By now you’ve likely heard the news that both the CDC and the state of Michigan will no longer require individuals who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to wear face coverings either outdoors or indoors, and by July 1st no one will be required to wear masks at all. We are eager to celebrate this huge step forward, but we also want to be cautious because the pandemic is certainly not over, and while many of our clientele and our staff have been fully vaccinated, there are those who have not yet been able to for various reasons.
To that end, we have decided that masks will be optional during massage if both the client and the therapist have been fully vaccinated. Fully vaccinated means they have received the last in their series of vaccinations and allowed two weeks time or more to pass. Since there may be other clients or staff in the lobby who have not yet been vaccinated, clients will still be required to wear masks until they are in treatment rooms.
If you would like the option to remove your mask during your massage with therapists who are fully vaccinated, please bring in your original vaccination card so we can add a copy of it to your file. Additionally, if you do not have the card you can also sign an affidavit confirming your vaccination date and location and authorizing us to contact the provider to confirm your vaccination status.
Please note: these changes are 100% OPTIONAL. Anyone who does not want to provide vaccination verification may still continue to wear a mask just as before. Anyone who is not comfortable being unmasked or having their therapist unmasked may continue to wear a face covering and/or request their therapist wear one, as well. This is a complicated and nuanced situation, and we respect everyone’s right to make their own choices while also taking very seriously the potential risks to our unvaccinated employees and clients. We ask that you do the same!
We will continue to call clients ahead of time to go through a brief screening, and go over these details. As always, we do require that you reschedule your appointment if you are feeling ill or exhibiting any symptoms of coronavirus. Thank you for your continued support, and...
By: Guest Blogger Kelly Jones LMT, MOTR
Ever feel like those hard, painful knots in your muscles seem to stick around no matter how much stretching, foam rolling, or digging you do? This is where vibration and percussion therapy can make all the difference. Not only is this a great way to help your massage therapist hone in on stubborn muscle issues, it’s also a super effective at-home recovery tool. Did I mention vibration and percussion therapy feels great, too? Many clients tell me after adding the Hypervolt onto their massage session that it's the most relaxed they can remember feeling.
One of the reasons this therapy is so effective is due to specialized receptor cells in the body that monitor for changes in the muscle tissue called proprioceptors. Proprioceptors communicate with the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and protect our bodies by regulating stretch or contraction during movement (like when busting a move on the dance floor) or application of force (bench pressing your toddler). Proprioceptors sense changes such as pressure, temperature, or tension and are located throughout muscles, joints, and tendons. One specific type of proprioceptor called the Golgi Tendon Organ (GTO) specializes in preventing tension induced injuries. GTOs operate a protective feedback mechanism
known as the Golgi tendon reflex, which creates an inhibiting response (shut it down!) that signals muscle tissue to release tension, making the muscle easier to stretch and to apply other massage modalities to it.
During vibration and percussion therapy, your massage therapist may use a hand-held percussive device on a localized area to induce deep release and relaxation within the muscle tissues. The tool we use for this at KAW is the Hypervolt, a hand held percussive therapy device made by Hyperice. One of my favorite ways to use the Hypervolt is by targeting muscles which feel “congested” or locked up with tension. When the vibrations are transmitted to your body they cause an inhibition reflex which signals muscle to contract and then relax. The Hypervolt has three different speed settings and multiple attachments to customize client comfort and maximize vibration therapy benefits depending on where it's applied to the body.
By using the Hypervolt as an adjunct to manual massage therapy, your therapist can better target muscle tension and discomfort to get you more effective results. Personally, I have found that using the Hypervolt to “warm up” muscles allows me to engage in deeper and more intense tissue modalities much sooner than by relying on using my hands alone. If you haven’t already added the Hypervolt to your massage, give it a go next time you come in and see for yourself! You might even want to consider purchasing one to use at home. Among the benefits of vibration and percussion therapy is faster post workout/event recovery time,
decreased generalized pain or stiffness, and improved range of motion.
We have both the standard Hypervolt and smaller, travel size Hypervolt GO on sale this month (May 2021) at KAW in addition to the Hyperice Venom, a wearable heat and vibration treatment device for the low back. Any of our awesome KAW staff is more than happy to help familiarize you with these tools and offer suggestions or demonstrations to help you get the most out of them. Just ask!
Currently our Hyperice products are available for purchase in-store only due to restrictions per our merchant agreement. If you would like to purchase any of our Hyperice products please call 269-373-1000 for pricing and availability!
How to use the Hypervolt: at home -YouTube Tutorial
By guest blogger: Makenzie Musgrove
The cold has always been something for which we have been conditioned to prepare. Living in Michigan means we are no strangers to these plunging temperatures, but still the cold has often been something most people dread, just like any other ‘bad’ weather. However, despite our quarrels with the cold, being exposed to frigid environments can and will do some amazing things for our bodies. By learning to use the cold, and overcoming the mental conditioning that cold is bad, we are able to change our relationship with cold temperatures. It has been proven that exposure to certain lower temperatures may actually increase productivity in our cardiovascular and endocrine systems (which directly influence our hormone levels), as well as help facilitate faster recovery following intense workouts. If we can enact change in our behaviors and mentality about the cold, we can directly improve our overall health and well-being.
If you have ever jumped into a cold pool before, you most likely know that deep gasp of air you take when you touch the cold water. This is called a cold water gasp, or a gasp reflex and only happens when skin comes in contact with cold water (under 70 degrees Fahrenheit). This initial shock causes the body to send signals to the brain indicating that you are submerged in water. It is a direct autonomic survival response making sure your body has enough air and energy to save it from drowning. These signals improve alertness, mental clarity and energy levels. Endorphins are also released which are also known as ‘feel good hormones’. In clinical trials it has been shown that taking a cold shower, even for just a few minutes a week, can help alleviate depressive symptoms as a result of this endorphin release. The skin has a high
concentration of cold receptors which stimulate the peripheral nerve endings in the brain which create anti-depressive effects. Because of this short adrenaline and endorphin burst, taking cold showers can even help you sleep better at night.
Not only can cold exposure improve your nervous system, it can improve your physicality, as well. The use of cold therapies with athletes for muscle recovery has become a lot more prevalent over the past few years. Studies have shown that the use of cold therapy, such as ice baths, cryotherapy chambers, and even just cold showers often reduce a lot of negative side effects of post physical performance. The cold can act as a mild analgesic (pain reducer) on muscles post workout. The cold reduces inflammation and improves the cardiovascular system within your muscles, both of which are directly related to the rate of muscle recovery. The Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies conducted a study in 2019 which showed that over time those who used cold therapy as part of their exercise recovery program increased their physical performance exponentially faster than those in the control who were not exposed to intentional cold therapy. Another study published in The Journal of Athletic Therapy and Training details cold’s effect on delayed onset muscle soreness. Cold exposure after an intense workout helps ease the perceived pain from that delayed onset muscle soreness, which is muscle pain you feel after working out. The feeling usually occurs 24-48 hours post workout and with cold treatment the perceived pain decreased by over half.
Overall, by pushing ourselves to overcome our mental aversion to cold and by embracing the cold as something that can help heal not only your body, but your mind as well, you can make a positive impact on your overall well being. The few things mentioned here only scratch the surface of what the cold can do for you. So next time you take a shower (if you are brave enough to try), set a timer for a minute, count to three, turn the temperature gauge as cold as it will go and focus on slow, deep, and full breathing. Pay attention to how you feel right after that shower and throughout your day. Embrace the cold!
Hof, W. (2020). The Wim Hof method: Activate your full human potential. Boulder, CO: Sounds True.
Doeringer, J. R., Colas, M., Peacock, C., Gatens, D. R. 2018. The effects of postexercise cooling on muscle performance and soreness perception. International Journal of Athletic Therapy and Training, 23(2), 73-76.
Didehdar, D., Sobhani, S. 2019. The effect of cold-water immersion on physical performance, Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 23(2), 258-26
By guest blogger: Adam Brown
You may have seen this phrase or a catchy meme or song to the same effect circling around the interwebs lately; "the pandemic isn't over just because you're over it!" I actually heard it for the first time months ago. The fact is, as we approach the one year mark of this unprecedented worldwide pandemic, "pandemic fatigue" is all too real. But it seems like things are starting to get back to normal, right? Schools that have been only virtual or part time in person all year are preparing to go back to full time face to face instruction (many without the means to vaccinate their teachers, unfortunately). Thousands of people recently descended on the state capital to demand high school sports be allowed to resume. We're finally starting to see headlines of COVID numbers decreasing in Michigan. No matter where you stand ideologically in regards to lockdowns, business restrictions, vaccines, and mask mandates; I think we can all agree we are sick and tired of COVID! Sadly, SARS-CoV-2 doesn't care too much for our feelings on the matter, and even though it seems like things are starting to get back to normal, it's likely going to be a long road till we truly see the end of this pandemic.
On February 1st dine-in services at restaurants have been resumed at limited capacity, but this is a good time to remember: just because you can, does that mean you should? The other day while picking up take-out brunch from one of my local favorites, Crow's Nest, one of the servers I know personally brought my order out to the curbside for me and said that she had mixed feelings about the dining room reopening. Yes, the restaurant industry desperately needs the business, but the risk is still very real, and who knows how things will change if people start filling local bars and restaurants to capacity. Take-out is still a great option and a good way to support your favorite local restaurants without putting any of the staff and other patrons at risk. Some restaurants have also gotten very innovative with ways to stay warm while eating outdoors this winter! If you must dine-in, please be respectful of the situation, don't linger long at your table after your meal, keep you mask on until you are eating and put it back on when you are done, and for goodness' sake, TIP YOUR SERVERS GENEROUSLY!!!
Here at KAW we are still continuing to offer our services to the community in the safest way possible. We are standing by the importance and effectiveness of PPE, and per recent public health guidelines we have even purchased new triple layered, reusable cloth masks for therapists to wear while working. We're also in line (metaphorically speaking) to get our vaccines as soon as possible, and we encourage you to do the same! You can continue help us stay safe by continuing to be patient, considerate, and honest with our staff when going through your pre-screening questionnaire; rescheduling your massage for a later date if you've recently gathered indoors with a group of ten or more people or if you're feeling even the slightest bit under the weather; and wearing your mask the entire time you're in the building (bonus points for multi-layered masks!). Even if you have already been vaccinated or had COVID and recovered from it, wearing a mask is still important since the data is not clear yet as to whether or not you can still spread the virus to others. A vaccine is to protect you, the mask is to protect others.
The reality is, even after enough people have been vaccinated for our country to reach herd immunity status, there may still be the need to wear masks and take extra precautions long in the future. Don't lose hope, though. We will find our equilibrium, and if we support each other and follow the lead of our nation's health officials, we will thrive once again. Thank you again for your continued support of our staff and our business. Here's to what we can all do together to Be Better!
Today's guest blogger is Jill Winfield. You may have seen Jill at the front desk of the KAW Sports Massage Center or in the therapy room in the past year. Jill holds a Bachelors of Science from Western Michigan University with the majority of her studies focused in the undergraduate Athletic Training Program. This included classes in various therapeutic modalities, therapeutic exercise, strength and conditioning, sports physiology, sports nutrition, functional anatomy, and evaluation skills. Jill was trained in Massage Therapy at the Institute for Massage Therapy at KCHA, where many of the KAW staff also went to school.
Often times, especially in a sports massage setting, you may expect your massage therapist to use deep pressure or aggressive stretching in order to help tight muscles relax. However, this isn’t always necessary, and can potentially do more harm than good in some cases. Certain light touch therapies like MFR (Myofascial Release), may actually be more effective than deep pressure in allowing your body to relax and restore balance. Here are four common light touch modalities and a brief description of them:
-MFR/Myofascial Release: A lighter touch or more intense touch can be used with these techniques. This allows the therapist to engage the fascia. Fascia is the connective tissue which surrounds muscles and tendons that sometimes can cause referred pain when adhesion occurs. MFR encourages these restrictions to loosen up and let go. This therapy can be done fully clothed or undressed (to your level of comfort) as “usual”. This can be a great option for those who are not comfortable being in a state of undress around another person.
-CST/ Craniosacral Therapy: The lightest touch therapy, this modality works to restore balance in your central nervous system: the brain, spinal cord, and cerebrospinal fluid. CST can help bones and tissues move back into their proper place by facilitating a deep sense of relaxation allowing the body to find its own equilibrium. CST can be done fully clothed or undressed (to your level of comfort) as “usual”. Another great option for those who are not comfortable being in a state of undress in a therapeutic setting. Read more about CST here!
-Lymphatic Drainage: Swelling can be caused by lymph fluid building up in various areas, especially around joints and in the lower extremities. Lymph filters waste products out of your circulatory system in addition to many of its other functions. This system can become overwhelmed and not work as efficiently when an injury occurs or from chronic over-training. This technique gently facilitates the movement of lymphatic fluid to be recirculated throughout the body and requires a lighter touch to be most effective. It is also one of the only massage modalities not contraindicated within the first 24 hours post injury. Read more here!
-Swedish/Full Body Relaxation: It is one of the foundational styles of western massage and is taught to massage students in accredited programs across the US. It gives you that freshly massaged, relaxed feeling. Helps with many overall health concerns. This can be done with a light touch, or a “heavier” touch, typically partially to fully undressed with modest draping and some sort of lubrication on the skin. There are less contraindications for this style of massage than some of the other light and deep touch styles.
So why should you care about lighter touch modalities if you are an active person with lots of muscle tension and/or an injury? Being “sneaky” with a softer approach can get to points of tension and adhesion in the body without turning on or activating pain receptors that cause guarding or additional tension. If your body is used to fighting against pressure from the nature of your sport or strenuous lifestyle, it may also fight against pressure used during a massage making it feel like you need more and more pressure to find any relief, which may even lead to damaging soft tissue. Light touch techniques start working with your body to facilitate healing without having to “push through” a lot of pain to get the relaxation and therapeutic effect you are looking for. Every technique and modality has a place in your therapist’s toolbox. Check in with your LMT to see which light touch techniques may work best for you!
You may have, by now, heard that Gov. Whitmer's executive order powers have been repealed by the supreme court. I am sure some of you may not care or some of you may be excited. Some of you may be scared or frustrated. Many of you may be wondering what that means for your massages at KAW. Long story short, is that our operations will not change. We will continue to require PPE for both staff and clients. We will continue to use limited capacity and staggered scheduling to reduce the number of clients in the office. We will still have extra time between clients for disinfecting. This does certainly mean a reduction in income for KAW and our staff. We are willing to put forth the sacrifice if it means we can maybe save lives and find a new normal a little bit sooner.
What will likely change, is the potential for clients to challenge our decisions as a company. Our standards were set in place to protect ourselves and our community, not just because we were legally required to do so. For now, the EOs will still be enforceable through September 23rd, and I am sure the MI government will be working diligently to figure out how to fight this repeal or put other measures in place to balance public and economic safety. Additionally, this repeal gives local governments more power to create their own legislation. So, it is very possible Kalamazoo county may put a mask, social distance or reduced capacity order in place anyway, since we have spiked by over 100 cases per million more than we were a month ago, thanks largely to schools reopening. Oakland county has already put up a county wide mask mandate for anywhere outside your home.
No matter your point of view on whether the Governor had the power to protect the public based on a panel of highly educated experts' advice or not, we now have to navigate more change and must stay steadfast in our decisions as a company about what makes sense for us. In the end, it is our duty as ambassadors of local public health to set a standard, regardless of what the government says. Please be respectful of our policies we have put in place, and we will continue to provide the most epic wellness care we can!
Nicholas Garman, LMT NSCA-CPT
How did we get here? Let's look back at the last 7 years of KAWness.
Certainly it does not seem like 7 years, and yet it seems like it has been a lifetime. So much has happened both in my personal life and in my business life. From the humble start that Amy Bradley and I conceived way back in 2013 as we met at Shawarma King Buffet, to the trendy jam packed Sports Massage Center we see today. It was an adventure to be sure. I'll take some time here to reflect on the more important bits and probably get misty eyed as I do.
2013- We open in September of 2013 with 4 therapists total and average about 8 clients a week. We also begin proudly working with WMU Football. I have a newborn daughter at home and have to juggle being a stay-at-home dad during the day and running a new business in the evenings.
2014- We have our first major sponsorship as we work with the Kalamazoo Growlers in their inaugural season. Later this year we also begin our relationship with the Kalamazoo Area Runners.
2015- This year was a struggle for KAW financially. Amy stepped down as co-owner at the beginning of the year and in May left to pursue a career with Stryker. My wife and I welcome our son in August. We also picked up Alicia Hileski who has been a rock in our organization and would later be promoted to Assistant Manager! We ended the year losing money after 2 years of minimal profits.
2016- The year of efforts realized! Early in the year I meet with Bonnie Gildea, the owner of SolSpring, over dinner at Erbelli's. She tells me she wants to sell SolSpring and that she keeps thinking of me as the perfect fit. I graciously accept the opportunity, and we get to work. By June 2016 SolSpring is merged with KAW, and we pick-up our Workplace Wellness division and a second location at the Bronson Athletic Club. We also absorb an amazing staff of therapists including Christine Anderson and Jillian Strobel and now have 12 LMTs! Christine was our Office Manager through this transition and worked hard to also get us to where we are today. She left to pursue her own business in 2019, and I am so excited for her. Jillian stepped up into a version of her current role and has been the face of our Workplace Wellness division since! That fall at WMU Football, we had our magical undefeated season and went to the Cotton Bowl. I cried with pride after the MAC Championship win. The rest of this year is one of our highest grossing profit years ever, and things are looking great!
2017- I find out in March that Bronson wants to switch from contracting our services to hiring and running their own massage division for the athletic club. By May we have been consolidated into the Turwill location and dropped 6 therapists. This event feels like a big step backwards as we lose about 50% of our revenue. I decide to take a gamble and invest what money we had saved to remodel the office, revamp our promotional materials, and push ourselves to the next level. We remain steady at the Turwill office and stay alive!
2018- The year of growth. This year I begin to have deeper talks with Dr. Antoniotti and others about a combined services relationship, and we begin talks on a larger facility. We also introduce our Membership option in March to replace a less than popular prepay discount. The memberships prove to be an immediate success both for clients and cash-flow! Eventually the concept of a much larger facility is abandoned and Dr. Antoniotti and I begin talks about us moving into the suite next door with the previous tenants' lease due to be done. This was also the year that Linda Elstun won her Bronze medal at the CrossFit Games. This was the second year that I traveled to the games with her and was frankly a wonderful surprise as she had qualified outside of the top ten. By year's end we have nearly doubled our monthly revenue compared to the start of the year!
2019- We announce our expansion into the new facility with Antoniotti Chiropractic and, despite some unforeseen delays, we are able to move in late March and re-open in early April. We have a major re-opening celebration involving WMU Football players and a raffle supporting WMU Athletics. Our new facility doubles our capacity for massage, has enough room in the lobby for us to create a members lounge, and we can now sell retail products in our new Wellness Store! We also hire 7 new staff members, 4 new therapists and 3 front desk staff. Just 2 weeks after re-opening my Mother, Susan Belt, passes away in her sleep from heart failure. She worked for KAW at the front desk for about a year between 2017-2018, and many of you may have met her. She was spunky and free spirited. She was annoyingly proud of me, and I will miss her always! In August I go with Linda to the CrossFit Games again, this year comfortably winning a Silver medal! She ranks as the most fit 55-59 year old woman in America! Toward the end of this year we introduce our online Wellness Store to a pretty uneventful start. Overall our new cohesive relationship with Antoniotti is off to a fantastic start and I am feeling very confident in 2020...
2020- Well here we are. You get the scenario here, 2020 is, for all incense and porpoises, a train wreck. Right now, I write this from home as I juggle running a much more demanding business than in 2013, while also assisting my kids with their virtual learning. However, there is a shining light at the end of the tunnel! Thanks primarily to our dedicated members who continued their dues, and secondly to some governmental action to help save small businesses, we have survived! Just 2 days ago I found out we received a grant approved by Gov. Whitmer as part of the Small Business Restart program! The community support in our reopening has also been overwhelming! We expected a very slow rebuilding for the last half of 2020. What we got was clients clambering to get in for their much needed human contact in a safe and controlled environment. I am so proud of our staff and the culture we have created as a business. I look forward to what the next several years bring!
When will it be safe for us to reopen? This is a question we have been asking ourselves frequently over the last couple of months. We fully expect the Michigan government will do their best to keep public safety a large priority. But being an industry that literally touches people in a confined space for extended periods of time, we wanted to ensure we set forth a plan that would keep everyone involved as safe as possible, and made sense for us specifically as an industry.
As a staff we came together and decided we needed to create our own criteria for a safe reopening. Our intention is to create an environment that is as safe as possible for both clients and ourselves. Outlined below are the steps we set in place that need to be true for us to reopen and what to expect when you are finally able to schedule.
Because of the more fluid nature of our reopening criteria, we cannot set a date for reopening at this time. We have cancelled all sessions in June and will be closing off any openings in July. Once we have a date for reopening we will be calling all clients, starting with members, who were scheduled in any of the previous months that we have been closed for COVID to get them scheduled within our specified schedule. Please keep in mind, we fully understand the desire to get back to your bodywork as regularly scheduled. We MUST proceed with caution and make it as safe as possible for all involved. Public health is, after all, our number one priority. Thank you so, so much for your continued patience and support!
By Guest Blogger: Jessica Slager
There have been lots of negatives surrounding the COVID-19 experience, and for good reason; let’s take a moment to look back on the positive things that have come out of it. Bring on the lemonade!
Images released by the European Space Agency show changes in density of harmful gases in our atmosphere. This is measured by how much fossil fuel is burned or released. Nitrogen dioxide and other partial matter have shown a significant reduction. Paris, Madrid, and Milan, for example, have a viable reduction in these gases as compared to the same time last year. This is based on satellite images from the ESA, which is responsible for monitoring Earth observation satellites in conjunction with other agencies. Citizens of India are seeing the Himalayan mountain range on the horizon for the first time in some of their life times. The view has been hidden by pollution possibly for over 30 years. Locals in Venice are saying they are seeing colorful plant life, fish, small crabs, and other wildlife that they have not seen in a long time due to the reduction of boat traffic. With the reduction of boats there is less water pollution but also there is not the churning of the thick mud that is in the bottom of the canals. In Vancouver they have spotted Whales in the fjord which have not been seen in decades according to the CBC (Canadian broadcasting corporation). These are just a few of the examples of how our earth is taking this time to heal.
There have also been some positives within family units, as well. According to Psychologist Dr. Amanda Gummer, it "has provided a unique opportunity to reconnect, create memories, and evaluate priorities." She also goes on to explain that other benefits may include: children feeling more secure, parents being able to support each other, and families being strengthened as a whole. Parents are also being freed up to have more time to spend with their kids, as well as have more time to help kids learn life skills. Families are getting to do things as a unit that were often overlooked. These activities include: cooking together, having picnics, playing games, cards, walking the dog together, exploring nature, kitchen science experiments, and having time to read out loud with their kids.
People have stepped up to help others in extraordinary ways! Those with sewing skills have spent countless hours making masks and giving them away for free to help bridge the gap for our essential workers. Others have also made mask holders and headbands to hold the masks in place. Ford Motor Company announced it would partner with GE health and 3M to retool machines so they can make medical supplies like masks, respirators, and ventilators, according to Jim Hackett CEO. Steelcase Global in Grand Rapids MI helped design, prototype and build new products. According to Mllive, a company known for making office furniture, they are now making isolation masks, face shields, and other items needed by Michigan hospitals. Other businesses have also stepped forward to help with the needs of communities. Several distilleries have switched over to making hand sanitizer. Green Door Distilling Company in Kalamazoo is one that has been making hand sanitizer which you will find in use in our very own KAW office upon reopening.
There have also been some unique opportunities to keep busy while we are home. Some colleges are offering free courses. Google Arts and Culture has digital tours of more than 2000 museums and art galleries from around the world. There are 12 Frank Lloyd Wright buildings now offering virtual tours. Chef Massimo Bottura is offering cooking classes named “Kitchen Quarantine” that will be live streamed on Instagram! His social media handle is @massimobotta. Chef Alton Brown is also offering classes, along with several others. Museum Of Modern Art (MOMA) is offering free online art and design classes. New York Times bestselling Illustrator Wendy MacNaughton is offering free online drawing lessons on Instagram. You can also live stream from zoos and aquariums from around the world, such as the live Jellyfish cam at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The National Parks are also offering free virtual tours, webcams, pictures and sound recordings for you to look through. Celebrities have been offering live concerts from their homes and reading favorite children's books. A quick internet search will bring up lots of free and fun activities for almost every interest and age level.
People have become heroes and have shown up in amazing ways during this time. Doctors, nurses and all health care staff have shown up to make sure healthcare continues. Truckers have shown up to make sure our food and supplies get delivered. Grocery store staff and food bank volunteers have shown up to make sure we have access to food. Donors and volunteers have shown up at blood drives to make sure we have continual access to a much needed blood supply. Farmers have shown up knowing how important their role is. The mail still gets delivered, along with supplies, because those workers have shown up. Teachers have continued to teach, checking in with students; even with the difficulties of not physically being in the classroom. They’ve switched to online classes and they continue to show up. Our own members have continued their membership dues and we have had over two-thousand dollars donated to our therapists in the form of tips from our clients and others who have shown up! There are so many to name, and this list is far from complete. When times are uncertain people show up to look after our welfare, even when it is, at times, considered risky. They are there to show that people can and will still come together to show each other support, even in a pandemic.
Co-Authored by: Nicholas Garman and Adam Brown.
1. Understanding Self Care
As the Corona virus continues to ramp up in the United States the perpetual news reports and social media posts of quarantine, death, and sickness have a particular way of stressing one out. The way your body and mind respond to stress is actually a nervous system response that you can learn to regulate by implementing certain habits, patterns, and practices in your life. This will train your nervous system to better interpret when it is safe and can relax, and when it is in danger and time to act.
That being said, you may be feeling right now like you are not safe and cannot rest. This is perfectly normal in times of crisis. It is important to understand that stress is not meant to be completely obliterated. There are times where a stress response is actually serving you and sending a message that now is the time for you to take action of some sort.
Unfortunately, for many, in stressful times like these, the branch of the nervous system that governs your fight or flight response will often remain active and continue to keep you “ready for action” until utter burn out. This is why it’s more important than ever to learn to take care of yourself, or practice self care.
Self care does not only mean bubble baths and spa days (although these can be great options for many people). Self care is a broad, umbrella term encompassing anything and everything that allows your parasympathetic nervous system to flex its calming muscles and better learn to regulate between when it should be active and when it should allow its bigger, older cousin, the sympathetic nervous system to take charge and prepare you for action -- fight or flight. In this blog we’ll be focusing on four vital elements of taking care of yourself: movement, stress reduction, sleep and food.
If you’re anything like me, you finally get yourself into a good, solid workout routine that you were able to maintain on a regular basis, then all the gyms (not to mention almost EVERYTHING ELSE) closed and you were left picking up the pieces of your daily routine trying to figure out how to fit it all back together in this new world of social distance and shelter in place. But physical activity remains a vital component of self care. Not only will exercise help your body feel good, it will also improve your sleep quality, encourage a better state of mind, and even allow your nervous system to work out some of that anxious energy.
Many of us have been spending a bit of extra time on the internet lately, and on said internet maybe you have been seeing a lot of home exercise videos, remote workout classes, virtual yoga, and other ways that people are taking care of themselves physically right now. This is a great way to fill in the gaps left by your lack of gym access or start a home workout routine since, let’s face it, we all have extra time on our hands. The best part is, you do not need a bunch of fancy equipment to workout at home.
To break up the monotony, try adding some variety to become more well rounded. If in the past if you typically focused on weight training, try adding some yoga for more mobility. If you used to only do cardio when you went to the gym, try adding some tabata body-weight circuits to your routine. You can still run, bike and walk outside, thankfully. Soon it will even be warm enough to put a yoga mat on your porch or in your yard! Try something new, and if you’re not feeling it, try something different tomorrow until you find what really works for you.
If you’re not sure where to start, a quick Google search will present you with plenty of options! A good standby is always squats, push-ups, planks, pull-ups (if you have a bar), and nice long walks. These simple exercises can be the start of a great workout! Then go take your bubble bath.
3. Sleep and Stress Reduction
Sleep and stress are yin and yang. If you are stressed, it’s hard to sleep. If you can’t sleep, it causes stress. As important as being active is, equally important is being able to sleep well. The time you spend sleeping is when your body does the majority of its required maintenance to keep itself functioning optimally. If you’re not sleeping well, you’re likely not feeling well. Far too often we go and go until we can go no more, and with a new pace to your life now, that may mean just spending more and more time on electronic devices of some sort. One of the most important things you can do for mental well-being is to be mindful and intentional with how you engage in all forms of electronic media.
Yes, it’s important to check in and remain aware of what’s going on in the world as well as stay connected with your friends and family. However, starting and ending your day by becoming anxious about what is going on in the world is not going to do you any favors! Consider setting some limits on when and how you engage in news, social media and even electronic entertainment. These things may seem like helpful escapes during stressful times, but if you’re exposing yourself to the drama of social and news media all the time, your nervous system will continue to build up stress. Staring at the light of a screen as you Netflix binge Tiger King right up until you go to sleep will greatly diminish the quality of your sleep and likely make it harder for you to even fall asleep.
If you haven’t already, maybe start by setting a rough schedule for yourself: when to turn in, when to get up, how soon after you get up you want to pick up your phone, what other activities you want to fill your day with, how long before you sleep you want to be screen free, and when to take that bubble bath. Consider having times where you shut off your phone and TV for a few hours or :gasp: a whole day. Your body operates on rhythms, and even if you’re not militant about the times, the more consistent those rhythms are, the better you will sleep and the better you will feel.
4. Food and Food-like Substances
Another major factor in how good your body is feeling is what you are putting into it. One of the ways humans are wired to handle stress is to store up the calories your body needs for fuel in case food becomes less readily available. Maybe you’ve noticed you’re craving snacks more than usual right now. Maybe you’re consuming more carbs, sugar, or alcohol than you normally would. These are very normal responses to stress and while you shouldn’t worry too much about a bit more flexibility in your diet right now, it is important to be aware of how what you’re eating makes you feel and intentional about what you do and do not consume (and how much).
When you eat is also important. Eating sugar or consuming too much alcohol close to bedtime can decrease the quality of your sleep and even cause you to wake up with an adrenaline rush in the middle of the night, making it hard to get back to sleep. Eating large meals late in the day which take a lot of energy for your body to digest can also make it hard to go to sleep, and that caloric energy will likely not get used up in the latter part of the day, causing your body to store it for later use as fat cells.
Make sure you’re getting enough whole foods and fresh foods as long as you are still able to access and prepare them. If you have more time on your hands than usual, try dedicating some of that time to cooking more meals from scratch, or learning how to do so if that’s not something you’ve done much before. Simply preparing your own meals will often drastically improve the quality of what you’re eating because you will naturally be eating less processed foods and getting more nutrition from the whole foods that you are preparing.
5. In Conclusion
Overall, begin to bring awareness to how you feel mentally, emotionally, and physically. Think about how you want to feel, and hopefully this encourages you to find ways to make changes to achieve those goals. You may also want to look into incorporating more mindfulness practices into your daily routine like deep breathing, meditation, or journaling. Your mental and emotional state will greatly influence your physical state and vice versa.
Finally, please remember to go easy on yourself. It’s perfectly normal to be stressed right now, changes in routine is a top cause for stress, and we have all been thrown into a major change in routine. Know that self care looks different for each person at different times in their life. You will have ups and downs, some days that feel better than others, this is to be expected. Just keep doing the best you can one day at a time, and you will soon be better!
Enjoy your bubble bath.
Nicholas Garman, LMT NSCA-CPT
|Kalamazoo Athletic Wellness||
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