Breathing and Our Mental Health

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You’ll hear me repeat this quite a bit.  It’s incredibly important for the people who read my posts to understand that I am in no way a proponent of disavowing modern medicine. There is, unfortunately, a need for us to sometimes go to a doctor or a counselor.  None of us are invincible (even if we try to live as though we are when we’re in our twenties).

With that being said, I find it alarming the rate at which we in the United States turn to pharmaceuticals to ease some of our challenges.  I cannot say that I do not use prescription medications when necessary.  Again, I am not insinuating that the uses of prescriptions is unnecessary, but let’s look at some statistics on just mental health and how it is treated by traditional medicine:

There are basically five categories for antidepressants:

The “other types” are medications that don’t neatly fit into any of the other four categories or into a category all their own.  You are welcome to look these up if you’d like (here is where I found the list:  http://www.healthyplace.com/depression/antidepressants/list-of-antidepressants-list-of-medications-for-depression/#other), but I don’t want to take up time.  I’m already a bit concerned that I may end up in a rant of sorts… I guess it’s only fair that I apologize in advance (just in case). In each of the five categories, there are anywhere between three to ten different prescriptions.

Why is this alarming you may ask?  In the United States roughly 20.9 million adults live with mood disorders.  On October 19, 2011, the CDC released an article that included the following data which is parsed in the following article online:  http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db76.htm

  • Eleven percent of Americans aged 12 years and over, takes antidepressant medication.
  • Females are more likely to take antidepressants than are males, and non-Hispanic white persons are more likely to take antidepressants than are non-Hispanic black and Mexican-American persons.
  • About one-third of persons with severe depressive symptoms take antidepressant medication.
  • More than 60% of Americans taking antidepressant medication have taken it for 2 years or longer, with 14% having taken the medication for 10 years or more.
  • Less than one-third of Americans taking one antidepressant medication and less than one-half of those taking multiple antidepressants have seen a mental health professional in the past year.

When I read those statistics, I was filled with a few emotions.

  • Well good!  People are getting the help that they need.
  • Bewilderment – so many are so sad – one of the statistics not listed above, is that roughly 1 in 10 people over the age of 12 takes antidepressants.
  • Anger – less than one half of the people who are taking multiple antidepressants have had professional care in the past year.
  • Concern – not listed in the list above, but I looked up the side effects of anti-depressants.  The side effects range from minor (nausea, lack of libido, dry mouth and weight gain) to more serious (increased blood pressure), to very serious including suicidal thoughts or acting on those thoughts.

So, why are so very many turning in droves to pharmaceuticals to control emotions that we used to control, or work through on our own?  What has changed in our world?

  • The economy crashed in 2008
    • While in a recovery, in Indiana, we are still experiencing 8.7% unemployment rate (national unemployment rate is 7.6% and this only includes those who are on the unemployment rolls, not those who are working “under the table”, are “underemployed” and working two jobs to make what they once made at one job, or folks who have simply given up on looking for work).
    • The foreclosure rate in Indiana is somewhere between 10% and 11% depending on who you ask or where you find your statistics.
    • We are under constant threat of attack or going to war with other countries
    • The political climate in our country is volatile, to say the least.
    • We are inundated with reality TV that puts ideas in our heads and our children’s heads on what we are supposed to strive for as societies ideal of “success” or “beauty”

This is supposed to be a blog to come to for positive information.  I’m betting I probably just bummed out several people who took the time to read through this.  Here is the good news.  Again… I do not recommend pulling anyone off of ANY prescribed medications without first contacting your medical professional and discussing other alternatives.

I’ve learned through the years, that when we were created, we were equipped with an amazing ability to manage our stress levels, and as we travel through life’s journeys, we are programmed to ignore the abilities our Creator gave to each of us.  All of us breathe.  Without exception… each and every one of us breathes.  When we are stressed, we shorten our breaths.  When we are excited, we shorten our breaths.  When we are very aware, we lengthen our breaths.  When we lengthen our breaths, amazing things can happen.  When we lengthen our breaths, we begin to heal.

I’m a firm believer in the art of meditation, and one of the key factors in a successful meditation, is breath control.  We’re not discussing meditation in this article, though (if you want to see a list of benefits to meditating check out http://www.ineedmotivation.com/blog/2008/05/100-benefits-of-meditation/.  I loved this article, and when I tackle meditation for you, I promise to credit the site again. Before you jump to that site, though, please complete this one).

We breathe to live.  “Breath is Life”.  Yogis in India have practiced the art of breath for thousands of years, literally.  When we take classes that focus on controlled movement (tai chi or yoga), we are taught to control our breathing.  We are actually taught to revert back to the breathing technique infant’s use.  How amazing is it that we learn to stop breathing correctly as we move through our lives?  Breathing has a direct effect on your mental state.  Breathing has a direct effect on your physical state.  Why do we pay so little attention to it?  The long and short of it is two-fold:  we get lazy, and we are influenced by society.  It’s hard to think of being lazy when it comes to breathing, isn’t it?

Just out of curiosity, how many times since you started reading this have you changed your breathing pattern?  It’s that simple.  A tiny bit of focus, and your breathing can become healthier.

Again, let me go back to the benefits of breathing and how simple breathing exercises can benefit your mental health.

  1.  Deep breathing results in less stress.  How?  The parasympathetic nervous system is activated when we breathe in slow deep breaths.  When this system is healthy, our immune system is healthier.  When our immune system is healthy, our “fight or flight” isn’t triggered as readily as it is when we are not tip-top.  Think about an animal in the wild, or even your pet dog.  When my dog was recovering from a very serious injury, his fight or flight kicked in any time I had to move him to take him to the doctor.  He wasn’t mean, he was scared.  Depression is extended periods of fear that have taken control of our lives.  If we eliminate the fears in our life, our fight or flight will reduce in turn, and we will then lower our risk of depression or at the very least, the length of the episodes that we experience.
  2. Deep breathing creates a state in which we are more aware of our surroundings.  If we are more aware, again, we are less fearful.  Fear leads to anger.

Image           (Who doesn’t love Yoda?  )

One of the side effects of depression is anger.  Unfortunately, many of us lash out against the people we love the most in the world.  When we are in a depressed state, unfortunately again, our relationships suffer.  The people who love us the most want us healthy.  We want us healthy.  When we are depressed, though, we may have a tendency to “snap off” and say something we cannot take back.  Once the words are out, we cannot take them back. Of course, this can cause arguments or worse.  When we are in an unhappy situation within our relationships, we can dive into depressive states.  It becomes a nasty cycle.  Rather than spitting out words you will regret, stop and breathe.

ImageBreathing won’t fix everything that is wrong in our lives.  Stopping and taking deep breaths isn’t going to miraculously put your life back in order, but it’s a WONDERFUL starting place.  Each and every one of us has the ability to stop, and count to 5 or 10 or 15 and with each count, breathe in a little deeper until we feel the emotions controlling us losing their grip.  Each of us has the ability to set into place visualizations in conjunction with breathing exercises.  We’ll look at that in a future article.

I hope you take a few extra minutes to breathe deeply today and think back on the things that you have that are GOOD in your life.

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What is energy?

What is energy?

I’m going to venture out on a limb. I’m going to venture that most of the folks who find their way to my website are looking for massage therapy, and when they see the energy work tab, they stop and kind of scratch their heads and mosey on to the massage therapy descriptions….but, as humans, we are curious.
If you, my reader, are anything like me, your childlike curiosity never quite got satiated and GOOD FOR YOU for that. If you were able to satiate your childlike curiosity, we’ll explore ways to wake that back up in future articles. In this article, I would like to provide to those of you who aren’t quite sure what “energy” refers to some fodder and maybe enough of a nudge to give me a call so that we can discuss how energy work may be able to benefit you.
When you Google the word “energy” the following definition is provided “the strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity”. The synonyms listed are: power-vigor-vim-zip-strength and pep. Because I really like the visual of my readers scratching their head like a cartoon from yesteryear, I again have this vision in my head as I imagine many of you saying to yourself “I’ve not felt vigor, vim, zip or pep in a while. “ Tell me you aren’t thinking it right now.
When was the last time you felt complete? When did you last feel like you had the vitality that you had as a child and you were ready to ride your bicycle all day or hang out with your friends at the mall and do whatever it is that teenagers do at the mall? Notwithstanding the time restraints that our schedules have or the toll that life has taken on our bodies over time, when did you last feel whole?
I believe that each of us has the ability to perform wonderful acts of healing. By no means am I implying that energy work is a substitute for visiting a medical or mental professional if necessary, but at the core of my being I believe that each and every one of us can use energy to heal, but most of us are either unaware of how to do the work, or unable to accept that we are all gifted with the skill to heal ourselves energetically and assist others as well.
“This sounds like New Age mumbo jumbo” some of you might be saying. Actually, energy healing has been around as long as man in one form or another. Shamanic healers have worked with the energy of Mother Earth for literally thousands of years to heal various ailments within themselves, their families, tribes and nations in one form or another. Religions from all over the world have used “hands on healing” in one way or another to heal the ill. Prayer is used continuously around the world to bring about positive change. All of these are different ways of accessing and moving energy.
We are all far more similar than it is often comfortable to admit. Every one of us is made up of energy. Every one of us is living our life. Every one of us has had joy, pain, laughter and tears in our lives. Some of us are able to process some of these experiences and file them away as a memory. Some of us are unable to simply file the memories away. Sometimes we need help processing through events that have left an indelible mark on us.
Sometimes, we have trouble dropping some of the baggage we accumulate and before long, we’re toting along with a set of proverbial luggage that make us look like world travelers and this is where the energy work comes into play.
As an energy worker, I can assist you in processing some of this energy. Maybe you just need auras aligned. Maybe you need chakras opened and balanced or maybe closed off a little because you are too free with your heart or throat chakras. Maybe you’ve lost a piece of yourself somewhere in this life or a past life. The possibilities are endless.
“Pfft! “you may scoff. I cannot convince a doubter that there is a God or higher being. I cannot convince a cynic that negative energy has a deep effect on our lives. I can definitively state, however; that it has been accepted in the East for thousands of years that if ones “Chi” or life force is off, then the results can be physical or mental ailments. If our energy fields are not in balance, we fail to grasp opportunities provided to us by the Universe.
We are so much more than our physical bodies.
I’m going to be so bold as to invite you to read another article specifically regarding Shamanic Healing: http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Pagan-and-Earth-Based/2003/12/Shamanic-Healing-Why-It-Works.aspx?p=1#.
Somewhere along our path to enlightenment in the modern era, we lost sight of what ancient civilizations knew. Nicola Tesla stated: “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”
If I’ve tickled your interest at all, won’t you please take a few minutes and drop me a question http://stressknotskneaded.com/contact-me–schedule-an-appointment.html or better yet give me a call or email and we can set up an appointment to learn more about how I can work with you to adjust your energy fields and begin walking the path of wholeness once again.

Why do we need Massage Therapy?

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Health is more than just exercise and diet.

We all know that in order to be healthy we need to eat healthy diets, take proper supplements to replace trace vitamins and minerals that our lifestyles (by and large) deny our bodies, and drink enough water to keep hydrated.  We need to refrain from hitting the drive thru regularly (even if it’s far more convenient than cutting up a salad) and eat sinfully chocolate treats in moderation.

We need to exercise enough to keep us physically healthy. So many of us work jobs that keep up sequestered from the world in a rat maze of cubicles or holed up in an office devoid of sunlight sitting behind desk and consider ourselves fortunate on sunny days to grab a fifteen minute walk around the building.  It’s not uncommon for clients to count the time chasing toddlers or hauling preteens to extracurricular activities as work outs.

Many of us pray on a regular basis, or have a belief in a power greater than ourselves, but less and less time is dedicated to connecting with our higher power, however identified, because our lives are more and more chaotic, and so we slip further and further away from the divine.

How often, though, do we take all three sides of the pyramid and combine them to make a whole picture of health?  How often do we find ourselves in situations where we are completely out of balance in our lives, and we know it, but can’t quite put our fingers on WHY we are out of balance or out of sorts?

To be truly healthy, I believe, we have to nourish ourselves completely.  By that, I mean we have to feed our Body, Mind and Spirit.  We can have a healthy body, but what good does it do to be able to compete in a triathlon (or just take a walk with a loved one), if we are so completely focused on the stresses of the day and can’t shut our minds down to enjoy the laughter of the children at the park or the smile on the face of the person you love the most?  Unless our soul is fed a wholesome diet of quiet and meditation, we start to fall out of balance spiritually.  By this, I’m not saying you MUST go to church.  I am, however saying that I believe it is imperative to feed your soul:  church, fellowship with like thinkers, meditation, positive motivational books – whatever feeds your soul.

What’s this have to do with massage therapy you may be asking?  Here it is in a nutshell… massage therapy incorporates all three sides of the equilateral triangle… Body, Mind, Spirit.

Massage has been found to treat physical ailments (duh, right?).  Aches and pains that have almost come to be expected are physically worked out of the body.  Blood flow is increased which allows the body to heal itself by flushing out toxins that have built up over time.  Massage is used to treat sinus congestion to constipation, headaches, joint pain, back pain and on and on and on… by no means am I implying that massage should be used as the sole treatment for any physical ailment, but I firmly believe that massage can be used very efficiently in conjunction with medical care to bring about incredible physical results.

When the mind is not “right”, so often there are physical symptoms.  Depression can physically hurt.  Anyone that has lived with depression whether acute or chronic knows that the valleys are deep.   Anxiety brings about headaches, muscle aches from holding our bodies tight, stomach aches from the abdominal and core muscles not being permitted to relax.  Massage therapy assists the body in relaxing and relieving the physical pain that often accompanies depression, anxiety or just day to day stresses that leave us feeling like a rubber band that has been pulled as tightly as it can be before snapping.   Again, by no means am I implying that a trained mental professional should be bypassed, but I am standing firm in my belief that as a team far more can be accomplished.

Finally, when our spirit is at peace, we can see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel when we are struggling.  All of us have struggles.  All of us find ourselves feeling alone and maybe a little adrift on the sea of life, and we all need to take a little time now and then to regroup and reestablish our connection with whatever/ whoever our higher power is.   During a massage session, you are permitted to reestablish that connection.  You are given the key to open the doors that may seem closed and look within.  Many of my clients take the hour or hour and a half that they are being worked on to just have “quiet time” and look within… not think about work or chores that need to be done.  Our precious “to do” lists are ever present, and once you leave my oasis of solitude and relaxation and reenter the real world,  you are free to start marking things off full force again, but for just a few minutes, it’s alright to connect with your divine just one on one.

It is my responsibility as a massage therapist to assist my clients in reaching their potential and find balance in this chaotic world.  It is my duty to work as a team with you as my client to achieve the equilateral triangle that was mentioned earlier.  Please feel free to give me a call, send me an email or set up an appointment through my website.  I would love to discuss with you what we can achieve together and how I can be a partner in your well-being.

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