stressors: increased crime and shootings in the city, a severely reduced police  force, physical stress of carrying around all the police gear they are required to wear and now, the loss of a long time police station in Ukrainian Village.

13th District Commander Anderson demonstrates proper seating for chair massage as Working Well Massage therapist Aaron Hanna awaits officers for their massage. Photo by Sue Shekut

On September 25, 2012, four of our Working Well Massage therapists came in to give police officers at the soon to be closed 13th District police station 10-minute chair massages. Many of our team members live in the Ukrainian Village area or have family in the area the 13th District served. This police station is being demolished soon and officers from this station will be transferred to another station and District.  WWM donated our massage services to say “Thank you” for all the policing efforts our 13th District officers have provided the community with through the years.We timed our session to provide massages for officers before and after they came on duty so as not to disrupt their important police work.

Working Well Massage therapists give a small moment of relaxation to officers as they prepare to go out into the streets and as they come off duty after a long shift. Photo by Sue Shekut.

Any massage therapists that has ever massaged a police officer knows that as a result of all the stress and gear they must carry, police officers backs and necks are super strong and super tense!

Aaron Hanna mobilizes an off duty officer’s shoulder as he massages the officer’s neck and upper back. Photo by Sue Shekut

Our team of four massage therapists worked hard to give officers relaxing massages.  We were also able to give some of the 13th District office staff a “Thank You” ten-minute chair massage and they were extremely grateful! Working Well Massage plans on giving more massages to our men and woman of the Chicago Police Department in the coming year.

Working Well Massage provided chair massage in the 13th District’s old lock up room. Luckily we were OUTSIDE of the cells! Photo by Sue Shekut

The WWM Massage Challenge

Working Well Massage challenges other massage therapy companies, including Massage Envy, Urban Oasis and Spa Space, to donate massage services for Chicago’s police officers, firefighters and paramedics around the city. Providing massages to support city officers and fire fighters is not only good for our city, but also good for the massage field. The massage business is still confused with prostitution by some and building connections between legitimate massage establishments and police and fire fighters is one way to raise awareness about the benefits of legitimate massage therapy!

Related News Articles

• Tribute to officers of closing police district
Police dinner marks station closing
Police Commander Frank Gross leaves the 13th District for corporate America
West Town fears repercussions of police district closure

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

I came across an interesting blog from a Wellness Center in New York, The R.E.S.T. Initiative. I really like the post about relaxation and how practicing relaxation exercises may actually change the way your body responds to stress: How Relaxation Exercises Can Heal You – Mind, Body and Spirit.

An excerpt of the article is below:

“Dr. Herbert Benson was quoted in the US News and Planet Report saying, ‘What we’ve discovered is that after you evoke the leisure response, the very genes which can be turned on or off by tension are turned another way. The thoughts can actively flip on and flip off genes. The mind is not separated from your physique.’

His research demonstrates that equally as you may trigger well being issues within the physique by means of way of life choices, it is possible to also create superior well being by means of way of life also. This may be the very first extensive study to indicate how thoughts says can impact gene expression…

Studying to harness your own individual energy and to calmly concentrate inside is often a useful ability for managing hectic instances of tension. Fostering an capability to slow your breathing and decrease your heart rate by way of practiced relaxation strategies is often highly restorative, permitting you to think additional plainly and calmly. Equally as you’ll be able to harm your wellness through tension connected sickness, research are actually being completed to indicate that you can recover your physique by means of employing tactics that relaxed the mind and body. Positive outcomes from rest techniques were long thought to become “all inside the head” with the consumer, but Scientists are now beginning to discover much more definitive evidence that these approaches of relaxation response possess a biofeedback mechanism that alters gene expression.”

To link to the complete post click here.

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

As Fall unfolds and winter approaches, it’s time to think about giving your home and your family a boost of fresh air, reduced stress and visual beauty. How can you do that? With indoor potted plants.

Some plants are known for their ability to remove harmful chemicals from the air. Overall, plants and nature have shown to reduce stress levels and improve mood. And for most people, plants are visually appealing and give our minds a break from “hard attention,” the kind we use when we read, solve problems at work or focus on a task.

To send a friend or relative a burst of healthy air and the gift of stress reduction, you can send them a Potted Peace Lily Plant (Spathiphyllum) for about $40 (with shipping) from Proflowers here.

In Chicago, you can find locations to buy air cleaning plants here.

Breathe deep and enjoy your indoor plants! They may help keep you from getting cabin fever.

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Recently I did a presentation on Stress Management for psychology students at Chicago City Colleges’ “Psych in the City” program. (I’m taking psychology classes at Harold Washington College and this was an all school event with over 400 students attending!) Most of what I spoke about was a review of the autonomic nervous system and the effects of chronic Sympathetic Nervous system activation. (Sounds pretty technical, I know but if you know your nervous system or have heard anything about stress management, you know that calming the nervous system helps us better handle with the effects of stress.) It was a lot of fun, we did breathing exercises and I showed students how to find their resting heart rate…and how to speed up their heart rate with a little aerobic activity.  Overall, though, the goal of most stress management techniques to is calm down your nervous system, slow your heart rate and basically put your autonomic nervous system into parasympathetic (resting and digesting) mode versus sympathetic  (flight or flight) mode.

However, there are many different ways to calm down your nervous system. Read an excerpt from “30 Great Stress Relievers”  on some stress relieving techniques that are not commonly thought of, like cooking and art from  EKG Technician Training blog. To read the entire list from the blog, click here.

With the everyday stresses from work, parenting and budgeting finances, it’s no surprise that stress has been directly linked to causing heart disease, high blood pressure and decreased immunity. In a survey conducted by the American Institute of Stress, about 75-90 percent of all visits to general physicians are for stress-related problems. While it is difficult to avoid stress altogether, there are several ways to relieve stress and manage it through simple and often free practices that can be done at home and work.

Deep Breathing Exercises
While you can’t always control stressors, you can learn how to control and regulate your breathing. Thankfully, there are various ways to exercise your breathing to achieve deep relaxation, reduce stress and release endorphins. Learning how to stimulate, relax and count your breathe, like the breathing exercises taught by Dr. Weil, will help increase energy levels, alertness and help manage stress-related health problems.

Whether it’s classical, jazz or soft rock tunes, listening to and playing music is a popular way to relieve stress. Music has the power to slow one’s heart rate and pulse, lower blood pressure, as well provide a distraction that allows listeners to escape, or become focused on something other than what’s stressing them out. Not only is music so portable, but a little can go a long way. Make a feel-good CD for your car ride to work, listen to it when working out and meditating, or listen at work to block out sounds and added stressors.

From painting, drawing to sculpting, art is another therapeutic activity for tackling stress. Like music, art provides a means for escape, concentration and personal expression. Creating artwork allows people to explore their creativity, utilize their senses and provides a calming balance to a hectic day. You can also transfer negative energy, by using your frustrations and emotions as inspiration for your artwork. Viewing art also relieves stress because it calms the mind and muscles, provides a distraction and allows you to focus on something aesthetically pleasing for a bit.

While cooking may be a stressful endeavor for some, it is also a major stress reliever for others. Cooking is like a project that involves planning, experimentation and results. Whether you’re baking, preparing dinner or assisting in the kitchen, cooking allows people to improvise and focus on a different kind of task. In addition to the actual act of cooking, people will gain satisfaction from providing nourishment for their bodies and creating a meal on their own.

There are many health benefits of sex, including stress relief. From the physical act of lovemaking to the emotional connection between partners, sex allows people to experience pleasure and free their mind of worries. High levels of stress can decrease libido in men and women, so it is important to practice other stress relievers in order to get the most from your sex life.Talking
While some enjoy writing or reading during stressful times, others like to talk about their stress to friends, family, coworkers and counselors. Venting out loud about stressors and personal issues can help alleviate built-up emotions associated with stress, as well as help guide you toward a realistic stress management plan. Not to mention, talking to others about their lives and interests can be a healthy distraction for yours.

Nothing says relaxation like vacation. If the opportunity arises to take a trip, you should go for both pleasure and stress management reasons. Vacations let you mind and body escape from the daily routines and stressors that affect your mood and state of health. No matter how or where you spend your vacation, you are sure to experience heightened levels of relaxation and enjoyment. While vacations don’t last forever, they do provide a mental and physical break from stress and allow you to return back to work (and reality) refreshed and satisfied.

Kids aren’t the only ones who journal their thoughts and feelings — adults do it too. Writing is a cathartic activity for people to vent their thoughts, feelings and goals. Whether you prefer a diary, blogs or loose papers, all variations of journaling allow people to relieve stress by writing, evaluating and reflecting on their day. Journaling also serves as a record for detecting stress patterns, and a means to implement stress management techniques.

Along with writing, reading is another form of stress relief. Avid and sporadic readers alike can benefit from reading to relax their mind, use their imagination and adopt new ideas, skills and vocabulary. Reading is also one of the best ways to escape from the doldrums of day-to-day life, and serves as a positive distraction to a stressful state of mind. For those who suffer from high levels of stress, may benefit greatly from reading self-help books and positive reading materials that will boost their spirits and help manage their stressors.

From cats, dogs, birds and hamsters, animals are not only great companions, but also major stress relievers. Playing, petting and exercising with animals will make them happy, as well as reduce your level of stress and lower your blood pressure. Although not everyone is suited to care for a pet, you can always pet sit, go to a dog park or play with friends’ animals to get your dose of animal time and stress-free fun.

An easy way to avoid stress is to plan and stay organized. If you generate a plan, make a to-do list or make prior arrangements, you will be more likely stick to the plan, which will help alleviate stress. In addition to planning, having an organized house, workplace and daily schedule will help you achieve specific goals and avoid unnecessary stress from misplacing or losing items in a mess. Planning and staying organized does take a considerable amount of effort, but having the tools to do so and make your life easier will help in the long run.

To read the entire blog post with all 30 stress relievers, click here.

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Last night I enjoyed the advantages of 2010 technology. I watched an episode of the show “30 Days”  on my television downloaded from Netflix! 30 Days is a TV show is about people spending 30 days in an environment fairly different from their own. The episode I watched was about a highly stressed man that visited a Life Coach and spent 30 days doing “New Age” therapies to  reduce his reaction to stress. While some of the “therapies” were of questionable merit, many of them helped the man and he ended up becoming a calmer, happier man and building a closer relationships with his wife!

One of the things the man enjoyed, and continued to keep up after the 30 days had ended, was yoga.  More and more research is coming out about the benefits of yoga. I don’t see yoga as a New Age therapy, but then I’ve been doing yoga for about 17 years. And yoga has been around for much longer than the U.S has been a  country (as has acupuncture). As more and more Western style scientific research is done on the benefits of yoga and more people in the U.S.  incorporate it into their daily lives, yoga has become more “mainstream.”

I came across a great article from Yoga Journal on “Banishing Burnout.” In the article, author Jennifer Pirtle shares some information about current research on yoga and stress relief.  She shares some insights into how doing yoga can help you learn to react less to stressors in the workplace. I am sharing some excerpts with you below:

More Bad News About Workplace Stress

Recently, a team of researchers at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) found that stress may even accelerate aging at the cellular level. The study found that the blood cells of women who had spent many years caring for a child with a health condition appeared to be, genetically, about 10 years older than the cells of women whose caretaking responsibilities were less prolonged.

Although the study focused on caregivers, the findings apply to overworked employees, too. “People with other sources of life stress showed similar relationships between their levels of stress and cell aging,” says Elissa Epel, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at UCSF and the study’s lead author.

Stress itself, Epel emphasizes, is neither inherently good nor bad. Instead, how you perceive and react to it determines how it will affect your health. “In the study,” she explains, “the perception of stress was more important than whether one was under the strain of caregiving or not.”

Making your work less stressful doesn’t have to mean leaving it behind for good. (And how many of us can hope to do that, anyway?) Instead, the key is to transform your relationship to the stress so that it no longer overwhelms you. More and more people are discovering that mind-body practices like yoga, qi gong, and meditation can be hugely helpful in shifting the way they react to stress.

How Does Yoga Help With Stress?

You’re likely to feel many of yoga’s benefits the first time you step onto the mat, says Timothy McCall, M.D., an internist and Yoga Journal‘s medical editor. “When you’re doing Downward-Facing Dog, your mind is saying, ‘I want to come down now; my arms are tired,’ but if your teacher tells you to hold the asana a little longer, you find the strength to do it,” he says. “At that point, you realize that you don’t have to respond to every urge you feel. At other times, when your body says it needs to come down, it really needs to. Yoga teaches you to tune in to what your body is telling you and to act accordingly.”

With practice, this awareness will spread into other areas of your life, including your work. “As you learn to separate the urge to act from the reaction, you begin to find that something like a canceled meeting or having a last-minute project handed to you may not rattle you as much as it once did,” says McCall. “You can detect stressors—what Buddhists call the spark before the flame—earlier, then pause long enough to think, ‘Well, maybe I don’t need to respond.'”

That’s what happened for David Freda, a 41-year-old software engineer in Pasadena, California. He had practiced yoga sporadically to help him deal with job-related anxiety in the past, but after he took a new position at an investment company in 1999, he decided to get serious. “I have very high standards as an engineer. As a result, I have a pattern of getting fed up with co-workers and bolting from my jobs,” he says. “When I took this job, I decided to stick it out to see what I could change in myself. I had a strong sense that yoga could help me do that.”

“When I’m doing a challenging posture such as Revolved Triangle [Parivrtta Trikonasana], I can stay in the posture, focus on my breathing, and perhaps not push quite so hard,” he says. “That approach helps me in my job. When I’m confronting someone who is making a bad technical decision, I consider what I could say that would facilitate what I want to achieve. In the past, my emotions would have gotten the best of me, but now people are more inclined to listen and to engage. Even my boss has commented on the changes.”

Read the entire article with many more great insights into how yoga can help you learn to battle workplace and life stress here.

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