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Better self-care is a resolution that most people make each new year, most often to lose weight, eat healthier, start exercising, or to spend more quality time with loved ones. We’re all increasingly aware that stress reduction and relaxation are critical to our health. ‘Our bodies break down under the onslaught of stress—insomnia, anxiety, depression, and all chronic disease is made worse by unremitting stress,’ says Dr. Mark Hyman, an influential Massachusetts physician, author, and founder of the Institute for Functional Medicine.

Touch, stillness, relaxation, calming the mind—all are essential to healing, staying well, and thriving. We encourage you to think about how to incorporate these practices into your self-care plans. People are increasingly viewing massage as a significant component of a more relaxed and healthy lifestyle. And the many benefits of therapeutic massage are now being researched and recognized by the medical community. Make regular massage an essential part of your self-care plans for this New Year!

Reduce stress. Thrive. Get massage.

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massage for tuning in to your bodyMindful attention to your body is a powerful self-care step. When you learn to detect the quieter distress messages your body sends, you can notice more quickly that you are out of balance and need to pay attention to self-care. To detect your body’s warnings requires increasing your sensitivity to the nuances of its messages, sensing smaller symptoms before they become full-blown. Though the body changes may seem relatively minor, they indicate early difficulty. If you answer ‘yes’ to any of the questions below, it’s worthwhile to take a general inventory of your stress level and self-care practices.

Warning Signs Your Body Sends

  • Are you chronically tired?
  • Have you experienced unexplainable symptoms?
  • Is your mind racing, your breathing fast and shallow?
  • Are you feeling off-center, numb, detached, irritable?

Massage gives you a time-out to tune in to your body.

Massage therapists have seen time and again how increasing body awareness facilitates prevention of illness. Getting a massage is a helpful time-out to slow you down, so you can better hear your body’s messages, restore balance, and stay well.

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touch healsReceiving touch is a primary way to reduce stress and calm the nervous system.

There is a growing body of research that shows a link between many forms of touch—from massage to hand-holding—and improved health. A study from the University of North Carolina found that sitting in close contact with a partner for just 10 minutes lowered blood pressure. Other research has found that physical contact can trigger a boost in serotonin, a natural antidepressant.

Biological changes after a single massage

In response to massage, specific physiological and chemical changes cascade throughout the body, with profound effects, says Mark Rapport, MD, director of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He reports that they’re finding biological changes associated with a single massage session. ‘That’s saying something,’ he says.

Easy ways to get more touch

Tiffany Field, PhD, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine, recommends getting a ‘regular dose’ of touch. Here are some easy ways to incorporate more touch into your life:

  • Get regular massage. It’s a form of preventive care and can be a powerful ally in your healthcare regimen.
  • Find a hands-on form of exercise such as ballroom dancing. Or do yoga, which stimulates pressure receptors so is a form of self-massage.
  • Hug someone awarely (the longer the better). You stimulate their pressure receptors as well as your own.
  • Sit close to your partner more often, and hold hands.
  • Give your children short backrubs when you put them to bed. They will fall asleep more relaxed, and you get the benefit of touch, too!

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Self-care is important. Remember, tending to our self-care is just as important as outer activities and responsibilities because it is essential for maintaining balance, staying healthy, and feeling good. Nurturing ourselves is rooted in self-love, and it requires healthy boundaries, so that we can say ‘yes’ more often to what supports our well-being, and ‘no’ to what isn’t in our best interest.

Do what nourishes you. Make a list of all the things that you feel deeply nurtured and rejuvenated by. It might be doing yoga, creating art, curling up with a great book, walking in the woods, relaxing with friends, soaking in the tub, sitting in silence. Set aside time during the day, week, and month to tend to what helps you stay peaceful and renewed. Especially through the busy holidays, this is essential self-care.

Get weekly massage. There’s nothing like aware touch to bring you back into your body. Too much overdoing can truly make you feel ‘out of touch’ with yourself, as well as disconnected from those around you. Slowing down, bringing attention to the breath and your sensate world is grounding and calming, transforming stress and moving you back towards balance. Massage is a delicious way to help you relax, so you can better enjoy this holiday season!

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The congestion, aches, and fatigue symptoms of a cold can be debilitating and depressing. Here are some simple acupressure and lymphatic techniques that you can use to relieve your symptoms. Try using a combination of these for five minutes every few hours while your cold is at its peak. We hope they help you to feel better soon!

  • To relieve sinus pressure: Place your hands at the junction of the front of your neck and your collarbone. Your fingers will fall into a small hollow on either side of the front of your neck. Use your fingers to lightly press down toward your chest at a rate of about one push per second. Imagine that you are lightly pulling fluid just beneath the surface of the skin toward the heart. This lymphatic drainage move stimulates flow of lymphatic fluid and can pull the fluid down out of the head to relieve sinus pressure.
  • To drain the sinuses: A good acupressure point to induce drainage of sinuses near the eyes is located at the inner corner of each eyebrow. Put your fingers on the corners of your eyebrows in the upper ridge of the eye socket. Press in toward the bridge of your nose, and let your head relax into your hands to increase the pressure. This point relieves sinus congestion and frontal headaches.
  • To relieve head congestion and stuffy nose: Put your middle fingers under your cheekbones in line with the pupil of the eye. Feel for a small notch and press up into it. Place your index fingers next to your middle fingers at the side of the nose near the outside corner of each nostril. Press upwards with your fingers into your cheekbones. This will release the sinus areas beneath the eyes and next to the nose. These points relieve head congestion, stuffy nose, eye pressure, nasal congestion and sinus pain.
  • To relieve headache and congestion: Just below the base of the skull, there are hollow areas on both sides of the back of the neck. They feel as if they are sitting on a corner of the skull about 2-3 inches apart. Put your fingers in the hollows and press upwards into the base of the skull. This point relieves headaches, congestion and neck pain.
  • To relieve chest congestion and coughing: Just beneath the collarbone, there is a hollow that sits next to the breastbone. Press in toward the chest on either side of the breastbone at that junction with the collarbone. This point relieves chest congestion, breathing problems and coughing.

    Massage Therapy Palo Alto

Gratitude reduces stressAt Massage Therapy Center, we get a first hand experience of the stress that our clients experience in their daily lives. Whether it be from difficult external circumstances, or negative states of mind, the damaging effects of stress on the body take a toll on your health, relationships, and enjoyment of life.

The practice of gratitude, the state of mind of thankfulness, is an easy technique that can diffuse stress from negativity and dissatisfaction, replacing it with a sense of acceptance and appreciation for what is good in your life. Numerous studies suggest that grateful people are more likely to have higher levels of happiness and lower levels of stress and depression.

It’s Important to Practice Daily

With discoveries over the past two decades about brain neuroplasticity, we now know that with regular practice of new behaviors, we generate and strengthen new neural pathways. We can make changes that profoundly alter the pattern of response to our experience. So the important thing is to practice gratitude every day, and over time you will develop a new focus of attention—a greater sense of appreciation for everything and everyone in your life!

Simple Ways to Cultivate Gratefulness

  • Appreciate people. Tell them, leave a note, send an email. Thank them for their love or support, for what you value about them, the ways they inspire you, the efforts they make that may go unnoticed, their kindness or thoughtfulness. Spend a day doing it with everyone you come in contact with, and see how you feel.
  • Try a day with no complaining and only gratefulness. When you notice yourself grumbling about something negative, think of several related things for which you are grateful.
  • Keep a gratitude journal and write daily. It can be as simple as recording one thing you’re grateful for each night before you go to bed. This can be wonderful to read later, should you need a reminder of the good things in your life.

Be Grateful to Your Body!

Practicing self-care is the way we show our bodies that we are grateful for all they do to support our life. Eating healthy food; getting adequate exercise, rest and relaxation; cultivating positive states of mind; and receiving regular, aware touch all nourish our bodies with the essentials for health and happiness.

At Massage Therapy Center, every day we are graced with the opportunity to contribute to the well-being of our wonderful clients. We are grateful to be able to do this healing work.

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