Hi Sweet Friend,
Now that we’re into our second week of December my holiday to-do list is picking up speed. It seems as though there are a million activities planned for the next three weeks, including- school projects that are due before break, winter recitals, and holiday parties. In addition there’s shopping for gifts and food and… Wow, I can feel the muscles in my neck and shoulders tighten just thinking about it!
During this time of the year I find myself turning to the multitude of wellness techniques that I’ve mentioned in previous posts. I eat well, exercise regularly, write in my journal and take deep breaths throughout the day, but I can still feel my muscles constricting by the minute.
Unfortunately this is nothing new for me and I’m sure many of you can relate to sore muscles in the upper back and neck area. That goes double these days with the amount of time we spend hunched over the computer.
It seems like I’ve had this issue forever and the tension in my neck increases when I feel stressed.
The tension really came to a head years ago when I was studying for the CPA exam. If you read the post, My Path to Healing, you’ll know this was the same time I was diagnosed with severe acid reflux. Between work and studying I was stressed out to the max!
I shared with Larry (who was my boyfriend at that time) what the doctor told me about learning to cope with stress and he agreed that if I continued like this I would do myself more harm than good.
While Larry always supported my goals he was also concerned about me. As usual, his love and concern really showed when he gave me my Christmas gift that year: a gift certificate for a massage.
Eleven years my senior, Larry had been in the business world longer than I had and knew a thing or two about stress. Next to his office was a health club that he frequented on his lunch hour to exercise and occasionally get a massage.
Of course I had heard about massages, but at the time I viewed it as a luxury reserved mainly for those who could afford the time and the money, both of which- for me at least- were in short supply.
Little did I realize that his gift was two-fold: while it took away my concerns about having to pay for a massage, the bigger gift was learning to find the time to take care of myself. That gift served me well when I became a mother and still does today.
I’ll never forget that first massage, I actually fell asleep! I emerged from the warm and cozy experience that night feeling more relaxed than I had in a long time. I couldn’t wait to call Larry and thank him.
The only problem was I had become hooked! I made the decision a long time ago that I had to incorporate this into both my schedule and my budget no matter what. I was worth it!
Fast-forward twenty years and getting a massage has become more mainstream. Thanks to extensive research regarding the benefits of massages it can also be classified as therapeutic, meaning in some instances it may even be covered by your health insurance.
For those of you who may not have had a massage before, you may have some questions or reservations that I’d like to address.
Let’s start with some basic information.
Exactly what is a massage?
Basically a massage is the manipulation of the superficial and deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue using various techniques.
What kind of massages are there and what’s the best one?
There exists a wide range of massages, including- deep tissue, therapeutic, hot stone, shiatsu, Thai, reflexology and pregnancy, just to name a few. The one you choose really depends on your level of comfort with regards to pressure and the benefit you are looking to achieve.
Since I suffer from chronic inflammation I like a deep tissue massage with a focus on my neck, shoulders and back. It really is a personal choice. I recommend you spend time with a massage therapist to discuss your options before picking from the menu.
What are some of the benefits of a massage?
The benefits of a massage are numerous- even major medical institutions are offering massage therapy, including the prestigious Mayo Clinic. The following is a list taken from their website of some disorders that studies have found massage therapy may be helpful for:
• Digestive disorders
• Insomnia related to stress
• Myofascial pain syndrome
• Paresthesias and nerve pain
• Soft tissue strains or injuries
• Sports injuries
• Temporomandibular joint pain
I’ve personally experienced at least six of the disorders mentioned above and I can attest that a massage has offered much needed relief when I was in pain.
Even though you may believe in the benefits of a massage, I suspect some of you are still going to throw up a few roadblocks. Here are a few that come to mind:
What about the cost?
And in today’s economy this is a very valid concern. However, there are many more opportunities available today than there were twenty years ago that make massages much more affordable. Here are some options you can look into:
• Is there a massage school near you? Many offer reduced rates if you’re willing to work with an advanced student under the guidance of an instructor.
• Look for deals on Groupon, Living Social and Deal Chicken. I’ve seen offers as high as 90% off!
• Join a monthly massage club for a reduced rate.
• Use the barter system. Do you have a skill you can trade with a professional who gives massages?
• If you have a chronic illness, check with your insurance to see if massage therapy is covered.
• Put it on your Christmas, birthday, or any other special occasion list you have.
I don’t have the time for a massage- (this is a personal favorite of mine).
We all have responsibilities with work, kids, our home, and goodness knows what else we put on our plates.
I’ll always remember the Christmas gift Larry gave me. He cared enough about me and my health to encourage me to take care of myself. I honestly don’t know where I (or my children) would be today if I didn’t.
The greatest gift you can give all the people you love is to take care of yourself so you can be there when they need you most.
So as you load up your arms with packages from shopping and fill up your calendar with activities, make sure you pencil in some time just for you.
And if you have the means right now, I highly recommend you relieve the holiday stress with a therapeutic massage. Better yet, put it on your Christmas list!
This holiday season I wish you relief from any pain or stress you may be experiencing and pray that peace surrounds you and your family.
P.S. I have a special announcement coming in today’s follow up post. Be sure to look for it!