My favorite part of being a massage therapist is seeing the client before the session in comparison to seeing them after the session. Perhaps they’re coming to see me due to a physical injury or because of a particular mental or emotional state. The way they walk in, maybe down and out with hunched shoulders and a wrinkle between the brow, is often quite different than how they leave – renewed, cared for, and heard. The keystone difference? They’ve relaxed. It’s in rest and relaxation that we heal.
So how does it work? Well, it comes down to the nervous system. The autonomic nervous system is responsible for all our involuntary functions like breathing, heart rate, excretion, body temperature, and digestion. There are two modes of function to this system: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic systems.
The sympathetic system is also known as the “fight or flight” system. This is where our survival instincts kick in. If your house is burning down, your child wanders into the middle of the street or a lion is chasing you, the messages will be sent to the brain and the corresponding hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol, will be released so that you can do everything in your power to get out of there and survive.
The parasympathetic system is also known as the “rest and digest” system. When you are relaxed, you are in this mode. Breathing, heart rate, body temps, digestion and excretion are normal. You’re safe. Life is good and void of urgency and emergency.
Did you know that upwards of 80% of all dis-ease in the body is caused by stress.? 80%! This means, that although most people are just in their offices at work, their bodies think that a lion is chasing them. When you are trying to do the 30 things on your never-ending to-do list, your body thinks your house is on fire. The body can’t tell the difference between the two and the body never lies, it comes out in your physiology. All of our blood is in our limbs leaving none to digest our food, even though there’s no lion in sight. No wonder there are so many digestive disorders running wild in this day and age!
So how do we switch over so the parasympathetic system can be in the driver’s seat? One word: Relax. Relaxation is the opposite of stress and for some, it’s the hardest thing to do. We think we’re relaxed, but we don’t know how wound up we are until we have a taste of true relaxation. When you are massaged or a body part in pain is rubbed, your body releases endorphins, a natural pain relieving hormone, and is allowed to begin to use its natural wisdom to heal - physically, mentally and emotionally. These hormones are released when we are happy, when we feel loved and when we laugh. They are not released in fight or flight mode. It doesn’t even make sense. Healing can only happen when the body is allowed to rest, relax and play.
My Top 3 Ways to Relax:
1. Breathe. Controlled breathing is the quickest way to switch over from stress mode to rest mode. It literally only takes a matter of minutes to make the switch. Try this 4-4-6 breath. Inhale for 4 counts, hold your breath for 4 counts, and then exhale for 6 counts. Repeat. Do this 10 times before you eat and sleep to digest your food and to get a good night’s sleep.
2. Lay down with 4 pillows: one under your head and neck, one under each wrist and elbow, and one under your knees. Pretend that the heavier you are, the bigger the prize and let the pillows support you. Inhale with the word “body” and exhale with the words “Let go, more, more, and more”. Set your timer for 20 minutes and take note of how you feel before and after.
3. Get a massage. Massage is good play, it’s an act of self love and self care, and it releases endorphins that activate the body’s natural healing processes. Find a therapist that you resonate with and add a monthly appointment into your health insurance program.
Sarah Finkbeiner is a licensed massage therapist and certified health coach that loves helping people become their own health experts. She primarily uses food, massage, relaxation techniques and a sense of humor.
11th Annual Community Health Fair
On February 21, 2014 Moab Regional Hospital will host the 11th Annual Community Health Fair at the Grand Center in Moab. The health fair offers members of the community an opportunity to meet healthcare professionals in a relaxed, fun atmosphere and leave with information regarding services available locally. Individual departments from the hospital provide the backbone of the fair through booths and other displays. This year the fair will run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The opportunity to have a low-cost blood screening for $60.00 is available with blood draws made at Moab Regional Hospital’s lab preceding the event until February 13th. Those who take advantage of this offer can retrieve their results at the health fair. Please be advised that test results will only be given to the individual who had the screening blood test and with a photo ID. The test includes CMP, Lipid, TSH, CBC and A1C. The MRH laboratory provides a report of blood test results, which can then be taken to the person’s physician for follow up. Ordinarily the blood screening is nearly $400.00. Blood screens are available by appointment only Monday-Friday from 7am-10am. Call the lab at 719-3630 and to take part in this great offer from Moab Regional Hospital.
Hospital professionals are available at several booths to discuss diet changes, take blood pressure, and provide information about prevention of injuries and illness. The diversity of the Moab health care community is apparent at the Health Fair. Naturopathic remedies, massage therapy, and information on whole foods are provided by several of our local practitioners, as is information on acupressure, reflexology and a host of other health and wellness options. Many alternative medicine practitioners offer services in Moab and will be available to answer questions and help you understand naturopathic medicine and healing body therapies. Thanks to our local massage therapists, there are always free massages available throughout the fair.
By attending the fair, one can obtain information about health services—both private and government programs—that are available in our community. The Veterans Administration will again host a booth and answer questions for veterans and their families. Care of the elderly, Active Re-entry, home health care and respiratory services are all readily available in our area and representatives of these interests will be at the fair this year.
In order to add a measure of fun to the activities, many booths will have free items relating to their services, and vendors serving the hospital provide a wide variety of prizes for drawings that are held throughout the fair. Come early, stay long and have fun at this year’s Community Health Fair!