5 Ways Music Improves Our Health

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It’s World Music day this week (21st June), and since music is a huge part of my life, I thought I’d look at some ways it can improve our health. People use music in all sorts of ways – to focus during study or work and to distract from pain or stress such as when giving birth, in dentists, or having scans such as MRIs. We also use it for leisure whether for relaxing or to boost our performance. I know if my final running track is too soft, then I will struggle up the final hill of my usual route. I make sure I have something with a bit of ‘ooomph’ to give my legs the energy! (Thank you Foo Fighters!) There has been a lot of research into the ways in which music affects the brain, our moods and our wellbeing. Researchers have shown that listening to music not only gives us a hit of dopamine (the reward and pleasure hormone), it also gives us a total ‘brain workout’ as it lights up every area. So, it is not only pleasurable, but good for us too, keeping the brain functioning. So the top 5 ways Music can improve our health are – 1. Reduce stress and anxiety – Music can soothe us if we feel anxious. It can calm us if we feel angry. We can relax and go ‘somewhere else’ in our heads as we listen to it. As children we might have been sung to as … Read More

Why Your Hands (and Forearms) Need Massage

Jennifer SymeBlog

Gripping a steering wheel. Working a trackpad or mouse. Hovering over keyboards. And cookers…..and laundry….. You get it. We put our hands and forearms through an awful lot of stress every day. Squeezing and clenching and buckling and writing. All of it. And yet, when I start to massage a hand and forearm, I often hear, “Oh! I had no idea my arms were so sore!” It’s a common surprise, but not really a surprise. They get sore. And when they get really overworked, we end up with carpal tunnel, tendonitis, trigger finger and a whole host of other issues. The upside here: it’s pretty easy to massage your own hands and forearms.   Here’s how: Start at the top. Using the opposite hand, gently squeeze the meaty, fleshy areas just below your elbow. Squeeze on the inside of your arm then on the outside. Gently is the key here, don’t be jamming your thumb in there hard and causing pain. It should feel good, and if it doesn’t, back off a bit.   If you want to get fancy, roll the wrist around and wiggle the fingers as you squeeze. Do that light squeezing all the way down to the wrist, and do this a few times, up and down the forearm to cover all the territory there.   Then move to the hand, using a light pincer grip, squeeze that meaty area at the base of your thumb. Lightly squeeze up and down all those finger bones through … Read More

7 Healthy Actions to do at Work

Jennifer SymeBlog

office stress

  May is Global Employee Health and Fitness Month, so we are going to talk about some ways to promote the benefits of a healthy lifestyle by giving you simple actions you can do anywhere… especially at work.   1. Take the stairs. Pedometers, Fitbits, and various health tools track steps and daily mileage. One of the first things people do when they lean into a healthier lifestyle is to increase their movement. This can take the form of an organised fitness plan or by incorporating little acts of action that propel them forward toward their goals; such as taking the stairs and parking a little further from the building. A client of mine used to go up the stairs to the top of the building and back down in her lunchtime every day. Simple but it made a difference to her leg strength.   2. Get up. If you’re a desk jockey, one of the best things you can do is to get up and move. Do it every hour if you can. This action can increase blood flow as well as your productivity. A 5-10 minute break can prevent eye strain, cramped wrists and stretch a stagnant body. If you can, use a timer or your watch to remind you because those hours will whizz by and before you know it you’ve been sat there all morning.    3. Increase your water intake. Hydrate. Do we really need to tell you why? Drinking water is good for you … Read More

Top Tips – Stretches for Runners and Cyclists

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It’s Spring, according to the calendar anyway, and at this time of year, my clinic starts to get busy with people who are training for events. Usually a running event, anything from 10k to a marathon, and also some long distance cycling such as 100 miles a day (sometimes repeating for several days). Professional athletes have a team of people supporting them – trainers, physios, massage therapists, psychologists. So, for the amateur, it is worth seeking some support for themselves, even just for the period up to the event. Especially if this is your first attempt at this type of event. If you ara runner that has done some races before, you may get a shock when you start the training regime for a full marathon. It really does take over your life, and with that level of commitment, the last thing you want is for some minor injury or tight muscles to become so much of an issue that you can’t take part in the event, or end up with a longer term in injury. So self-care is very important at this time. When I see people in this training period, I always ask about stretching. These days most people will do some, but I still get the occasional person who sheepishly admits that they ‘know they should, but….’ If they do stretch but seem a bit unsure as to why or what they are actually doing, or say that they have been doing the same stretches forever, or … Read More

How to Get a Better Night’s Sleep – Top Tips on Getting More Z’s

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sleeping dog so cute

Sometimes getting a full night’s sleep seems impossible to achieve. No matter the cause – stress, pain, your work schedule or another reason – if you are not receiving regular quality sleep it can interfere with your health. The US based Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says, “Insufficient sleep is associated with a number of chronic diseases and conditions – such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression – which threaten our nation’s health.” March is #NationalBedMonth which gives us an opportunity to leave insufficient sleep behind and get back to the quality sleep that is so vital to our health and wellness. Here are a few ways you can start getting on track to better sleep habits.   Top Tips for Getting  Better Sleep   Say adios to technology – well before bedtime. Smartphones are everywhere and it’s not uncommon to find them creeping into your bedroom. Turn them off. Better than that. Turn them off and keep them in another room. Nix the TV, table, laptop and whatever else has found its way into your resting space. Break the habit and allow yourself to relax on a deep level. Establish a routine that is calming and relaxing. Humans are habitual creatures. How you wrap up your day can greatly impact the quality of sleep you receive. Finish the day with warm bath or shower, a cup of tea, cool the temperature in your room, and shut out the lights. Establishing a routine can triggers a natural response that tells … Read More

7 Ways to Indulge Your Inner Procrastinator

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Procrastinate…..me? In many ways “procrastination” is a naughty word. To some, it implies laziness, being unmotivated, distracted, unfocused and countless other trigger words. It means that we aren’t getting the things done and we are failing as contributing adults. Now maybe that’s an exaggeration, but maybe it’s not.  The point is we heap a bunch of responsibilities and pressure on ourselves. There is always a deadline and there is always the next thing to complete. But where is the real procrastination? More often than not we are procrastinating on our self-care and the things that really matter. In the U.S they even have a special week for it –  National Procrastination Week (March 5-11), so this week what if we embrace the holiday that is devoted to putting things off and delaying those oh-so-important tasks. Now, it might sound like the focus for this holiday is inactivity, but actually, it is more to do with being ‘active in getting a mental and emotional break’ which will lead to decreased stress and anxiety. And as massage therapists, we are all about that. And as a massage therapist, I am all for that. Here are a few ways you can indulge in procrastination. (Don’t worry, all that other stuff will still be there when you’re done.)   1. Read Ahhh, a good book – there’s nothing like it. No matter the genre, reading is the quickest escape route into another land. Once you pass through that portal there’s no turning back. And … Read More

Do You Get S.A.D?

Jennifer SymeBlog

An estimated 1 in 5 adults in the UK suffers from some kind of depression, according to the mental health organisation, with about 1 in 15 suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D). So, since it’s fairly common, it’s odd that there is still stigma and silence surrounding depression as an illness. There have been various campaigns in recent years to change this but I still see people every week in the clinic who are ashamed to tell me that they are on tablets or have had to see a counsellor. So let’s talk: what is depression? Why is it problematic? And is there anything that can help? What is depression? Let’s start with what depression isn’t: a bad day, a brief period of mourning after a loss, or a pessimistic outlook on life. It consists of a period of more than two weeks of a bad mood, decreased interest in things that one normally finds enjoyable, and can also include fatigue, changes in weight, difficulty concentrating, inappropriate guilt, and even suicidal thoughts. While two weeks is the minimum length for defining depression, it can continue for months or even years. Are there different kinds of depression? Yes. Major depression is an episode of depression two weeks or longer that messes with your ability to function throughout the day. People can have multiple episodes of major depression throughout their lives. Postpartum depression is a depressive episode that occurs after a woman has given birth. Seasonal Affective Disorder (aptly abbreviated SAD) is a … Read More

Relax – It’s good for you!

Jennifer Symemassage, stress

Busy-ness is the trend these days. People carry over-packed schedules like winning trophies. “I’m SO busy at work!” “How do you have time to do that? I’m too busy to read/watch TV/exercise/do anything fun.” “I can’t get monthly massages I have too much to DO!”   Too much “busy” could be making you tired, sick, and probably cranky. When do you relax? RELAX. “Relaxation” is a word we hear often, but don’t know always know what it means. Here, I’ve compiled some options for you.   re·lax  verb \ri-ˈlaks\   1: the state of being free from tension or anxiety. 2: a way to rest and enjoy yourself 3: recreation or rest, especially after a period of work. 4: the loss of tension in a part of the body, especially in a muscle when it ceases to contract. 5: something that you do to stop feeling nervous, worried, etc.   More importantly, what does relaxation mean to you? If you’re not a “hot bath and good book” kind of person, you probably cringe at Calgon commercials and spa photos of people with stones piled on their backs. But here’s the beauty: You can make your own definition of relaxation.   It’s your job to figure out what you enjoy doing, what makes you smile, and what makes you feel like you are a hundred miles from work or home jobs?   Then, make time for that. You have a schedule. Write in special time for a hobby, a nap, massage, … Read More