What is Stress?

A stressor is external stimulus that disturbs physical or mental equilibrium. Stress is your body’s response to physical or mental disturbances.

Our stress response provides energy to survive short periods of danger by fighting foes or fleeing to safety. The acute stress response is beneficial when activated for short periods of time on rare occasions.

The “fight-or-flight” response increases available energy by producing stress hormones (cortisol and epinephrine) that convert sugar and break down stored fat into instantly usable sources of energy.

Energy is redistributed to the organs that need it most, like the brain, heart and skeletal muscles, by increasing cardiac output and constricting blood vessels. This reaction causes blood pressure levels to rise.

Although beneficial in the short-term, when the “fight-or-flight” stress response is repeatedly or continuously activated it becomes chronic and harmful.

The chronic stress response causes the heart to work harder, which causes damage to arteries and plaque formation along with thickened blood vessels, making it harder for blood to travel. This chronic stress response leads to elevated blood pressure levels for prolonged periods of time.

The chronic stress response causes the base level of cortisol in the bloodstream to rise. When the base level of cortisol rises, it negatively impacts the immune system by suppressing the production of cytokines. Cytokines help mediate acute inflammatory reactions for wound healing and the production of natural killer cells and antibodies to fight disease.

Elevated cortisol levels send signals to the brain that the body needs more energy. Since sugar and fat are converted to usable energy, the chronic stress response causes the body to crave foods high in sugar and fat.

Sources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2568977/#!po=19.3182

 

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Massage as Medicine

Though massage therapists and their clients have long known, scientists are now discovering how massage can be administered as medicine. Below are links to several articles outlining the many medicinal benefits of massage therapy.

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Don’t Call It Pampering:Massage Wants to Be Medicine

Source: Wall Street Journal, 2012

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Here’s Why You Should Book Your Next Massage ASAP

Source: Huffington Post, 2014

massage as medicine
Massage as Medicine

Source: Science Daily, 2014

Learn an Extremely Effective Method to Reduce Foot Neuropathy

If you have pain in your foot  like burning, tingling, pins-and-needles, numbness or a stocking-and-glove sensation, watch the video below.

 

No matter what the underlying cause for neuropathy symptoms (diabetes, chemotherapy, etc.), a recurring factor is oxidative-debt, which is a lack of oxygen being supplied to the peripheral nerves of the hands and feet. Theses long, fragile nerves need plenty of oxygen and other nutrients to function properly. High glucose levels and chemotherapy can deprive peripheral nerves of much needed oxygen and other nutrients.

So if neuropathy symptoms are on some level caused by a lack of oxygen to the nerves, any technique that increases blood circulation to the area will provide oxygen and decrease symptoms. The Neuropathy Foot Massage protocol does exactly that: increases local circulation of blood to the foot, delivering oxygen and other nutrients to the nerves supplying that area.

Why I Celebrate Halloween

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I’ve never been a big fan of Halloween. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t allowed to trick-or-treat when I was a kid, Halloween being “pagan” and all. I would beg my mom to let us go trick or treating, to no avail. She did take us to the fall carnival at the church where we couldn’t be Frankenstein, but we could dress as anybody from the Old Testament. Moses seemed to be the popular choice. Or was it Noah? Hard to tell those two apart…

As a young twenty something adult, I still didn’t celebrate Halloween much outside of the occasional party, but that all changed sixteen years ago. Now I celebrate it every year. So what changed?

I had just arrived home after finishing my shift waiting tables, when my old roommate, B.J., calls me up and invites me to go to a club in Dallas. I quickly agree and we set off for a night of little sobriety and much debauchery. We were supposed to wear costumes- he went as Dracula, and I went as a black man at night. We partied like it was 1999, because it was in fact, 1999. We were just doing what Prince told us to do; he is royalty, right?

Later that night, we left the club to head home. As B.J. drove us home in his tiny car (remember the Geo Storm?) we quickly approached two cars in the two center lanes of a four-lane highway. It was difficult to discern the fact that two cars were actually stopped in the middle of a busy highway. B.J. swerved to avoid slamming into the cars. That’s when we were struck by another vehicle barreling down Central Expressway at ninety-plus miles per hour. I know because we were going at least ninety miles per hour ourselves.

Before we knew it, we were spinning across the highway, being hit once, then twice, then a third time, like bumper cars, each hit causing our car to spin in different directions, completely out of control.

As we spun rapidly out of control across the busy highway, I couldn’t help but resign myself to the fact that I was about to die. There was nothing I could do to stop it. The only thing left to do was accept the inevitable.

Now, I know it’s cliche to say your life flashes before your eyes before you die- which is curious to me, because if your life flashes before your eyes when you die, wouldn’t you have to die to have your life flash before your eyes? And if you die, how do you tell anyone about your life flashing before your eyes? But, I digress- my life didn’t flash before my eyes as much as it unfolded before my eyes. I had always viewed my life as a story that I was reading and experiencing at the same time. I had finally reached the last chapter of my life and I was faced with the painful realization that my story was a tragic one, characterized by aimlessness and lack of purpose.

Thankfully, that wasn’t the end of the story for me or B.J. The car finally stopped spinning as it crashed into a wall on the other side of the expressway. I looked up just in time to see an eighteen wheeler pass by just seconds after we cleared the highway. We checked on each other to make sure we were both okay before climbing out of the car. We examined the damage- the front and back-end along with both the driver and passenger sides were crushed like an aluminum can. There is no way we should have survived, not to mention walk away unscathed. We sustained minor injuries but nothing major.

During the weeks that followed, I thought about the accident. How did we survive? Why did we survive? Why did I survive? Up until that point my life had been unfruitful. I hadn’t lived up to my potential or accomplished anything worthwhile. All I knew how to do well was work hard and I wasn’t allowed to do that for a couple of months. I was weighed down by feelings of inadequacy and regret. I was tired.

As I sat alone at home one day trying not to take another pill for pain, I was bored enough to open my bible. I turned to a page where Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (‭Matthew‬ ‭11‬:‭28-30‬ NLT)

As I read the passage over and over, I pondered the truth of those words. If I would just give up trying to direct my life in my own selfish way and give in to what I already knew to be good, right and true, I would find rest for my soul. Sounds simple enough. There is a path, a way, set before us that we either choose to follow or waste copious amounts of time and energy trying to avoid. Taking the major thoroughfares of life can be exhausting. When we go the way marked by humility and gentleness, however, we find peace. Not a trouble free life, but peace.

After that Halloween in 1999, I slowly climbed out of my wreck of a life and started down a different road filled with purpose, a purpose beyond simply taking care of myself and my own needs alone. I haven’t arrived yet, not by a long shot, but I’m on the road, headed in the right direction. Without the person of Jesus Christ, I would not know the way or have the means to reach my destination. Nor would I have the strength to even climb out of the car, metaphorically speaking. The knowledge of his selfless life, death and resurrection grip my imagination and allows me to believe I can, like him, start again (and again and again) even after I crash in the fast lane of life (again and again and again). He gives me hope. He gives me peace. He gives me rest.

That’s why I love being a massage therapist. I get to help people find rest, if only for a short time. My hope is that we may all find a life that gives us rest forever.

So now I celebrate Halloween each year, although we rechristened it “Life Day.” On Life Day I was given new life, a second chance and a renewed purpose. Everyday has the potential to be Life Day, so don’t let the day get away. Take advantage of the opportunity for restoration and renewal given to you every morning. Happy Life Day, live well!

Each One, Reach One

Gratuity

1. a gift of money, over and above payment due for service, as to a waiter or bellhop; tip

2. something given without claim or demand.

 

 

The moment a tip is expected, it ceases to be a gift and becomes a payment. A tip is given in addition to the payment due because the service was just that good. If I provide a service and find myself expecting a tip in addition to my regular price, then I truly value my service at a higher price than what is listed. Wouldn’t it be more straightforward to simply set the price that reflects the true value of the service instead of hoping you “choose” to leave extra to make up the difference.

 

For example, if a massage session is $65, but I expect a $10 tip (a tip of 20% on $65 is $13), the service is actually valued at $75. Or if a session is $95 and I expect a $15 tip, then the real price is $110.

 

Now don’t get me wrong, when I waited tables I definitely expected and needed tips to make money, since the “slave wage” ($2.13/hr in Texas) that restaurants are allowed to pay their servers isn’t meant to provide a waiter’s salary. The tip for a waiter is not extra, it’s needed to raise his salary from $2.13 an hour to something resembling real income. In reality, when you go out to eat in most cases, you are paying two bills: a bill for the goods (food), plus an additional bill for shipping and handling (service).

 

However, as a massage therapist, I am not just a service provider, I am also a healthcare provider. Yes, the massage therapist at the most luxurious spa only offering relaxation massage (or “fluff-n-buff” massage as it is derogatorily referred to by other “deep tissue” massage therapist) is a healthcare provider.

 

“How is relaxation massage healthcare?” I’m glad you asked. Stress is an underlying factor for most diseases. Workplace stress is responsible for $190 billion a year in healthcare costs in the United States alone, according to a recent report. Workplace stress is also responsible for over 120,000 deaths per year. Stress kills.

 

Anxiety and depression account for $42 billion a year in healthcare costs, one-third of all mental healthcare costs, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Stress, anxiety and depression affect your quality of life by undermining psychological well-being, which in turn undermines physical well-being.

 

A simple relaxation massage has been shown to greatly reduce stress levels, decrease anxiety and boost psychological and physical well-being; these are not just short-lived outcomes, but long-lasting physiological changes that have profound effects on our health. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like healthcare to me.

 

Since we have established that massage is indeed healthcare, riddle me this: why do we tip massage therapists? Do we tip dentists? Physical therapists? Chiropractors? We wouldn’t even think of tipping a doctor, and if we did, it wouldn’t be because we thought it was mandatory or expected. We may very well be thankful for the service these practitioners provide, but since they are healthcare providers we don’t feel obligated to tip them, because we all know that there’s no tipping in healthcare…there’s no tipping in healthcare!

 

There's No Tipping in Healthcare!

 

Maybe massage therapy isn’t considered healthcare by some because it’s actually enjoyable. It’s one of the few things in life that feels good and is good for you. When was the last time you looked forward to going to the doctor or dentist? Exactly. Massage is healthcare you can enjoy.

 

We also assume that the cost of healthcare is priced appropriately (or overpriced, but never underpriced) and that the practitioner is compensated fairly. I know this isn’t always the case for massage therapist who work as employees, but a sole practitioner (like myself) is responsible for setting the appropriate price so that he or she is compensated fairly.

 

Massage therapy requires hundreds of hours of anatomy and physiology, kinesiology, business and ethics, hands-on practice, clinic internship and continuing education to be licensed. Not to mention the additional hours dedicated to independent learning and research for the massage therapist who actually wants to be good at what she does. This increases the value of massage, and should be reflected in the price, without an expected tip to supplement the payment.

 

It’s been a few years since I was a waiter working for $2.13/hour, needing tips in order to have a  semblance of a real income, surviving until I got a “real job.” So I saved my tips, went back to college, then interrupted college for a year to attend massage school, and now I have a real job helping people with stress, pain and anxiety feel better and live healthier lives.

 

Since I no longer work for “slave wages,” I no longer expect tips. If someone offers a tip, I won’t reject it. Instead, I will mentor a high school student who shows interest in owning a massage practice; all tips will be used to help pay their massage school costs. I feel it is my duty to follow the African-American proverb, “each one, teach one,” to pass on knowledge to those who have, up till now, lived in ignorance. In the not-so-distant past, slaves were not permitted to receive an education, so when one learned or was taught how to read or write, it was his or her obligation to teach someone else- “each one, teach one.”

 

If you’re  a massage therapist, stop demanding tips for yourself, set your prices accordingly, and take the “Each One, Reach One” challenge. Use what is freely given to you, your tips, as an investment into the life of someone else. Even though it seems paradoxical, it is still more blessed to give than to receive. If you’re a client, tips are not expected, but you are more than welcome to participate. Live well!

Benefits of Regular Massage

Dr. Mark Hyman Rapaport, Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine, has conducted research that examines the biological benefits of frequent massage. The research was conducted over a five-week period with two groups receiving Swedish (relaxation) massage once or twice weekly, and two groups receiving light touch intervention once or twice weekly.

To summarize:

Weekly massage boosts immunity, which helps you fight disease and keeps you from getting sick. The benefits are also additive, meaning the immune-boosting effects of weekly massage are long lasting and cumulative.

Twice weekly massage decreases stress, an underlying factor in most diseases and increases oxytocin, the “feel good” hormone associated with social bonding. Oxytocin is currently being tested as a natural anti-anxiety medication. Twice weekly massage also lowers the production of arginine vasopressin, which is associated with aggression and high blood pressure.