by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner
Last December/January, I caught the worst cough I can remember and I don’t want to go through that ever again. I lost my voice to laryngitis for a few days, the painful, phlegmy coughing kept me and everyone in my household up at night, and it took about three weeks for the nastiness to clear out of my system.
Flu, short for influenza, is a viral illness that tends to flare up in the winter months and to involve many people in the community at the same time. Flu symptoms include: fever (38.3 to 40 degrees Celsius or 101 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit), chills, body aches, headache, pain when you move your eyes, fatigue, weakness, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, etc. It usually lasts for about 10 days and then everything will be back to normal, but the flu can also lead to more serious and dangerous complications for some.
Having a cold or flu or cough is not fun to say the least so I’ve come up with a list of home-spa-inspired suggestions that will help us all stay healthy this season.
20 things you can do to prevent, avoid, or at least minimize the flu this year:
- Immune System: Fortify your immune system and keep up your resistance to infections by eating a healthy and nutritious diet, exercising regularly and getting plenty of good quality sleep year-round.
- Avoid exposure: If you can at all help it, (easier said than done, I know), avoid contact with people who are showing flu symptoms.
- Vitamin C: Take Vitamin C supplements daily, (I like the chewable kind), and eat foods that have a high vitamin C content.
- Vitamin D: Boost your Vitamin D intake during the dark, winter months.
- Echinacea: Take Echinacea capsules or drink Echinacea tea. Echinacea is a popular healing herb that boosts the immune system, has antiviral properties and helps prevent the onset of colds.
- Zinc: Take Zinc Lozenges at the onset of a cold. This mineral is often used to reduce the length and severity of cold symptoms. Foods that contain zinc include: eggs, meat, seafood and whole grains.
- Panax Ginseng: Take Panax Ginseng supplements during the winter and especially at the onset of a cold. You will find Ginseng in products like ColdFX.
- Garlic: Eat fresh garlic (like on toast or in a salad dressing) at the onset of flu symptoms.
- Oil of Oregano: Take drops of oil of oregano to boost your immune system.
- Hydrate: Drink lots of liquids throughout the day. Choose hot tea with lemon and honey, water, orange juice, and apple juice.
- Soup: Eating a bowl of comforting chicken noodle soup may be just the recipe to alleviate your cold symptoms.
- Clean Hands: Wash your hands regularly and keep your hands away from your nose, eyes and mouth. Also, use a tissue or your upper arm when you cough or sneeze.
- Exercise: Sometimes exercising just as you are starting to feel a cold or flu coming on, may be a good idea; however, do not exercise if you have phlegmy congestion below the neck.
- Relax: Managing your stress will go a long way to keep illness at bay.
- Sauna: Sitting in a sauna for a few minutes may help flush out your cold symptoms.
- Room Sprays: Use room sprays made with essential oils like: basil, bay, benzoin, bergamot, black pepper, cajeput, citronella, coriander, eucalyptus, frankincense, ginger, grapefruit, helichrysum, juniper, lavandin, lavender, lemon, lime, marjoram, myrtle, niaouli, orange, oregano, peppermint, petitgrain, pine, rosemary, tea tree, and thyme (wow that’s a long list) to freshen the space, disinfect surfaces, help breathing and foster sleep.
- Stop smoking: You may think now isn’t the time to quit smoking altogether, but many years ago, my father went off on a fishing trip and came home with the most miserable cold and after that, he never smoked his pipe again. Quitting smoking will only increase your health in the long run.
- Flu Shot: Consider getting a flu shot early in the season.
- Stay Home: If you’re feeling sick, stay home and rest. Your co-workers and the people that you would otherwise meet when you walk down the street, would appreciate it.
- Sleep: Get lots of rest and do your best to sleep well at night.
I hope these suggestions and recommendations help keep you and your family healthy this winter. If you have any other ideas, please leave a comment and share your wisdom.
by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner
Are you planning to celebrate a special occasion soon, like a birthday party, bridal shower, wedding, anniversary or seasonal holiday and would like to do something fun and unique for your bff’s?
How about hosting a spa party?
If a spa party sounds like a great idea to you, here’s a checklist that will help make the job easier:
- Pick a date & time: Choose a date that works for most, if not all of your guests. Spa parties usually last no more than 3 hours, so if you have plans before or after your spa party, (like dinner at a restaurant or a golf game or a night on the town) pick a time that gives you some wiggle room. There’s no point in adding stress to your special spa day by rushing to the next event.
- Pick a venue: Spa parties can be held virtually anywhere like a hotel room or office but oftentimes your home is best. Just make sure you have enough open space to accommodate your party guests and anyone else you may have hired (like caterers, massage therapists, yoga instructors) to help you with your party.
- Decide on a party budget: I know, “budget” and “party” don’t sound good together but it’s a good idea to know what you want to spend ahead of time and stay in that ballpark. Overspending on impulse purchases will dampen your fun in the long run and having a budget will keep you on track.
- Send invitations: Nowadays, you can either send your invitations electronically like through email or you can create an event on Facebook or you can hand deliver your invitations door to door. It’s up to you. On your invitations, make sure you ask your guests which types of spa services they’d prefer and let your guests know to bring things like: flip flops, if they’re getting a pedicure; pj’s; bathrobes; a bathing suit for the hot tub; a potluck item to share or cash, if you want them to pay for their own spa services and tip.
- Get a head count: Now that you have your guest list and everyone has said “Yes, I’ll be there with bells on,” know how many guests will be attending your spa party.
- Hire a local mobile spa company like Homespunspa: Mobile spa companies are popping up all over the place and I’m sure there’s a good one in your city. And if you happen to live in Victoria, BC, then please call or email Homespunspa Mobile Spa. We’d be thrilled to help make your spa party extra special and stress-free.
- Choose spa services to offer at your party: Mobile spas can deliver all kinds of spa services like manicures, pedicures, facials and massages to your guests. At Homespunspa, we have designed a mini menu of 30-minute spa treatments for spa parties which lets guests get pampered and still participate in the party.
- Prepare spa snacks and beverages: Of course, what’s a spa party without food and drinks? I recommend serving crispy kale chips and refreshing cucumber water.
- Create your spa music playlist: I’ve been collecting spa music for over 20 years, long before I became a lover of all things spa and an esthetician, and I love, love, love the Homespunspa playlist. Regardless of whether you want something quiet and relaxing or something more pop and upbeat in the background, having music will add whole nother dimension to your spa party.
- Design your spa space: It’s time to create a spa environment. First move your furniture and make room for the different spa stations. You want to create a space that allows for people to move around freely. You might also like to create some private areas for the quieter spa treatments. And don’t forget to vapourize some essential oils into the air to enhance the spa mood.
- Decorate your space: If you can swing it, try adding some spa-chic elements, like a water feature, a low-burning fire in the fire place, smooth stones with inspiring words painted on them, lit candles of all sizes, throw pillows, plushy white towels folded just so, waffle bathrobes with slippers, and leafy tropical plants with big flowers to your décor.
- What about pets and other family members? I love family pets, especially cats, but sometimes they may not be the ideal guests at your spa party. Figure out what to do with your pets ahead of time so they don’t cause a distraction. And if there are family members or roommates that will not be participating in the spa party, (like husbands during a bridal shower) give them lots of notice so they can make alternate plans.
- Decide if there will be games and/or craft activities during the party: Some people like to play spa games while others like to encourage everyone to do a short craft project during their parties. If you want to do some spa-themed crafts and use essential oils, find some home spa recipes and try making your own perfumes, massage oil blends or bath salts. These activities are completely optional but if people are up for it, they might add some fun to the spa party.
- Collect and package party favours: Once the spa party starts winding down and everyone has received their pampering spa treatments, you might want to send your guests home with some party favours (or a loot bag, as I like to say). You can keep it simple, like a bottle of nail polish, or go all out with travel-sized shampoos, conditioners, lotions, lip balms, eye shadows, soaps, candles, assorted tea bags, packets of chocolate covered almonds, costume jewellery…whatever you want. You can always ask your mobile spa ahead of time if they’d also like to contribute some free product samples or coupons to the party favour bags.
- Clean up: Your spa party was a success and you can rest assured your friends had a good time. Once the mobile spa leaves and takes all of their equipment and supplies with them, clean up will be a snap. You may even like the furniture the way it is and not feel the need to move it back.
I hope this checklist for a successful spa party helps you plan the best spa party ever. And I hope you include Homespunspa in your next spa party. Please leave a comment if you have anything to add and please share this with your friends if you have a spa party in the works right now.
by Geraldine O’Keefe, Guest Blogger
Like the 71 million Americans who suffer from various sleep issues like insomnia, hot flashes, nervousness, and anxiety, I have found myself wide awake in the middle of the night on many occasions.
Here are some tips that have worked for me and may help you get a better peaceful and sound night’s sleep.
Try incorporating these tips in to your bedtime routine:
- Pamper yourself and power down at least 30 minutes before bed. When your core temperature rises then falls (as it naturally does at night), it signals to your body that it’s time to sleep. Help the process by taking a relaxing soak before bed and add some pure, organic lavender essential oil and/or some Himalayan salts to your bathwater.
- Drink Escape to Sleep tonic, preferably on an empty stomach. It can help your body feel what it’s like to sleep naturally and soundly.
- Try not to eat past 7 p.m. and avoid caffeine.
- Make sure your bed is comfortable. If you wake up and you are achy and sore, consider a new pillow and/or mattress.
- Lower the room temperature at night. Optimal range is 60-68 F.
- Sleep in a pitch-dark room. It will help you get back to your natural rhythm.
- Incorporate Lucid Dreaming: The object of lucid dreaming is to become conscious of being in the dream state. Keep a dream journal; write down what you remember.
Learn Yoga Techniques such as Pranayama (breath control), Yoga Nidra, and Meditation:
These calming techniques can help assure that you get the 8 hours of sleep to function at your best.
- Try Pranayama which is the art of restraining and controlling the breath.
- Also try Yoga Nidra, aka yogic sleep. Yoga Nidra is a highly powerful ancient meditation that originated in the Tantras. It’s a scientific way to eliminate the root causes of all negativities.
- And Practice Meditation. Meditation will train your mind to induce consciousness.
Our minds can be like a ship at sea without a sail. Practicing yoga nidra, and/or pranayama can help you observe and control your mind which will help to bring you into a deep, restorative and healing sleep. If you realize your thoughts are stressing about something in the future or in the past, gently bring them back into the moment. BE HERE NOW and don’t let those racing, “monkey mind” thoughts keep you awake at night. I always remember a monk that said, “when you eat, eat; when you walk, walk; when you talk, talk, and of course, when you sleep, sleep.
Be kind to yourself, yoga takes practice. Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind and a regular practice can help assure your restorative sleep.
There are seven levels of consciousness. Most people are operating in the first three: waking, sleeping and dreaming. As you begin to become more conscious of your thoughts in the three states, you will begin to understand and enjoy life more. Sweet dreams, may they all come true.
Sleep Well, Live Longer!
Geraldine is an herbalist, lifetime yogi, and vegetarian who has had experience with insomnia. She decided to create an herbal sleep-aid and ultimately, her dream product, Escape to Sleep™, was born.
You can find Geraldine online @:
by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner
Many of my neighbours grow lavender and I often see vibrant purple and green bushes of lavender teaming with bumble bees and butterflies this time of year.
Lavender is the ultimate Homespunspa ingredient because it’s so versatile and can be used in thousands of different ways for thousands of purposes. But have you ever thought to use it as inspiration to make your bedroom more sleep- friendly?
Lavender has been recommended for centuries as a sleep aid and if people like the aroma, than using lavender in all of its forms — from the dried plant, to the essential oil, to the colour — is a quick, easy and natural solution to help with occasional insomnia.
If you associate lavender with sleep, then try decorating your bedroom with a lavender theme by:
- hanging sketches and photographs of lavender growing in a garden;
- keeping dried lavender in vases on your window sills;
- stuffing sleep pillows and sachets with lavender;
- keeping a bottle of lavender essential oil on the night table and if you’re having trouble falling asleep, put a dab of lavender under your nose. You will feel more relaxed almost instantly and will be able to get some shut eye sooner rather than later.
- sleeping on a bed made and covered with lavender-coloured bed linens, comforters, and throw blankets;
- wearing lavender pajamas, bathrobes and slippers;
- misting your room with a light spray of lavender flower water will help set a relaxing tone for the evening;
- painting or wallpapering bedroom walls in a soft lavender palette.
Together, these small visual and aromatic cues will help remind you that this is a sleep-friendly bedroom and may in fact improve your quality of sleep. Please leave a comment and let us know if this suggestion works for you.
by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner
Have you ever had a job that wasn’t working out and you knew your days were numbered? I’ve been in that situation many, many times and the last time was back in 2009 when I was working for the provincial government. It was a good job in some respects but it was a hostile work environment also. I won’t go into the why’s and the who’s but I’d often come home quite upset and would waste my evenings and weekends rehashing the drama of the week in my mind. It’s one thing to think about work while you’re at work. It’s another thing to bring it home with you and think about it while you’re not working and not getting paid for it. Am I right?
Because of all of the unpleasantness in the office, I was trying to figure out a way to leave my job gracefully. I kept on going online to check out some schools and courses to upgrade my skills to help me launch a new career. It was my way of escaping reality ever so briefly. I knew there was something more for me but I didn’t know what that was. I had my eye on a massage school that I almost applied to many years before and kept on going back to the website on my lunch hours.
Then on one inspired weekend in August, I got an idea. Why not look at the textbooks of the programs I was interested in to see which subjects appealed to me most? Textbooks are notoriously boring — *hello insomniacs — and if you can read one subject with enthusiasm and pour over the pages as if they were the Legend of the Holy Grail, you know you’re on the right track. So I went to the University bookstore just as classes were starting for the year and found my section: HEALTH.
Among the dozen or so titles on the shelves, one book in particular jumped into my hands: Spa Bodywork A Guide for Message Therapists by Anne Williams. I loved the green clay masque on the woman’s back on the cover and thought, “I want to know how to do that!” I quickly flipped through the pages and decided to buy the book on the spot even though I wasn’t enrolled in any school. (I still feel a little bit guilty for buying a textbook from another student and I hope there were enough copies for everyone who needed one).
As it turned out, I got layed off from the government job a few short weeks later. But I didn’t end up going to massage school; I went to esthetics school instead. Funny how things work out. But my Spa Bodywork textbook still gets to live on the top shelf and I still give it credit for helping me turn the page and start a new chapter in my life.
Anyway, back to my old job that wasn’t a good fit for me. At that time, I wasn’t in the habit of doing any nurturing or pampering home spa treatments on myself even though I knew a thing or two about the subject. I wish I had been more kind to myself during that stressful time and that’s why I’m writing this post called, “It’s Footbath Friday.”
I’d like to encourage all of the people out there who are working hard at their jobs — especially if they’re not living the dream — to soak their weary feet in a footbath every Friday night. Start tonight. Pour yourself a glass of wine or make yourself a pot of tea and pop some popcorn. Then dip your feet in a lovely, warm and aromatic foot bath and you’ll be well on your way to a better mood. Footbaths are a perfect way to release the negativity from the past week. And then you won’t drag all of that B.S. into your weekend and you’ll be able to start work on the following Monday on a better foot, so to speak. Just relax and pour that tension down the drain and forget about it. Start the weekend fresh.
These days, I’m writing my own ebook and I plan on publishing it in a few months. For my research, I read the chapter on Ayurveda (a subject I became familiar with in esthetics school) in the Spa Bodywork textbook and I found some useful recipes for footbaths that were inspired by the Ayurvedic tradition that I’d like to pass on to you.
Ayurveda is a 5000-year-old, traditional medicine system and philosophy from India that offers keys for creating harmony and balance in life. Many Western spas have adopted elements of Ayurveda into their spa treatments because of the focus on positive life choices, relaxation, exercise, detoxification and spirituality. In a nutshell, Ayurveda is based on the belief that everything in the universe is composed of 5 elements: space, air, fire, water and earth. Specific combinations of the 5 elements form the 3 doshas which are: vata, pitta and kapha. Each individual is made up of a combination of all 5 elements and all 3 doshas and that formula or recipe, for lack of better words, will show up in their body type, mental and emotional disposition, and personality.
You can find out which dosha you favour the most by answering the questions on my Ayurvedic Questionnaire page on my website or Googling Ayurvedic quiz. I recommend Dr. Deepak Chopra’s website and Dosha Quiz for a quick response. Then you’ll know which footbath recipe below will be the most balancing and beneficial for you. Recognizing when you are out of balance and making choices to correct the imbalances will keep you healthy and will keep stress and disease at bay.
Vata Foot Bath (Spa Bodywork page 217) (Infinity and Air elements)
“(Using herbs recognizable to Western therapists). Fill a muslin bag with ½ cup of mixed herbs that include ground ginger, sandalwood, eucalyptus leaf, calamus [a.k.a myrtle grass or sweet grass] and basil. Cover this bag with boiling water and allow it to steep for 20 minutes while it cools. Add cool or hot water as needed to adjust the temperature for the foot soak.”
Pitta Foot Bath (Spa Bodywork page 218) (Fire element)
“Fill a muslin bag with ½ cup of mixed herbs that include chamomile flowers, lavender flowers, peppermint and lemongrass. Cover this bag with boiling water and allow it to steep for 20 minutes while it cools. Add cool or hot water as needed to adjust the temperature for the foot soak.”
Kapha Foot Bath (Spa Bodywork page 220) (Water and Earth elements)
“Fill a muslin bag with ½ cup of mixed herbs that include basil, ground ginger, eucalyptus leaf, and common sage leaf. Cover this bag with boiling water and allow it to steep for 20 minutes while it cools. Add cool or hot water as needed to adjust the temperature for the foot soak.”
Thank you Anne Williams for sharing your wisdom in your Spa Bodywork A Guide for Message Therapists textbook and for inspiring me to follow my bliss. I hope this blog post inspires people to enjoy a Friday night foot bath and to change their circumstances if they don’t match the dream.
by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner
My friend, neighbour and high school classmate used to joke with me about the smell in my house. She said that if she was blindfolded and taken all over the world on a wild goose chase and then dropped back into my house on Trombone Court in Vienna, Virginia, she’d know exactly where she was just by the smell alone. Of course, I could say the same thing about her house, too.
This observation leads me to think about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. You know how Santa says, “Rudolph, with your nose so bright…won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?” Maybe, Rudolph’s Marachino cherry nose is more than just a light bulb. Maybe, Rudolph’s nose is more like a highly-tuned, GIS, infrared, gizmo that homes in on unique household smells and that’s how he helps Santa get his job done so well each year while everyone else is sleeping.
Either way, at the end of the day, the nose is the star of the show and I’d like to invite you to pay attention to all of the aromas that are surrounding you at this time of year. This is an aromatherapy lover’s dreamtime! When you walk into someone’s house to celebrate the season, take a moment to stop amidst the flurry of activity and close your eyes and breathe deeply. What are you smelling? Turkey and stuffing roasting in the oven? What else? Try to catch a whiff of a single ingredient on the holiday menu. In my house, you’re likely to smell onions caramelizing on the stove top, which is home sweet home for me.
Do you have any favourite Christmas scents? What are they? If you were to smell them right now, would they transport you straight back into your childhood? Which smells tell you that you’re home at last?
Top 7 Christmas-themed Aromas, Tastes & Essential Oils
Here’s a list of the aromas and tastes I associate with the Christmas holidays. Some are cool and refreshing like a snowy, winter’s day and others are warm and cozy like a country cottage.
- Citrus Family: Mandarin, Orange, Pomegranate, Cranberry
- Mint Family: Peppermint, Spearmint, Wintergreen
- Spice Family: Cinnamon, Clove, Allspice, Nutmeg, Cardamon, Ginger, Star Anise
- Sweet Family: Vanilla, Chocolate, Cream, Sugar
- Nut Family: Hazelnut, Walnut, Almond, Macadamia
- Woodsy Family: Pine, Spruce, Cypress, Fir, Juniper Berry, Cedar, Sandalwood
- Biblical Family: Frankincense, Myrrh
Everybody knows that smells awaken deep memories and I hope everyone will create lots of happy moments with their loved ones this Christmas to replay with fondness in future Christmases, year after year.
Wishing you a very aromatic and fragrant Christmas with lots of sugar and spice and everything nice, Maria of Homespunspa.
by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner and esthetician
What makes a woman whole? I’ve never asked myself this question before but when Women of Acumen, an organization that helps women reach their goals, put a call out for women bloggers who blog about women’s issues to answer this question, I signed up to play. Specifically, they asked: “What’s your definition of a whole woman and how could a firm understanding of your expertise help women nationwide feel a sense of wholeness within?”
The more I think about it, the more I think this topic is right up my alley. As a beauty blogger, esthetician and a lover of all things spa, I feel I have a few things to add to this conversation.
Running on a Full Tank
In my opinion, whole women always run on a full tank of fuel and never on empty. Don’t you love it when you’re driving in your car and you know your gas tank is completely full? On a full tank, you know you’re going to get wherever you need to go and there’s nothing to worry about and you feel a sense of freedom. You feel happy and the other drivers on the road are being courteous and patient, too.
At 3/4 of a tank, you’re still humming along. Then things start to change once you see the needle on the gauge dip under the halfway mark. You start looking at gas prices and you’re wondering if the price will go up or down by 2 cents or 10 cents by the end of the day. And then you start feeling a little stressed because you’re playing the gas game. Maybe tomorrow the gas prices will be cheaper? Maybe you can hold out for another day?
Then your gas tank hits the 1/4 mark. How many more trips can you make before you’re empty? How much longer can you run on fumes? Do you like living on the edge? Some people do. I don’t.
Anyway, this car and gas story is really about how full your own fuel tank is in your own life. Instead of gas though, a whole woman fills her tank up with a combination of four key ingredients: Exercise, Nutrition, Skin Care and Sleep.
Homespunspa Recipe for Feeling a Sense of Wholeness Within
- 1/4 cup Exercise
- 1/4 cup Nutrition
- 1/4 cup Skin Care
- 1/4 cup Sleep
Method: Fill your tank up with equal parts of exercise, nutrition, skin care and sleep on a daily basis.
In order to make wellness and wholeness a priority, it’s important to pay attention to how much exercise you do, what you feed your body, what your skin is showing and how much sleep you’re getting. And all of these concepts work together to create optimum health. Moreover, if one is neglected, then the others will also be depleted and therefore, you won’t feel your best. Like, for example, if you’re eating a lot of sugary and processed foods, then acne will show up on your face and body. Likewise, if you’re not burning the calories you consume, then your sleep may suffer because you’ll have too much left over energy at the end of the day.
The philosophy of Homespunspa has always been based on these four principles. Below is a graphic that shows what Homespunspa is all about. H is for Holistic, O is for Omega-3, M is for Massage, E is for Esthetics, S is for Sleep, P is for Positivity, U is for Unwind, N is for Nutrition, S is for Sports, P is for Pedicures, and A is for Aroma. Together, the first letters of each word spell “Homespunspa.”
Flower with Holistic, Omega-3, Massage, Esthetics, Sleep, Positivity, Unwind, Nutrition, Sports, Pedicure, Aroma on the petals. The 1st letters of each word spell Homespunspa.
Once you fill your tank up with optimum fuel and keep it topped up, then you’re firing on all cylinders, then you’re really cooking with gas (as my father used to say) and that’s when the magic really starts to happen. Your life will improve significantly.
You’ll be working from a place of empowerment rather than from a place of desperation and your dreams will definitely start coming true.
And the best part is, you’re in a really good position to help others. As people start noticing your attitude and the glow on your face, they’ll ask you, what’s your secret, what have you been doing? Be sure to share your wisdom and be as supportive and encouraging as you can to the people around you. Because your tank is full and you’ve taken care of your own needs first, you’ll be able to give back generously from the overflow of your resources. Scraping the bottom of the barrel will not be an option. It’s win-win for everybody.
by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner
My friend at Jazzercise, let’s call her Angelina, has been carrying some serious tension in neck and shoulders lately. She’s trying everything she can think of to relieve the tension, which she thinks is happening as a result of sitting at her desk all day, staring at her computer screen, crunching numbers on her detailed spreadsheets (she’s an accountant) and moving the mouse back and forth, but isn’t having any luck. Raise your hand if you can relate.
She has visited a reputable chiropractor, who is known for getting results, and this chiropractor said to her, “You’re what we call a walking coat hanger.” Unfortunately, after her painful appointments, (it sounds like she has a very high pain tolerance), Angelina is left with terrible bruises on her arms with no significant relief to her muscle tension and everyone, including her family doctor, is telling her that this chiropractor is not doing her a good service. (Disclaimer: I’ve personally never visited a chiropractor and don’t know what’s involved but I know a lot of people swear by them and please don’t think I’m insulting chiropractors at all with these observations. I’m sure chiropractors do a lot of good work for a lot of people).
When my friend talks about her neck and shoulder tension, my ears perk up. I’m all about relaxation and I’ve put my thinking cap on to figure out ways to help my friend feel better and to also help others with similar problems get some relief, too.
First, I asked Angelina if her workstation — she works from home in a lovely, organized and spacious office — is what they call, “ergonomic,” a term coined in 1950 from the Greek word “ergon” which means “work.” Ergonomics is an applied science which is concerned with how well things are designed and arranged for human use to reduce fatigue and discomfort and to maximize productivity, efficiency and safety. She said, “Yes, yes, I had an assessment a couple of years ago and my chair is at the right height and my computer screen is right at eye level, where it’s supposed to be, and everything else.”
Well then, that answers that. With the ergonomic question out of the way, Angelina’s tension must be caused by too much stress and not enough relaxation. Since we’re all in the same boat, here’s a list of ways all of us can do to reduce and manage our stress levels.
5 Ways to Relax Your Neck and Shoulders
1) Get a facial: Facials are really, really relaxing. Not only do you get to listen to some healing and calming spa music for an hour or so — my Homespunspa playlist rocks (you to sleep) if I do say so myself — you also get the relaxing benefits from aromatherapy and of course some age-reversing skin care (stress will certainly take its toll on your complexion in more ways than one). And for the people with neck and shoulder issues, there’s usually a 10 to 20 minute, thoroughly relaxing massage that focuses on your decollete, shoulders, neck and face included with every facial. You’ll love it!
2) Take breaks: Do you come to work and sit down at your desk and not get out of your seat all day until it’s time to go home? And please don’t tell me you skip your lunch, too. If you ask me, I think that’s a counter-productive habit. Our bodies were designed to move and not sit around all day. If you take regular breaks and move your body throughout the day, you’ll actually be more productive and you’ll get more work done in the long run. I recommend setting a gentle alarm to go off once an hour or so to remind you to physically get up out of your chair and take a break. (I have a chi gong chime on my phone which is very unobtrusive but helpful). Go and grab yourself a cup of tea or a glass of water, go to the washroom, take a walk outside, climb up and down the stairs, introduce yourself to the new hire, etc., etc. The breaks will help clear your head and will help you focus better. Speaking of breaks, I have to take one right now.
3) Shoulder rub conga line: Stuck in a meeting all day? Even better. If there’s more than one of you on a break at the same time, do the old shoulder rub conga line thing where you stand in a line or in a circle, one person in front of the other, everybody facing the same direction. Ideally, you’ll rub the shoulders of the person in front of you and at the same time, the person behind you is rubbing your shoulders and then after a couple of minutes, everybody turns around and returns the favour the other way. Expect some giggles.
4) Stretch: Stand up and drop your arms to your side. Slowly roll your shoulders 3 times backwards and 3 times forwards. Then extend your arms out in front of you and slowly bend your elbows and bring your hands up to shoulder level. Then bring your shoulder blades together as close as you can to each other. This move is called “Angel wings.” Release. Roll your shoulders again. Then shake out your arms. How does that feel?
5) Yoga: Sign up for a yoga class. When I was taking a yoga class once a week, I found an improvement in my attitude and a reduction in my stress levels. I also noticed that yoga really complimented and enhanced the work I was doing with my personal trainer and made my workouts that much more effective. It’s definitely something to add to the mix.
That’s it for now. I’ll add an “Are you a walking coat hanger (part 2)” with more tips on neck and shoulder tension in a couple of days. And, as always, if you have any tips to share, by all means, leave a comment and I’ll make sure your words get added to the conversation. Till then, breathe, smile and relax.
by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner
Do you have more peaches right now than you know what to do with? I do. I must have at least 30 on hand and I have to get to them quick before they go bad. Sure, I can make jams, cobblers and salsas but I think I’m going to use at least one of them in a home spa recipe this weekend, especially since it’s a long weekend and the last one of the summer.
See, I told you I had a lot of peaches. Photo by Maria Koropecky
Peaches originated in China several thousands of years ago and were glorified as fruits of immortality. Because peaches are packed with moisture, vitamins and minerals, they help keep your skin looking young and healthy. If you keep using peaches in your home spa recipes, you’ll notice more elasticity in your skin and you’ll find an improvement in the tone and texture as well. As an added bonus, peaches soothe and cleanse inflamed and blotchy skin, which is good to know if you get a sunburn anytime soon.
And of course eating peaches on a regular basis will help with your digestion and will flush out the system of toxins. Here’s a recipe for a refreshing peach smoothie — perfect for breakfast or as a snack.
- 1 peach, peeled, pitted and chopped — Succulent peaches are brimming with Vitamins A & C which revitalize the skin from the inside and on the surface.
- 1/2 cup plain, 0% yogurt — Cleanses, tones and moisturizes skin and leaves all skin types feeling smooth.
- 1 cup ice cubes — Extends recipe volume and adds a cooling element.
- 1 cup Perrier water — Drinking water hydrates skin and lubricates joints and muscles.
Method: Place the ingredients in a blender and blend into a healthy, smooth, but not too thick, beverage.
Peaches and Cream Shower Sachet
If you’ve ever poured boiling water over peaches to make it easier to release their skin, then you know how fragrant and perfumy peaches can be. No need for fancy equipment here, this is low-tech aromatherapy at it’s finest.
- 1 peach, pitted and roughly chopped — Succulent peaches are brimming with Vitamins A & C which revitalize the skin. Meanwhile the natural AHA’s have a cleansing and exfoliating effect.
- 1 TB cream — moisturizes, nourishes and softens skin.
- 1 TB coconut oil, fractionated — liquid at room temperature, this oil has a light, non-greasy feel and has emulsifying properties.
- 1 tsp ginger, grated — is an ideal addition to bathwater because it’s warming qualities stimulate circulation, which increases blood flow, which helps the body detoxify.
- 1/2 cup brown sugar — sugar granules are mildly abrasive and make sweet alternatives to salt in exfoliating scrubs.
You will also need:
- a blender or a mortar and pestle
- a piece of cheesecloth (or very thin and loosely woven piece of cotton or linen), at least 8″ by 8″
- a piece of ribbon, about 48″ or 2 feet long
Method: Set the brown sugar aside in a bowl. Place the peach, cream, fractionated coconut oil and ginger in a blender (or mortar and pestle) and mix into a pulp. Pour over the brown sugar and stir to combine. You should have a thick scrub. Place the scrub in the center of your cheesecloth and then tie into a bundle with a ribbon or piece of string, leaving enough slack of ribbon to suspend the sachet from the shower head.
Manner: Hang the sachet from your shower head in the path of flowing water and then reap the benefits. Then, remove the sachet from the shower head and use it to further exfoliate your skin by gently massaging it over your shoulders, arms, torso, legs and feet. Rinse your skin and pat it dry. Drink a glass of water after any spa treatments that involve detoxification.
Shelf-Life/Storage: Discard the sachet after use. If you have some leftover, the coconut oil will help preserve this mixture, if it’s unused and kept in the fridge, for a week or so.
Enjoy the peach harvest!