Solving the Self-Care Dilemma

You’re juggling an impossibly busy schedule.

You know that you should take better care of yourself, but you can’t justify it right now.

You simply don’t have enough time or energy left after handling everyone & everything else.

You promise to do more for yourself when the kids are older, or you get a better job, or your schedule lightens up, or…or…or…

It’s Not That Deep

My Gen Z daughter says “it’s not that deep” when she’s telling me about someone who made a situation more complicated or emotionally taxing than necessary. This is so relevant in the arena of self-care. If you’re already overburdened, trying to make big lifestyle changes can be unsustainable. Instead, try building a collection of tiny practices that sprinkle ease and freedom throughout the day.

Here’s a roadmap to get you on your way.

It Starts with You

Self-care starts with (re)discovering the things that have historically made you feel fully engaged, relaxed, and content with life. We’re all different and so are the things that empower, recharge, and comfort us.

Take 5-10 minutes to jot down whatever has made you feel free, energized, peaceful, and most alive from childhood to the present. The simpler the better. Try not to censor anything that seems impractical or unrealistic today – just let it flow.

Need ideas to get you started? Music, doodling, exploring in the woods, telling jokes, reading, riding horses, doing puzzles, storytelling, exercising, silence, dancing, catching fireflies, sports, deep conversations, sky gazing, and playing games.

Set your imagination free and see what appears on the page.

Leverage What You Love

Pick out 1-2 favorites from your brainstorming session. Find the simplest possible way to bring 1-5 minutes of that feeling or experience into your day. Whatever it is, be sure to give it 100% of your attention.

Example #1: If you find peace in nature, go outside for just 1 minute to look at the sky, listen to the birds, breathe, and stretch. Remember to bring your whole self to the experience, then notice how you feel afterward.

Example #2: If laughter is your medicine, stand in front of the mirror, make a ridiculous face, and start laughing. If it seems forced at first, just keep snorting, chortling, and giggling until you can’t help yourself.

Doesn’t seem like it’s enough to make a difference? It is. Whether you’re starting from scratch, or leveling up, these micro-breaks are easy, proven ways to decrease stress, improve mental focus, and even reduce pain. Your collection of tiny practices will grow quickly once you get the hang of it.

6 Strategies to Lower Massage Costs

There is a growing appreciation for massage therapy across the healthcare industry, as doctors and medical professionals are now recommending it to their patients! It’s an encouraging sign that shows just how far we’ve come in recognizing the many benefits of this powerful treatment. Unfortunately, most insurance programs (public and private) have yet to extend coverage for massage therapy, leaving many people concerned about the cost- especially when multiple sessions are needed. I’ve put together some practical strategies that could help you get the treatment you need without breaking the bank – let’s dive in!

1. Health Insurance: Some insurance plans are starting to extend coverage for wellness therapies. If you have any source of health insurance, reach out and ask whether they cover massage, including “therapeutic” or “remedial” massage prescribed by a doctor.

2. Employee Benefits: Employers often offer FSA and HSA plans that let you use pre-tax dollars to pay for “qualified” medical expenses. Massage therapy may qualify, but you’ll need to confirm this with your Plan Administrator, and also learn what medical information you’ll need to get from your doctor.

3. Discounts: Ask your massage therapist if they offer discounts or special pricing. For instance, our clients save up to 15% when they commit to a group of prepaid sessions. Some clinics use a sliding scale, where clients can choose how much to pay within a specific range. Others offer monthly memberships or discounts to specific groups, such as veterans, teachers, or first responders. Most businesses offer at least one cost-saving option, so it’s worth asking.

4. Auto Accident Insurance: If you sustained musculoskeletal injuries in an auto accident, the automobile insurance company often covers your therapeutic massage bills. Usually this means you don’t have to pay anything, as long as the policy benefits haven’t been exhausted. If this is your situation, feel free to reach out to me and I can explain how it works.

5. DIY: Whether you’re on a tight budget or not it pays to develop self-treatment skills that can empower you and extend the time between massage appointments. Used correctly, tennis, lacrosse, and golf balls work wonders on tight muscles and knots. Other popular devices include foam rollers, massage guns, and many other handheld tools. A word of caution: even the simplest of tools can cause harm, so it’s a good idea to check in with a trusted professional about any do’s and don’ts.

6. Capitalize on your Session: First, choose a massage therapist who lines up with your treatment needs and goals, then collaborate on a plan for the session and beyond. Ask for self-care recommendations that could help extend the time between appointments. If you have a smartphone, use it to jot notes or even take pictures or video of the suggested self-care techniques. By getting the most out of your appointment you might not need to reschedule as often–another way to save.

No matter which route you choose to start lowering your costs, remember that therapeutic massage can be an excellent, natural tool for managing stress, pain, anxiety, and more. If you’re looking for ways to make self-care a priority without breaking the bank, these strategies should help get you started. Do you have any other tips for saving on massage therapy? Please share them in the comments below!

Things you Need to Know about Soft Tissue Injuries

If “soft tissue” makes you think of a box of Puff’s Plus, let me introduce you to a different kind of soft tissue.  In the body, every muscle, tendon, ligament and band of fascia is considered soft tissue. It’s the stuff that gives shape to the body,  creates connections with bones, and enables every kind of movement. 

Soft tissue injuries are inevitable and happen in many different ways, from minor bumps and bruises to debilitating pain. Sometimes the cause & effect is obvious, like the way a twisted ankle makes you limp. Other times, micro traumas accumulate until pain *suddenly* appears.  The graphic ⬇ describes four common soft tissue issues.  Of all the risk factors (shown in bold) notice how “repetitive movements”  appear in every section.

Repetitive movements wear down tissue over time. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), repetitive motion injuries stem from too many uninterrupted repetitions of an activity or motion performed in the course of normal work or daily activities.  (Full article here) The constant stress of repetition causes tiny tears in the tissue.  It’s not problematic as long as the body keeps up with the mending the damaged tissue. However, if the damage outpaces repairs, inflammation and pain will eventually show up. These injuries take time to damage to your body, but they can cause intense pain.

Have you experienced any of these conditions?   If so, you know the pain. 

Even though certain sports, hobbies and jobs rely heavily on repetitive movements,  it’s possible to enjoy them AND steer clear of injury and pain.  We’ll delve into prevention, self-care and other treatments next month. Here are a few suggestions in the meantime:

  • Listen to your body and don’t “play through it” if you feel pain
  • Warm up before activities; Cool down & stretch afterwards
  • Give your body appropriate rest & recovery time
  • Check your posture and form–Consider a lesson or coaching

If you think you might be at risk for a soft tissue “issue,” know that I offer cost-free consultations, as well specialized massage therapy and self-care guidance. You can schedule an appointment or reach me by email/phone/ text, and those details are here.  I also work collaboratively with physicians, acupuncturists, physical therapists, chiropractors and other professionals in the Pittsburgh area.

Pain, stiffness and other minor symptoms are often the early signs that attention is needed. If something hurts that normally doesn’t, reach out to a knowledgeable and trusted professional. Please don’t wait until it gets worse.

Stressed, Sleepless, in Pain? Yoga Nidra Can Help

Photo credit: Anthony Tran on Unsplash

I love everything about Yoga Nidra, especially that it’s a tool of self-empowerment and easy to use. Many of my clients find that stress melts away in just one session. Regular practice leads to lasting results and significant therapeutic effects on sleep, stress and pain management.

Yoga Nidra is guided meditation that doesn’t require any knowledge of Yoga. The listener simply gets comfortable and follows along with a trained guide through sequences of breathing, body scan, visualization and sometimes intention-setting. As the process unfolds, brainwaves shift to a state bordering on sleep. Focus moves progressively inward, cultivating deeper relaxation for the body and nervous system.

It’s absolutely fine to start in any way that works for you (remember, it’s a “practice”). Consistency develops mental “muscles” that help you gain influence over your own nervous system, mental state, and general health. Some benefits to look forward to include:

  • Improved sleep
  • Enhanced focus and mental clarity
  • Pain & stress reduction
  • Ability to self-direct relaxation
  • Replenishment of key brain chemicals 

Successfully navigating the side-effects of life is a learnable skill and teaching others to develop effective self-care is my passion. I’m excited to offer a growing collection of recorded Yoga Nidra meditations, and invite you to experience this incredible deep rest therapy (here’s a 9-minute one to get you started). More personalized, in-depth self-care coaching is also available in private or group sessions. Schedule a consultation to see what’s right for you.

Is Neck Pain Cramping Your Style?

photo credit: Anete Lusina on Pexels

Neck pain is one of the most common ailments in the world today. Consider these trends:

❗️ 30-50% of adults experience neck pain yearly
❗️Ages 35-49 are at greater risk
❗️Affects women more than men
❗️Higher prevalence in wealthier countries and urban areas

Realistically, most of us will experience neck pain, but it doesn’t mean we’re helpless or at its mercy. A combination of knowledge and informed action can help speed healing, reduce suffering and avoid chronic pain. Even if you’re currently experiencing complex pain, it’s possible to break the cycle. Here’s my (evolving) list of “DOs”

➡ Take every injury and trauma seriously. Seemingly minor events sometimes cause tissue and posture changes that later contribute to painful conditions.
➡ Educate yourself about neck care and gradually incorporate supportive practices into daily life.
➡ Assess & manage your risk factors and protective factors. Stress, sleep, lifestyle, posture & nutrition are just some of the important elements that influence pain. Even a few small changes or upgrades can move the needle.
➡ Make informed choices about your prospective care providers. Explore their area(s) of expertise, communication style, accessibility, and types of treatment offered. Ask trusted sources for recommendations.

When you’re ready, I can help you with an assessment, any need for treatment, as well as self-management skills. Feel free to click below to schedule an appointment or a no-cost consultation.

Interoception. It Does a Body (and Brain) Good.

Photo by Elina Sazonov on Pexels

Learning to notice your body’s sensations can positively impact sleep, focus clarity, stress regulation, pain and more. If you intend to live your best life, honing this skill is a must. Happily, it’s also pretty simple and very relaxing. For those interested in more details, keep reading. If you prefer an experience, click here to try a 12-minute guided meditation. Here’s to you!

One of my clients recently explained how  she demystified the phrase listening to your body. She said, “my neck was tight, and I noticed that it felt better when I moved it into another position. I moved it  back and forth a few times to make sure it wasn’t just a coincidence, and that’s when it hit me:  listening to my body  just means noticing the sensations  in my body.” 

Noticing body sensations is called “interoception” in professional and scientific circles.  It’s really just a fancy name for  a powerful tool that anyone can master. If you’re aiming for vibrance, wellbeing, longevity and solid performance,  then self-sensing is essential.  Realize it or not, you already have skills and if you decide to actively practice them, you’ll probably gain influence over many important areas of your life. 

Sensing the inner landscape of the body is all about becoming aware of something that’s already going on, such as breathing or a beating heart.  Some others:

  • noticing thirst, hunger, a full bladder
  • becoming aware of a cold, headache or fever coming on
  • feeling well-rested, or feeling tired
  • awareness of emotions, mood, gratitude

In sessions with my clients, it might be:

  • perceiving changes in pressure or stretch 
  • sensing muscle tension or relaxation
  • observing flow, rhythm and sensations of breathing
  • noticing areas holding stress, tension, trauma

It makes intuitive sense (and science is also proving in clinical studies) that noticing and appropriately responding to the body’s subtle and not-so-subtle cues can lead to better self-regulation of stress, improved sleep, less pain, gains in focus and mental clarity, and even faster healing. Imagine being able to turn the tables on stress or mood by noticing early signs (ex: increased heartbeat, short, fast respiration, clenched jaws, not thinking clearly) and taking measures to counteract them. Or maybe you sit at a desk all day. If you’ve trained yourself to notice mild discomfort, you could decide to revamp your workspace or take movement breaks to prevent additional problems.

An easy way to practice self-sensing  is taking notice of yourself breathing. It’s not hard, and before long you’ll build up a natural awareness. Perceiving your heart beat is another simple method. It’s more subtle than the breath, but learnable all the same.

Body sensing meditations might be the most relaxing way to practice interoception. You can follow a guided meditation, or try it DIY style. I’m certified in a type of guided meditation (Yoga Nidra) that uses body sensing.  All you need to do is get comfortable, press “play” and follow the guidance of my voice. Here’s the link again for my free 12-minute recording.  I’ll be sharing more of these meditations in the near future. 

If you’re interested in taking a deeper dive into the science of interoception, I really recommend this  HubermanLab podcast episode. Dr. Huberman is a medical school professor at Stanford, and he’s also dedicated to bringing science-based information and tools to the public.

Short-Circuit Stress by Thinking Small

Photo by Mitya Ivanov on Unsplas

Self-care is a hot topic. Just search “what is self-care” on Google and you’ll find billions of entries. If you’re already overwhelmed or stressed, the sheer volume of information could make matters worse. I want you to know that self-care can be simple and sustainable when you introduce tiny practices that fit your lifestyle. I know, because I did it myself when my kids were really young and I’d just had a major health scare.  

Before 2005, I would have dismissed “self-care” as impractical and new-agey. But one sunny June day I suddenly felt deathly ill and was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. On the way, a paramedic comforted me, saying he recognized the symptoms and thought it was just(!) a panic attack. He was right. All of my scans and tests came back normal and I left the hospital, relieved. But the relief wore off  when I started worrying about future attacks and my young children who needed their mom. So I researched, experimented, and followed my gut for months, testing effective ways to feel like myself again. I made things up (singing nursery songs aloud to disable panic), learned to breathe differently (slow, deep breaths to calm my nerves), and discovered meditative movement (QiGong). Despite being a complete novice, I figured it out on the fly. Fortunately, I experienced the body/spirit/mind’s remarkable potential to restore itself.

At the time,  I mostly needed  effective, fast-acting stress reduction strategies. Although everyone benefits from a variety of self-care methods, this article is limited to sustainable,  simple and quick tension tamers. 

Here are 3 easy ways to help you restore inner calm. Whether you’re brand new or a seasoned self-carer, your nervous system will be appreciative (and so will everyone around you). 

The Physiological Sigh: Calm the Nervous System
2-minute video  demonstration here

2 inhales through the nose, filling the lungs
Long exhale through the mouth, with an audible sigh
Repeat 2-3 times, pausing briefly between rounds

The 5-4-3: Ground the Senses
Wherever you are, look around. Take one or two slow, deep breaths before you start, and then breathe naturally the whole time. Using one sense at a time, follow the instructions below, to anchor your mind and focus your attention.  It’s fine to use any of your senses in the order you prefer:

  • 5 things you can see
  • 4 things you can hear
  • 3 things you can smell

 If you like, you might try holding your attention on each “thing” for 1-3 counts or 1-3 breaths. 

Contract-Release: Relax Tense Muscles
6-minute guided audio here This is an easy way to release tension in tight muscles by holding mild-medium tension in a specific body part for 5-15 seconds, then letting go. It is not intended to and should never cause intense symptoms or pain.  If you have any medical or musculoskeletal  issues that might be adversely affected by this type of physical activity, consult your doctor first. 

The top reasons most of us skimp on self-care (not enough time, energy, finances) don’t apply to micro-practices, and I invite you to nourish yourself with 1-2 tidbits every day. The smallness of the commitment makes it easier to say “yes” to more health, vitality and peace in your life, with modest effort. I hope you come to value them as much as I do.

If you need any support from me, I’d love to help. You can check appointment availability for self-care coaching, myofascial massage, relaxation therapies, and intuition development by contacting me directly or online. If you can’t find an open time that works for you, please reach out and I’ll see what I can do.  I also encourage you to use the free 20-minute consultation to discuss your particular issues and how my services might be of value to you.

Wishing you more peace in every day, 


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Cupping Therapy: Fad or Fabulous?


During the Summer Olympics, a day didn’t go by without someone asking about Cupping: the alternative therapy that Michael Phelps made (in)famous. The most common questions have been: What is it? Should I try it? Does it work? Does it hurt? What is it good for? WHY would anyone endure those ugly bruises?

Critics point to the absence of clinical studies as proof that cupping is a fad with no effective purpose, and supporters argue that it relieves pain, fatigue and all sorts of illnesses. So, I thought it would be helpful to share how I use this modality, and what my clients here in Pittsburgh have to say about it.

This technique begins with attaching special cups onto the skin. Many types of cups exist, but I stick to plastic and silicone. A hand pump extracts air from plastic cups, and with silicone cups, you simply squeeze it to create suction. From there, the cups can be left on the skin for a few minutes, or pulled across the skin and moved in different ways. The vacuum causes blood vessels in the skin to expand and draw in blood. This new blood saturates the tissue and draws out stagnant blood. At the same time, biochemical that stimulate healing are dispatched to the area.

Cupping is often described as a “reverse massage” since the tissue is being pulled up and away from the body, rather than pressed down. Pain is personal to each individual. Generally, cupping pain is short-lived and mild, and the experience tends to be pleasant and soothing. Sometimes the tissue is very tight and it hurts, but suction can be decreased to modify the pain. As for the marks, well…the longer the cups sit on the body, the more likely marks are to appear. In my practice, I discuss the “hickey” issue ahead of time with my client. If the marks bother them, the cups can be pulled across the skin, which usually doesn’t leave a mark at all, and still has a great therapeutic effect.

Cupping can be used all over the body. In my practice, I apply cups most often to the back neck, shoulders and legs to relieve muscular pain, stimulate relaxation, improve range of motion, and release tight, knotted muscles. I also cup around knees, elbows, ankles and feet to stimulate better circulation and break up scar tissue and adhesions. Most interesting is the use of tiny cups around the head and face; in that regard, my clients have reported relief from headaches and sinus congestion, as well as reduced facial puffiness and improved skin tone, texture and appearance.

Here are some of the comments my clients have made about cupping therapy:

“Cupping sounded like a silly gimmick to me, but Anita has never steered me wrong so I gave it a try. I still can’t believe the relief the cups brought to my chronically inflamed sinuses!” – Misty

“Anita used the cupping technique on my lower back and she had me feeling like a professional athlete! I’ll be back in two weeks for another treatment” – Sam

“I’ve had shoulder and neck pain with frequent headaches. I was a little hesitant on cupping therapy, but after a treatment I feel less pain, headache relief, and more energy in my everyday activities.” – Dennis

“Anita’s cupping therapy is awesome. After my treatment I can move around so much more. I also had cupping on my face and chin area and my skin was noticeably firmer and softer afterwards” – Amy

Interested in learning more and experiencing cupping therapy for yourself?

Contact me to schedule your appointment!

Finding Simplicity (It’s Not Where You Think)


by Erin Gaus (

It was one of those restless nights in my family where we were all fighting a terrible head cold. My three year old ended up in our bed, as three year olds with colds are wont to do, and we all had a pretty horrible night’s sleep.

Well, except the three year old, who awoke miraculously healed and ready to EAT.  I rolled out of bed to take his breakfast order.

“Carrots and Wanch Dwessing”, he said confidently.

I paused. Because, you see, I have pretty firm ideas about what qualifies as breakfast food and what doesn’t, and “Carrots and Wanch Dwessing” was pretty much off the breakfast radar.

I have these rigid ideas about a lot of things. What spoon I use to make scrambled eggs. Where the throw pillows go on the couch. How the beds are made.

When my husband protests I explain that it’s all in an effort to make our lives more ORGANIZED and therefore, simple.

I’ve not just a need, but a drive to “put things in their place” and “keep things in order”.  I’ve amassed an impressive collection of menu planning apps, day planners and to-do list organizers. I’m a sucker for advertisements that target “busy moms.”  My perfect day revolved around the mantra: “a place for everything and everything in its place.”  The idea that I should “embrace the chaos” was not one I subscribed to. Although honestly, I didn’t know why. I just knew that it seemed like I was amassing a lot of stuff in the name of simplicity.

The idea carried over into my treatments with Anita. I would hit the table with a mission; “I need fixed HERE. Let’s do this.” And she would get to work. I would fidget impatiently as her hands would hit the farthest point away from where I hurt. She would say gently “Does this feel tight?” “Well, yeah,” I would reply, “But Anita, it hurts HERE.” With a sly smile that basically said “patience grasshopper” she would move through her routine, working and gently stretching and as I relaxed into the treatment I realized that why, YES that is really solving the problem, isn’t it? Silly grasshopper.

So, if going with the flow in my pain therapy treatment had such amazing results, why not give it a shot in, well, LIFE?

Back to that morning breakfast situation.

As I stood there in an early morning congestion-induced haze. I had an epiphany.


“Carrots and Wanch it is!” I said.

I carried a little toddler sized portion of carrots and ranch, along with two very grown up sized coffees, back up the stairs (because – GASP! – we were going to eat IN BED!). Our usual breakfast was full of such BIG things; full of “must eat this” and “hurry and finish”, but today it full of giggles, morning cartoons, cute dogs stealing carrots, and all manner of wonderful things.

No overthinking. No tantrums.

Simplicity found in embracing the chaos. Not fighting it. Who knew?

The Story Behind Your Stiff Neck


If you’ve ever suffered with a stiff neck, chances are your Levator Scapulae muscle had something to do with it. Trigger points (tender contraction knots in muscle fibers) in the fibers of thi smuscle commonly restrict normal turning of the head, and cause pain in the areas illustrated below.


 Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual Volume 1 by Travell & Simons’, p. 501

Any activity that tips or tilts the neck in a way that shortens the fibers of this muscle for an extended period of time can result in Levator trigger points. Consider the following possibilities:

  • Sleeping with the neck tilted to one side for much of the night;
  • Secretarial/deskwork generally;
  • Walking with a cane that is too long;
  • Sitting in one direction with the head & neck turned in another for extended periods of time.

Stress strongly impacts this muscle as well. We instinctively respond to perceived threats by dropping our heads and raising our shoulders in a ducking motion. In today’s world, traffic jams, financial worries, interpersonal conflicts, chronic pain and more, can trip off the the body’s freeze-fight-or-flight response. Since this muscle contracts every time it moves the shoulder blade towards the ear, you can appreciate how it could become fatigued and overworked when constant stress is in the mix.

Therapeutic release of the trigger points in the Levator Scapulae, as well as other inter-related muscles, helps to quickly relieve the problem. Untreated muscles can seem to recover with the passage of time, but often leave residual stiffness and reduced mobility behind. Over time, this can translate into chronically-restricted neck motion. You might believe that “you just have to live with it” but most of the time this is simply not the case.

Proper self-care can also alleviate pain by releasing and lengthening the muscle fibers. While it is best to learn and practice self-treatments with a trained practitioner first, one technique described by Janet Travell, MD can be summarized as follows:

  1. Sit on a stool or chair (under a running shower is best);
  2. Drop shoulder on the affected side, let that arm hang free, and relax the neck as fully as possible;
  3. Use the opposite hand to help GENTLY turn the head to the unaffected side and down towards the armpit to take up the slack in the muscle. At the same time, the free arm reaches towards the floor for more of a stretch. (see illustration)
  4. Repeat, with varying degrees of head rotation to release the muscle fibers of all directions.

If you are struggling with this or any other muscular pain and restrictions, and you’re ready to make a change, we will happily help you construct a health improvement plan tailored to your particular issue. Contact me to schedule an appointment today!

You must not rely on the information on this website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. If you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition you should seek immediate medical attention. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.