Park It, Mr. To-Do List!

I’ve had this image in my mind lately. When people come in for massage, I imagine them parking their “To Do” lists on the counter before they get comfy on the table.  There isn’t a thing you can accomplish while on the massage table, unless “Get a massage” was on your list to begin with (not a bad idea). So, why not consciously park the list. Shush the “to do’s” when they try to encroach on your massage time and truly be present.

On a related topic, I had one client who loved to chat when she came in for her massage sessions. I’m an extrovert, so I had a hard time resisting the lure of conversation. But I felt like she was missing a lot of the experience while we conversed. So I challenged her to try some silence. She beamed after the session. “I got so much more out of it!” she said, amazed at the difference. You actually get a lot of conversation from your body as you receive a massage. Tune in. If I’m talking too much, let me know.

Next time you come in for a massage think about parking your list. If that image doesn’t work, perhaps open an imaginary filing cabinet and file your should-be-doing’s list and close the drawer. Or hand them in to the imaginary coat-check gal. There will be plenty of time later to check things off your list. Sometimes our brains work well with an imaginary device like this. It’s a lot like out-smarting stress. Good luck!


Arthritis & Chiropractic Care, guest post by Dr. Rion Zimmerman

Arthritis can be confusing to people. When some people hear this word they contemplate a future with twisted and crippled joints; however, “arthritis” is an all-inclusive word that comprises many different conditions from the benign to the severe. Osteoarthritis, degenerative arthritis, or degenerative joint disease (DJD) are the terms for the most common form of arthritis, which is also called, spondylosis, if it occurs in the spine. Basically, the condition is due to the erosion of the cartilage that lines the joint surfaces.

Although some health care professionals will say arthritis cannot be reversed, studies have shown that it can. DJD or osteoarthritis in the spine is caused by unhealthy neurological patterns developed by physical, chemical and/or emotional stress. Chiropractic helps correct those unhealthy neurological patterns with gentle, specific adjustments. As the nervous system develops a healthy neurological pattern, stress is taken off the nerve roots.  As stress is removed from the nervous system, proper motion, function and balance will be restored throughout the body.

Prevention is unquestionably the best option, beginning at an early age. Making sure that

  • all injuries to joints are properly treated,
  • postural imbalances corrected and
  • joint function restored,

will prevent degenerative progression within one’s body. Chiropractic care can combat the effects of arthritis and can help someone avoid utilizing medications that cause harmful systemic effects. Chiropractic will allow one’s body to rest, relax and heal naturally!

If you’d like to learn more or talk to Dr. Zimmerman about your health, he can be reached at 818-952-0172 and on-line. Dr. Zimmerman is a Chiropractor specializing in preventative hands-on care with extensive knowledge related to athletes, pregnant and post-partum women and nutrition. He has been a patient of chiropractic since the age of eight, which continues to give him the drive to provide chiropractic care for individuals of all ages. His office is located in La Cañada, CA.

R.E.S.T. for the holidays

I have a wise friend. What a blessing! Her name is Kelly Duggan Shearer. She kindly allowed me to share these suggestions with you about keeping the holidays happy. She encourages us to R.E.S.T. to stay sane the holiday season.

R: Reduce stress. Set a budget for time, social obligations and gifts. Prioritize tasks and activities. Practice relaxation techniques. (I think this might include massage, don’t you?!)

E: Embrace yourself. Exercise daily. Get plenty of rest. Eat and drink in moderation.

S: Set realistic expectations. Remember, the holiday season is not a cure for feelings or loneliness, anger or sadness. Also, do not expect yourself to attend every event to which you are invited, or to enjoy each activity equally.

T: Take time to reinvent your holiday. Create new traditions and memories. Surround yourself with caring, supportive people. Honor the memory of those who are no longer with you.

Kelly is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFC 45250) with a private practice in Glendora, CA. She specializes in helping women in their 30’s and 40’s to reclaim freedom in their hearts and joy in their relationships. Who can’t use a little more joy? Reach her at 626-841-9165 and here. Thanks Kelly!

sTre$s Part 4 or Relaxation Part 2: the importance of sleep!

I recently heard Denise Byer speak about sleep at a health and wellness seminar in La Cañada. She is a sleep consultant representing a company called Private Quarters. Denise’s facts about sleep re-iterated what I knew deep down – sleep plays a huge role in our health and wellness. I asked Denise if she could share with us some of the amazing information she has learned about sleep and inspire us to get more!

1.  What have experts determined about what happens when we sleep? What are some of the downsides to not getting enough sleep?

So many things go on in our bodies while we sleep, they can’t all be listed here.  But there are a few things that I believe most people would be very interested in.

Very simply put, actual cellular repair occurs while we sleep.  So for our health – sleep is vital.

Our appetite controllers (called peptides) are affected by our sleep.  Ghrelins stimulate hunger and Leptin signals satiety (or fullness) to the brain.  When we don’t sleep well, our ghrelin levels are increased.  And not only are we more hungry, we tend to crave comfort foods, which are usually more fattening.  After a good night’s sleep (which is no less than 8 hours –discussed in more detail below), leptin is increased.  So you actually can sleep away those extra pounds!

And beauty sleep isn’t all myth either.  Growth hormones peak during sleep which contribute to cell and tissue repair.  Collagen 1 production is accelerated during sleep, which helps keep moisture in our skin.  We want that moisture, because when skin is dehydrated it looks less youthful and supple.

During sleep, neurons are regenerated.  Lack of sleep affects the functioning of several areas of the brain.  I find it fascinating that during verbal learning tests on subjects who are fully rested, MRI scans show that the temporal lobe area of the cerebral cortex, which controls language is very active. However, in sleep-deprived subjects there is no activity within this region. The effects of this inactivity can be observed by the slurred speech in subjects who have gone for prolonged periods with no sleep

REM sleep stimulates areas of the brain used for learning and memory. When a person is taught a new skill his or her performance does not improve until he or she receives at least eight hours of sleep. An extended period of sleep ensures that the brain will be able to complete the full sleep cycle, including REM sleep. The necessity of sleep for learning could be due to the fact that sleep increases the production of proteins while reducing the rate at which they are broken down. Proteins are used to regenerate the neurons within the brain. Without them new synapses may not be able to be formed, thus limiting the amount of information a sleep-deprived individual can maintain.

2. What are the stages of sleep, how do they differ, and how long do we tend to stay in each stage throughout the night?

The periods of non-REM sleep are comprised of Stages 1–4 and last from 90 to 120 minutes, each stage lasting anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. In more detail:

The first stage is actually a transitional stage.  During this stage, one is very easily awoken.

The second stage is the first real stage of sleep.  However, the person in this stage is still not what you might call “soundly” sleeping and can still be awoken relatively easily.

When a person enters stages 3 and 4, there is no muscle activity.  These stages are considered deep sleep.  It is during these stages children experience bedwetting and night terrors can occur.

The final stage is called REM sleep, which is an acronym for Rapid Eye Movement.  This is the deepest stage of sleep

We’ve heard the phrase “sleep like a baby.”  There is some legitimacy in this.  Infants spend almost 50% of their time in REM sleep. Adults spend nearly half of sleep time in stage 2, about 20% in REM and the other 30% is divided between the other three stages.

3.  How many hours is considered a good night’s sleep?

Sleep loss impairs our judgment, especially about sleep.  In our fast-paced world, functioning on less sleep becomes sort of a badge of honor.  Sleep specialists say that if you think you’re doing fine on less sleep, or adapting to, you’re wrong.  And if you work in a profession where it’s important to judge your level of functioning, this can be a big problem.  In fact, losing just 1 ½ hours of sleep a night results in a 32% decrease in daytime awareness.

Studies show that those who believe they’ve adapted to getting six hours of sleep instead of seven or eight actually do poorly on tests of mental alertness and performance.  There is a point in sleep deprivation where we lose touch with how impaired we are.

4. If people want to sleep better, what are some things you recommend?

Bedtime habits and environment are equally important in getting a good night’s sleep.


*        Fix a bedtime and awakening time. Your body gets used to falling asleep at a certain time if it is relatively fixed.

*        Avoid napping during the day unless you can limit it to 30-45 minutes.

*        Avoid alcohol 4-6 hours before bedtime.  While it has an immediate sleep-inducing effect, a few hours later as the alcohol levels start to fall, there is a stimulant or wake-up effect.  Similarly, avoid caffeine 4-6 hours.

*        Regular exercise, particularly in the afternoon can help deepen sleep.  However, strenuous exercise within 2 hours before bed can decrease your ability to fall asleep.

*        Avoid television right before bed.  It is a stimulant which will increase adrenaline levels, making sleep difficult and disruptable.


*        Use comfortable bedding. Uncomfortable bedding can prevent good sleep. Evaluate whether or not this is a source of your problem and make appropriate changes.

*        Have your room at a comfortable temperature. The optimal temperature for sleeping is actually between 63-65 degrees.

*        Block out all distracting noise and eliminate as much light as possible.  Consider ear plugs, a fan or white noise machine and an eye mask.

*        Reserve the bed for sleep and sex. Don’t use the bed as an office, workroom or recreation room. Let your body “know” that the bed is associated with sleeping.

*        Don’t take your worries to bed. Leave your worries about job, school, daily life, etc., behind when you go to bed. Some people find it useful to assign a “worry period” during the evening or late afternoon to deal with these issues.

*        Establish a pre-sleep ritual. Pre-sleep rituals, such as a warm bath or a few minutes of reading, can help you sleep.

*        Get into your favorite sleeping position. If you don’t fall asleep within 15-30 minutes, get up, go into another room, and read until sleepy.
Bonus Question: Do you have any events coming up that you’d like to tell people about? If someone is already a fan of Private Quarters products and wants to know more about your products, what’s the best way to contact you?

If you are interested in beginning to build a comfortable bed, I host an open house trunk show at my home the first Sunday of every month from 11 am -2 pm.  The next one will be on February 3.  Call for more information: (818) 951-4244.  You can look at my website, for information, or email me with questions denisebyer (at) msn (dot) com.  Additionally, I do one-on-one consultations.

reflections on moving

This will be brief as I’m in the middle of a move. It’s a unique move because we are only moving 10 feet from our current apartment. As I’ve walked between the old and the new, I’ve reflected on the phrase TIME is MONEY. We decided to pay for 3 overlap days in which to move to breathe a little sanity into the endeavor. We both cordoned off these days from work. So, we are focused solely on moving and keeping our son on track with his schedule. Those factors right there speak of the generousness of the time we have given ourselves.

But it’s still a move and we have to be very diligent to complete the task. I’ve moved a bunch in my adult life. And yet with this move and at this age (41), I hear a new phrase ringing through my head. TIME is HEALTH. Taking our time is a choice for health and sanity. Moving is hard work and requires a lot in the lifting department. Even being a careful lifter, I have given myself and my back a break by spreading out the work a bit, taking time to actually sit to eat lunch, and laying down for a quick stretch.

One day to go, or two. We are very close. Did I mention my husband has about 4,000 books?

sTre$s! part 2

This is a mini-series on stress – how our amazing bodies can rise to meet a challenge and how we can manage stress so that we don’t die from it!

As I mentioned in Part 1, our stress response consists of 3 phases: the alarm, the activating system and recovery. I recently read The Hidden Link between Adrenaline and Stress by Dr. Archibald Hart (Thomas Nelson 1995). He describes the amazing ways we are hard-wired to mobilize to meet a challenge. Every system of the body does its part. However, if we live in a constant state of stress, we will suffer the physical consequences (also described briefly in my first article). I’ll share with you some of the most important insights I gleaned from the book.

“To protect yourself against dying of or suffering ill effects from stress, you must learn how to switch off your production of adrenaline when it is no longer needed, and stop using it for non-emergency life situations (like driving on the freeway)!” (Hart, p. 28)

“Nothing worthwhile can be accomplished without some arousal of the stress response system. It is a biological law that we must work, and even fight, to accomplish a worthwhile goal. Challenge and fulfillment are important to health and well being. The lack of it causes us to atrophy in body and mind. But –  and this point is crucial to my whole argument – challenge and stress must be accompanied by, and work in harmony with, relaxation and rest.” (Hart, p. 42)

“We cannot avoid all arousal, all the time, nor should we even try…What should we do in times like these? It is crucial to plan adequate time for recovery. Sooner or later the crisis will be over, and that is when you must make time for adequate recuperation of your adrenaline system. It is simply a matter of responsible self-management.” (Hart, p. 136)

“The primary and most successful method of adrenaline reduction is conscious physical relaxation. When you relax the body, the mind can’t keep itself in a state of emergency. A relaxed body begins to relax the mind.” (Hart, p. 134)

So, let’s get personal. Here’s what I am doing with the information I read.

  1. I’m getting more sleep! Dr. Hart has a whole chapter on the importance of sleep. One of my new (school) year resolutions is to be in bed by 10:30 pm. This regularity helps me tremendously in the morning. I am a lot less grouchy! Most people I know, especially parents, could use more sleep.
  2. I’m noticing when my stress level is elevated and deciding whether I need the extra adrenaline or not. This consciousness is amazing. I never would have thought that noticing and deciding could be so powerful. I’ve found I really can turn off the adrenaline if I decide I don’t need it. If I need energy to face a challenge, yes I’ll take the adrenaline. If I need more creativity, I’ll do better without the influx of adrenaline.
  3. I’m making time for recovery, unapologetically. I will not pack the schedule too full and perpetuate the chicken-with-her-head-cut-off mode of operation. It’s just not enjoyable.
  4. I’m planning physical relaxation into my schedule. I know, I know, I’m always talking about massage (wink). For me and for many of my clients, massage helps us remember we’re human. What Dr. Hart described on page 134 rings true (see above). And, massage is one way to help flush out the chemical toxins in our bodies produced by the adrenaline response.
  5. I’m appreciating the body. I’m happy to celebrate that my body is designed to rise to incredible challenges and I’m confident it will amaze me when I need it to.

Stay tuned for the third part of this series where Dr. Angel Duncan will teach you a relaxation exercise you can use to increase your physical well being and decrease your stress. I’m also trying to line up an interview with a sleep consultant for you.

Inspired by anything? Want to share a resolution you have? Please use the comments below!

P.S. Somehow I published a draft of part 1 instead of my final version. Wander back to re-read part 1. You’ll see some of the information re-worked.

sTe$s!? part 1

I recently read a great book about stress. How cheerful, you might say. Well, I did it for you, my dear reader. I did, in fact, begin my reading with altruistic motives, wishing to share with you the way stress affects the body and teach you how to manage stress to minimize its negative impact in your life.

Little did I know how much I needed the info myself!

Life is sneaky that way, isn’t it? Here I stand, at this beginning of the school year, full of hope and healthy resolutions. The book I read is called The Hidden Link Between Adrenaline and Stress, by Dr. Archibald Hart (Thomas Nelson, 1995). Although it’s not the most recent book on stress, it’s an easy-to-read, inspiring book nonetheless. I’ll share some highlights with you in three parts. In Part 1 I’ll describe the most important insights I gleaned about how our bodies mobilize to meet a challenge. In Part 2 I’ll describe healthy ways to manage stress. Part 3 is a guest post by one of my clients, Dr. Angel Duncan, who will share a relaxation exercise with you.

  • The stress response: The amazing human body is hard-wired with the ability to respond to threats with a complex and efficient system of mobilization. You’ve heard of “fight or flight” I’m sure. Behind this catchy phrase is a whole host of chemical reactions that occur when we are faced with a major challenge:
    • Your eyes dilate, the rate and force of your heart’s contractions increase, and your blood vessels constrict, so your blood pressure rises. Blood is borrowed from the intestinal reservoir and shunted to your major muscles, lungs, heart, and brain, preparing you for battle. Bowel and bladder function shut down temporarily, conserving energy needed to power your muscles, whether you choose to stay and fight or run away. (This efficient summary is from The Wisdom of Menopause by Christiane Northrup, M.D., Bantam Books 2003 p.59.)
    • Here’s a family example: one time my older brother was working on his motorcycle in the garage. It suddenly caught on fire. My brother lifted the motorcycle up and threw it 10 feet out of the garage where he was able to put out the fire safely. This response demonstrated quick decision-making & abnormal strength, 2 hallmarks of an adrenaline response.
  • This system kicks in whether the challenge we face is life-threatening or simply our morning commute! To face our daily challenges, we really don’t need all that, especially the increased blood pressure, wouldn’t you agree?! Dr. Hart describes our activation this way:

“We are mobilized to act. We become physically stronger (which can be dangerous if we are angry) and mentally sharper. Notice I said ‘sharper,’ not ‘more creative or innovative.’” (Hart, p. 66)

I don’t know about you, but most of my challenges could use a greater measure of creativity and less blood pressure. I don’t particularly gain anything when I yell at my kid to hurry up and fall asleep already!

  • The stress response has 3 important steps: alarm, activation, and RECOVERY. In our culture, this third step is often overlooked. I’ll discuss the importance of recovery in Part 2.
  • Humans are incredibly ADAPTABLE. For example, our eyes can adapt from bright outdoor sunshine to dim indoor lighting within a minute or two. Unfortunately, we can also adapt to conditions we shouldn’t adapt to, like high levels of stress. Our adrenaline response has some great short-term features, like a decreased sensation of pain for example. This serves the purpose of helping us continue with a challenge even when we are injured. Imagine the need to carry your child down a mountain after some catastrophe, perhaps a task that would be physically impossible for you unless you knew you were in a life-threatening emergency.
  • The long-term effects of adrenaline on the body are ultimately destructive. Here are a few examples: higher blood pressure, depleted endorphins and therefore an increased sensation of pain, quicker (and less discriminating) activation of a stress response, depletion of the brain’s natural tranquilizers and therefore increased anxiety. The list goes on, but you can see it’s a picture of diminishing returns.

As I said, refreshing my knowledge of how the body acts under stress has been great for me personally. The summer was in some ways a little more relaxed, but also a little stressful trying to balance work and family time. I was looking forward to the school year beginning in a grass-is-greener kind of way. Then I remembered that there’s a lot of hustling hither and thither with the kiddo, part of life I find stress-inducing. Learning to monitor and manage my stress response, which I’ll share with you in the next post, was a great way for me to start the school year. Stay tuned!

And, please, if you have any great stories about how your adrenaline helped you in a real crisis or hindered you in a daily challenge, please share with everyone in the comments below.