FYI - Long post! Low on time? Scroll down for feel better tips and follow links for videos and a free fitness download. Happy Holidays!
December may or may not be your favorite time of year. Regardless of which holiday you celebrate, family and friend circumstances, possible financial constraints, and health problems can make the holiday season feel a bit overwhelming for even the most avid fans. I personally celebrate Solstice and Christmas. I look forward to the return of longer and brighter days after Dec. 21st, especially here in Utah where our gloomy winter sky and polluted inversion blankets the valley for weeks, even months. Christmas time for my family is about exchanging gifts, playing games, laughter, and sharing a meal or two. We enjoy decorating, seeing the lights, and then promptly cleaning up and putting decor away once Christmas is over. As an empty-nester with a very successful and independent son I don’t experience financial constraint since the ‘Santa Claus’ pressure of gift giving days are long gone and I favor keeping it simple by exchanging a gift or two. I have one grand kitty and am very grateful to be in a good place in my home and career, though that hasn’t always been the case. I know for many that the holidays can be a lonely and depressing time, push buttons emotionally, exacerbate stress, and burden wallets. Those of us with chronic conditions might feel especially tired, experience more pain, and on edge as we set boundaries declining invitations and/or making our way through activities when we would much rather stay home resting. I’ve found that honest, direct communication is the best way for me to take care of myself and let others know what I am and am not able to do. Cold weather tires me, adds extra pain in and around my artificial joints, and the darkness is gloomy and depressing for me. This means that December requires extra planning to ensure I receive my self care and health maintenance needs.
Over the course of my career as a Professional Massage Therapist I hear the same complaints time and time again. Prior to beginning a massage, or coaching session I ask a client if there are specific concerns, injuries, or illnesses that I need to be aware of. The most common range from neck/shoulder/back pain and tension, lack of sleep, high stress, inflammation, joint pain, depression, and anxiety. Therapeutic massage, Reiki, Reflexology, and other forms of bodywork are ideal methods to manage each of the previous mentioned symptoms. I work within my scope of practice and can facilitate and assist - of course massage is not ‘fixing’ and certainly not ‘diagnostic’. During and after an appointment I make suggestions and recommendations as ‘homework’ to help my clients better manage their health. Below are some of my favorite tried and true tips that work for both me and many of my clients. As with any health related tips, consult with your physician before implementing changes that could affect your health.
Enjoy the season and take good care of you!
Be Well! ~Tiffany
Neck & Shoulder Tension (especially when due to poor posture/working at a computer/belly sleeping, etc.) - Shoulder shrugs, neck rolls, and deep breathing help to soften muscles and improve posture. Apply a gel ice pack on the tense muscles in the evening for 5-15 minutes before bed…this decreases inflammation and quiets nerve pain. I use a wrap that rests along my neck and shoulders - after a full shift of bodywork this helps me relax and decreases any numbness or tingling I may feel in my wrists and hands due to over exertion.
Tension Headaches - Lie on your back, placing a pillow under your knees and try a technique called ‘Palming’. (Palming is also useful for tired, dry eyes.) Add a few minutes of slow, deep, belly breathing and rub a drop of peppermint essential oil at your temples. Keep the peppermint away from your eyes - it stings!
Dry, Dull Looking Skin - Exfoliate often, ideally daily with dry skin brushing (this method also encourages lymph flow to ease swelling and boost immune function). Also, increase your intake of whole grains, starches (like potatoes, brown rice, corn, oats) and brightly colored fruits and vegetables…choose seasonal favorites like pomegranates, citrus fruit, purple yams and purple cabbage. Antioxidants and fiber in these foods help improve the health of our skin.
Muscle Aches & Joint Pain - Exercise regularly, stretch often, and soak in an Epsom salt bath at least once a week. Our bodies are meant to move. Find a fitness routine that you like - speak to a trainer and your physician to decide on exercises that are best for you. I strength train by lifting weights and following an isometric routine 3 times a week, I stretch daily, and fit in at least a 30-minute cardio routine daily…for me cardio is walking either outside or on a treadmill.