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Monday April 6th 2020

We have all just completed our first month of the state/county mandated shelter-in-place order. I’m sure as you all are aware by now that the mandate has been extended to Sunday May 3rd. I truly miss each and every one of you and I can’t wait for our return to normalcy. In the meantime, to help get us through the next month I have composed a list of helpful health tips and self-massage techniques. These have been essential for my wellbeing and I hope a little help to yours as well.

Self Massage:

An archived article from 2012

"Few experiences rival a full-body massage for pleasure and stress relief -- at least among those things you can talk about in front of the children at the dinner table. Word on the health benefits of massage therapy for stress relief has spread. In 2006, 39 million Americans -- one in six adults -- had at least one massage, according to a nationwide survey by the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA).

 

"Americans are looking to massage for much more than just relaxation," says Mary Beth Braun, President of the AMTA. "Massage therapy can be effective for a variety of conditions, including arthritis, lower back pain, insomnia, headaches, anxiety, circulatory problems, and recovery from a sports injury."

 

When you can't get to a massage therapist, you can still reap many of the benefits of this age-old healing practice -- with your own hands. WebMD consulted several massage experts to find these simple, self-massage techniques that incorporate the best soothing rubs and pressure-point applications that massage has to offer.

 

Try them on yourself -- or someone you love -- throughout the day to boost your energy and increase concentration. You can also use them at night to relax and get a good night's sleep. You'll find the benefits of massage therapy for stress relief are only the beginning.

 

Massage Therapy to Relieve Tired Eyes

 

"This one is great for tired eyes from staring at the computer -- it brings circulation to the area and relieves sinus pressure, eye strain, and headaches," says Dale Grust, President of the New York Chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association and a licensed massage therapist in New Paltz, N.Y., for 23 years.

 

Close your eyes. Place your thumbs under your eyebrows, starting at the inside corner of each eye socket. Press and gently move the thumbs in tiny circles, working slowly towards the outsides of your eyebrows and continuing this movement all around your eyes, ending back at the bridge of your nose.

Repeat this several times, spending a little extra time at the indentation of the inner eye socket, where the bridge of the nose meets the ridge of the eyebrows - an especially tender point on many people.

Massage Therapy to Ease Headaches and Tension

 

Start by placing your thumbs on your cheekbones close to your ears, and use your fingertips to gently apply pressure and rub the temples (the soft spot between the corner of your eye and your ear).

Using very firm pressure and a tiny circular motion, gradually move your fingers up along your hairline until they meet in the middle of your forehead, massaging your entire forehead and scalp as you inch along.

Massage Therapy to Relax the Hands

 

Here are several moves that will relieve the strain from pounding the keyboard all day.

 

Stretch your hands and fingers out. Rub each finger from the base to the tip, gently pulling and twisting each finger as you go.

Next, rest your left hand, palm upward, on your lap. Squeeze the fleshy part of your palm between your right thumb and index finger, moving from your wrist to the base of your thumb.

Now squeeze that web between your left index finger and thumb several times, looking for any tender points.

Then rub the entire palm with your right thumb, applying firm pressure and using gliding strokes from the wrist to the base of each finger.

Repeat this process on your right hand.

"Massaging the hands is not only great for the hands but can help to relieve headaches as well," Grust says. The hands, like the feet, contain reflexology points that correspond to the entire body, including the head, neck, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and sinuses.

 

Massage Therapy to Relieve Neck Tension

 

While you are sitting there at the computer, mold your hands over your shoulders. Exhale, letting your head drop back as you slowly squeeze your fingers towards your palms, gliding up the muscles of your back and shoulders towards your neck.

Now, rest your elbows on your desk, allowing your head to drop forward slightly. Massage your neck from your shoulders to the base of your skull using your fingertips to make small deep circles into the muscles on either side of your spine.

Place both hands on the back of your head, interlacing the fingers. Drop your head forward and allow the weight of your elbows to pull your head gently down, stretching the muscles of your neck and those that run down your back.

Massage Therapy to Loosen Tight Shoulders

 

You will need a tennis ball or solid rubber ball for this one. "Once I was desperate and couldn't find a ball, so I used an apple," Grust says. "It felt amazing, but the apple took a beating."

 

Stand 18 inches from the wall, with your feet hip distance apart. Go into a partial squat with your buttocks against the wall.

Lean forward, placing the ball behind your back at the top of your shoulder.

Slowly stand up -- an inch at a time -- pressing against the wall and letting the ball roll slowly down the muscles along the side of your spine, stopping when you find a tender point and waiting for the pain to subside.

Reverse the process, slowing sitting down into a squat, and allowing the ball to move back up to the top of your shoulder muscle.

Now switch sides, moving the ball to the other side of your body and repeat the same slow massage.

Not only will you be releasing the tension from your shoulders, but you will also be developing strong leg muscles at the same time.

 

Massage Therapy to Release the Lower Back

 

Stand up and put your hands on your waist, with your thumbs behind you and fingers facing forward.

Gently press your thumbs into the muscles at either side of the spine -- but be careful not to press on the spine itself.

Keep your thumbs pressed in while you move in a very tiny motion -- up, down, and around in a tiny circle. Spend extra time where you find a tender point - making sure not to cause pain.

Move your thumbs gradually, an inch at a time, up either side of the spine as far as your hands can comfortably reach. Then gradually move back down your back and press on the bony surface of the sacrum.

 

Massage Therapy to Soothe Tired Feet

 

Bring your left foot onto the seat of your chair so you can see your instep. Using your right thumb, apply very firm pressure along the side of your foot, working from the heel to the big toe. Walk your thumb across the ridge where the toes meet the ball of your foot. When you get to the small toe, use your thumb and index finger to squeeze and twist along the entire surface of the toe. Work each toe individually until you get back to the large toe. Take all of your toes in one hand and stretch them back and forth, bending and flexing.

While supporting the top of your left foot with your left hand, use the knuckles of your right hand to apply deep pressure to the entire surface of the bottom of your foot, working from the heel to the toes and back down.

Stretch your toes, flex and extend your feet, and do a few ankle rotations.

Repeat the entire process on the right foot

 

Keep in Mind Before You Start

 

With all of these exercises, remember, you never want to cause yourself pain -- but you do want to reach the area that is tender, because that is where the tension is. Always stretch the muscle out after massaging the area.

 

"If these moves do not ease your pain, contact your doctor to rule out any underlying medical problem," says massage therapist Dale Grust. "Never substitute self-massage for proper medical treatment."

 

And enjoy.”

 

By Susan Seliger

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

 

Link to original WebMD article: https://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/features/massage-therapy-stress-relief-much-more#1

Mindfulness Meditation: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World

Another article from the archives, from way back in 2012.

 

With the shelter-in-place mandate extended to May, it is easy to become distracted and anxious. Follow these simple techniques developed by Oxford professor Mark Williams, and you may find another successful way to combat cabin fever, in addition to the many other stresses that enter our lives.

 

"In his book Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World, Oxford University clinical psychologist Mark Williams talks about the brain and body benefits of mindfulness meditation, a cognitive behavioral therapy that can be as effective as drugs at staving off recurring bouts of depression."

 

Click Here to read the full transcript. Audio is no longer available.

Exercise at Home:

Thanks to the convince of smart phones and tablets, needing to goto the gym for daily exercise is no longer critical. There is a seemingly endless variety of apps to chose from. All brandishing claims of loosing weight and gaining muscle quick. Most are questionable, however, there are a few that I have found to be quite affective. Below are the three apps that I have come to rely on over the years when I had no access to gym equipment.

For Advanced workouts

Freeletics

For Moderate to easy workouts

Gymnast Fit

One final note on fitness apps and other online exercise courses. They tend to be heavily focus on joint flexion. Examples of this are: push ups, sit ups, arm curls, forward shoulder raises, etc... Repetitively doing too many of these types of exercises can overload your shoulders, neck or lower back. When you see two similar exercises in a single routine, for example: Push ups mixed with burpees, be sure to substitute one of them with an extention exercise.  For example: bridges, pull ups or back extenions.

Hobbies:

Nothing engages our minds, enriches our spirit, broadens our perspective or brings us together more then pursuit of a worthwhile hobby. The possibilities are only limited by the extent of our imagination. It's an excellent opportunity to make mistakes, learn and to share with others. I encourage anyone to challenge themselves to be the best they can be through the joy and engagement of hobbies.

Volunteer from Home:

Theres nothing worse then the restrained feeling of wanting to help during a crises but unable to find a way. Fear not, there are ways we can help one another. Either directly to affect the outcome of the present crises or indirectly by helping our most vulnerable. Below is a list of volunteer opportunities that anyone can take part in from home. Every little bit helps, don't be shy to contribute in any way you can.

Folding at home - Help researchers to map coronavirus proteins during your computer's downtime. This may lead to a faster vaccine for the virus.

Wellness Calls to Seniors - In this time of uncertainty, our seniors can be living in isolation. A simple phone call can brighten their day and bring peace of mind.

Sonoma County - Petaluma People's Services (PPS), "You Are Not Alone" program reaches out to seniors all around Sonoma county. Email PPS for more information: NotAlone@petalumapeople.org

Marin County - I haven't been able to find a volunteer wellness call service for Main. If anyone has any information on who to contact for such volunteer services please let me know.

BeMyEyes - Helping the blind through our cellphone cameras. As a sighted person you'll be able to help a blind person read labels, identify objects or provide simple directions.

Crisis Text Line - Crisis counseling through text messaging. We all have the ability to reach out help others or receive help during this unusual time through cellphone texting.

GetUsPPE.org -  health institutions across the country which are supposed to protect us and heal us when we are sick are running out of supplies to protect those very people involved in the relief effort. If you can spare any protective gear or hand sanitizer, please consider donating them to our medical facilities in your area that are in shorty supply.

Distancing from News

It is no secret that the mass cable news media thrives on conjuring fear and anxiety. This is how they grow their ratings. The more fearful the general public is the more money they make. So as a responsible consumer and citizen, it i up to us to strike a healthy balance between consuming a diverse and liable source of journalism with time away enjoying time with our families and communities. It is advisable to keep your viewing of coronavirus related news to one time a day and for an hour or so.

Optimal Nutrition

Good health and immunity to the coronavirus is big business today. Theres a lot of misleading information out there, however we have a lot of common sense tactics that each of us can employ. Making sure our general health is a good as it can be should be top priority. With that in mind, it is important to remind ourselves that there are no products or supplements that will directly prevent you or anyone from contracting the coronavirus. The only thing that can achieve this is to limit our exposure to potential sources of the infection. Once infected there are also no known cures. Focusing on practical and common sense food choices will go a long way to preparing our bodies for whatever the coronavirus has to offer.

 

To keep things very simple, I'll just reiterate what we all already know. Consume a diversity of all vegetables, fruits and herbs. Vegetables and herbs are essentially the same thing, but I just want to make sure they're not forgotten. Consume vegetables of all colors: yellow, green, red, blue, etc... as well as all parts of the plant: roots, leaves, seeds, rhizomes, flower, etc...

 

Reduce your consumption of all manufactured sugar and processed starches. Please note, this does not include fruit. The sugars and starches in fruits and vegetables react vastly different in our bodies than highly processed breads, cookies, cakes and candy. It basically all comes down to the fiber in the whole food source and the micobiom that is cultivated in our gut as a result of the natural fiber. Fiber from whole foods and the cultivated gut microbes prevents insulin surges in our system, insulin spikes are what we want to avoid for optimal health and disease resilience.

 

Eat well and be safe.

 

 

 

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