• Rachael Scarr

Envy No More

Updated: Jan 7


{ Listen to this post here }


I’m finding that “indulgence” seems to be a topic in many of my posts. Living fully. Experiencing. Not holding oneself back. In my Lush post we talked about the extra, and what it means to truly treat yourself right. I suggested and encouraged you to take the extra time and spend the extra dough when needed. Allowing yourself to partake in what we so often don’t think we “deserve”. While so many of these products, activities, moments might parade themselves as indulgences, what they really are is an investment in YOU. Care of self. Love of self. Protection of self. Awareness of self. Preservation of your self. And they are not only a suggestion…but a re*qui*re*ment.


Guys, ‘Rona is ROUGH. This year is no joke and there just doesn’t seem to be any sign of it lightening up. Our bodies have been through literal trauma and it’s important that we first acknowledge this, and then find ways to cope. Psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe in 1967 developed a Social Readjustment Rating Scale, also known as the Stress Scale, based on medical records and polling of over 5000 patients, and it’s quite interesting (and eye-opening) to look at. This chart consists of 43 life changes rated from most stressful to less stressful and allows you to assess how many life change units (stressors) are currently present in your life, and, therefore, the likelihood of illness in your future due to your current level of stress. It’s…quite laughable (read: terrifying) the amount of things I could check off this year while going down the list. This list of life changes includes, but is not limited to:


Death of a spouse

Divorce / Marital Separation

Death of a family member

Personal injury or illness

Marriage

Fired at work

Retirement

Change in health of a family member

Pregnancy

Business readjustment

Change in financial state

Death of a close friend

Change to a different line of work

Change in number of arguments with spouse

Trouble with in-laws

Spouse begins or stops work

Begin or end school

Change in living conditions

Revisions of personal habits

Trouble with boss

Change in work hours or conditions

Change in recreations

Change in social activities

Change in sleeping habits


And my favorite….

Christmas approaching (check check check)


The chart I’m working from on dartmouth.edu states something very similar to the feelings of upheaval I addressed in Quarantine Resolution - “The body is a finely timed instrument that does not like surprises. Any sudden change stimuli which affects the body, or the reordering of important routines that the body has become used to, can cause needless stress, throwing your whole physical being into turmoil.”



Welp.

Not to mention the additional stress that wearing a mask every day can cause. I heard recently that covering your nose automatically causes your mouth to open and also triggers a fight or flight response in the body. (Cue the hyper-alertness and hyper-sensitivity.) I’ve certainly found my mouth agape quite often behind my mask, not realizing why. And it’s certainly led to some excess tension. I am also sure I’m not alone in experiencing the increased feelings of anxiety and claustrophobia it provides.

As I said - trauma. So! What does that mean? It means we need to be kind to ourselves, now more than ever. Kind to our minds and to our bodies.


Something I learned in acting school, which I found to be very cool, was that our bodies hold onto memories, usually in the form of tension. The more we have that repeated thought about a work stressor or a family argument or a health concern, the more we continue to tighten that left calf, that right shoulder, the lower back. Our body holds onto these stressors, tucking them away and storing them in little pockets until we are able to both physically and mentally release them. But releasing these pent up thoughts is easier said than done and takes conscious, deliberate work to do so.

For this, mind-body connection is imperative. Meditation helps, as does prayer, breathing exercises, body scans, baths, foam rolling, stretching, yoga, physical exercise, and massage. Massage, in my opinion, is our most powerful weapon in combating life’s stressors. And while you might be hard pressed to label massage as an indulgence, I beg of you to recalibrate and label it instead as SELF CARE. As much needed maintenance.


When I can afford to, I really try to schedule massages on a fairly regular basis. During more…uncertain times (i.e. now), they’re certainly more few and far between. However, I still try to make sure that when they do happen, they are intentional. Allowing yourself to truly release on a massage table is just as important as the actual act of massaging, in my opinion. When getting a massage, try to close your eyes, focus on taking deep breaths, relax ALL of your muscles, and shut off your critical mind while turning on your observing one. Find that true meditative state. Acknowledge the thoughts that come up, but try not to let them linger or fester. Take note of the cars in your traffic jam, but don’t let them overwhelm you or take over. I really like that imagery. The cars are just there and there happens to be a bit of a jam at the moment, and that’s totally okay. You can still function, even with their presence. And you can still relax.

As the masseuse travels through the muscles in your body, you’ll notice certain things come up. Repressed worries or fears, a memory or a feeling or a task you had forgotten about. Breathe them in, refuse to judge them, and let them pass. In this practice, you will find true release. It’s also important to stay free of excess tension as best as possible - when one muscle is being worked on, don’t tense up another. (You’ll find our bodies often try to trick us in this way and it will only cause the thought to be transferred, not released.)

At the end of the day though, do whatever your body needs! There is certainly something to be said for a relaxing massage that lulls you to sleep and just feels good. There’s also merit in a hardcore, hard pressure, please-fix-me muscle release. No matter the intensity or the intention, however, I think we owe it to ourselves to find ways to release. To tap into the mind-body connection and let go of some of this trauma we’ve recently acquired, once and for all. Remember, massage can mean indulgence, but it can also mean maintenance - and your self deserves both.


If you are interested in giving massage therapy a try, whether it’s a familiar or foreign concept, I have quite a few massage therapists that I thoroughly enjoy.


My friend and incredibly talented performer, Erin Weinberger, has her very own Harlem-based company called Massage by Erin. (She’s a boss lady!) We met doing Kiss Me Kate in Florida last year and I was automatically wowed by her immense skill and knowledge of both dance and massage. She’s very intuitive and empathetic, and can sense your body’s needs the second her skin touches yours (slash also the second you walk in the room). Not only is her pressure firm and relaxing, but her presence is so warm, friendly, and inviting. She makes you feel at home. Her Instagram feed is also a great source of tips, tricks, and answered questions regarding body maintenance and massage. Erin’s studio is pictured below and it is just as cute, serene, and calming as it looks. She also has taken every precaution necessary in dealing with Covid-19 and has created a super safe, stress-free environment. Massage by Erin will make you feel brand new - guaranteed. Give her fab business a peek!


Another favorite masseuse of mine in the NYC area is Susan Shils. She also comes from a dancer background and therefore is very familiar with the body and every single thing it needs (and holds onto). She certainly knows all the secret tension holders and will find them! She has a fun, yet maternal presence about her and does a wonderful job creating such a welcoming table on which to let go. Susan has seen me in quite a few emotional states and always knows how to calm my nerves. Throughout the entire massage she encourages thorough release through breath and I always leave feeling so incredibly rejuvenated. Her fingers, and table, are pure magic. She does not have a website or Instagram, but if you are interested in her services - based in the Lincoln Center/Columbus Circle area (and I believe she also works in Bergen County, NJ, where she resides) - feel free to reach out and let me know!


One of my very first massage experiences was with Pam Schoener, a brilliant masseuse in my hometown of Skaneateles, NY. Talk about calming. She can make you forget about every single care in the world just by seeing her infectious smile, listening to her soothing voice, and feeling her soft and steady touch. She offers all different kinds of massage including Hot Stone, Ashiatsu, and Thai, and practices out of her own home studio. If you live in or find yourself upstate, definitely give Skaneateles Massage Therapy a look-see!


And last but not least, another favorite of mine - Isabelle Wellauer - who has actually changed my life for the better in so many ways. I came to Isabelle after my back spasmed pretty bad in 2014, making me quite immobile. She was able to work with my body to find release - gently at first, and then stronger and stronger over the years in order to prevent any future spasm. As a dancer (yes, are we seeing a theme?), Reiki practitioner, strong Christian, and yoga/pilates instructor, she has an incredibly wholistic approach (as all of the massage therapists listed here do) and one I thoroughly appreciate. Isabelle has a way of addressing all of my tension - mind, body, and spirit. She is a special soul and has encouraged and inspired me on many fronts. AND she makes my body feel like a million bucks! I especially love the neck and jaw work she does on this overly tense, jaw-clenching, heavy-bag-wearing singer. It is always such a treat visiting her when I go upstate and if you’re ever in the Auburn area, I highly recommend giving her a call. She has her own massage and private yoga studio in the basement of her home (that she completely renovated with her husband) and it is to die for!



In writing about my experience with massage, I’m hoping to encourage you to address your body’s needs. To listen to it and what it may be telling you on the daily. I repeat…*it*has*been*through*a*lot*. Massage has been one of my answers over the years to finding some release, but something else may be yours. Try your best to figure out what that might be. Or, maybe consider adding massage to your current self-care bundle - now, or in the future. (Maybe even put it on your Christmas wishlist!) It may do your mental (and physical) health some good. We could certainly all use some release right now for so many reasons - see chart above. So stop envying those who seem to have the time or money to “indulge” in a massage and just book your own appointment, because you can. Treat your self and your body. As I keep reiterating, you are worth it. And you may need it even more than you realize. Envy no more.


#relaxation #selfcare #truerelease #massage #giftidea #massagebyerin #bodymaintenance


Photo by: Mia Isabella Photography

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