Staying healthy

(and if you do get sick, please keep your germs to yourself)

By this time, I’m sure you are aware that COVID-19 (coronavirus) is beginning to widely circulate in the United States. This past Saturday, Vermont had its first presumptive positive test for the virus. With this announcement, I am reminded that we are not looking at “cases” but rather people who are sick. This person was hospitalized in Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington, VT. The adult patient is hospitalized in an airborne infection isolation room. At today’s news conference, Vermont Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD told listeners, “Obviously that means this patient is on the more serious end of the spectrum of illness. I want to remind everyone though that the science as we currently understand it tells us that over 80% of affected individuals with COVID-19 will have mild to moderate illness and do not require hospitalization.”

Banner size image with a grey background. In the foreground to the left is a focused microscopic image of the COVID-19 virus. In the background to the right is an unfocused version of the same image.
Image of COVID-19 virus from Center for Disease Control

With the current concerns about the new virus, I want to remind everyone to cancel your appointment if you are feeling sick. This has always been the protocol at Stillpoint as health and healing are of the utmost importance in my work. An issue like COVID-19 clearly represents a potential threat to our normal way of life, and for many of us that might mean questioning whether to receive massage or bodywork.

Unfortunately, there is no guidebook or directive to let us know the absolute correct answer, or even when that answer might change. The Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov) and World Health Organization (www.who.int) are our guiding authorities when it comes to health issues. At this point, they are encouraging good hygiene (something massage and bodywork professionals are steeped in already) and to avoid contact with others if you are sick. Neither of those directives suggest not getting massage or bodywork, if you are in good health. I am getting my regular CranioSacral therapy session on Monday and intend to keep doing so.


In the meantime, I encourage you 

  • to wash your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds
  • to consider touching elbows or feet when greeting someone instead of shaking hands
  • to stay home if you or anyone in your house has a fever (typically the first sign), cough, and shortness of breath
  • to contact the Vermont Department of Health (802-863-7240) if you have returned from an affected area (China, Iran, South Korea, Japan, Italy,) less than 14 days ago
  • to continue receiving craniosacral and massage therapy as it helps to support your system in managing stressors and balancing your parasympathetic nervous system
Image of 12 blocks of line art depicting proper hand washing hygiene. The directions under the line art have been changed to read,
"I must not fear.
Fear is the mind killer.
Fear is the little-death.
That brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me
And through me.
And when it has gone past
I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone
There will be nothing.
Only I will remain."
Somatic emotional release of fear

As more information is released that is pertinent to massage and bodywork, I will keep you updated. Until then, take care and be well.

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Nursing Yourself through the Winter Cold

Soft focus on the pause button of a vintage audio cassette recorder. Focus is on the word "pause" below the button. Warm colors of copper, red, and creamy yellow.
So, the universe hit the “pause” button for you.

The tickle in the back of the throat. Sneeze one, two, three, four, five. Oh, the buggers. It’s official. I have a cold!

Sometimes, I think that the universe is offering me an opportunity for reflection. Other times, I realize that I am being stopped in my tracks for neglecting to support myself fully. And, of course, I also remember that I live with a seven year old germ magnet who plays daily with over 100 other germ magnets.

So what do I do to bring myself back to health while the cold virus is running its course? Here is my go to list:

Echinacea Immune Support tea by Yogi.  Local honey unfiltered & raw by Mt. Creek Apiary.Large yellow-brown mug made by Maya Zelkin. Silver electric tea pot by Cuisinart.

Drink. Drink. Drink.

Drink. Drink. Drink. So much so that I am heading to the bathroom hourly.

Our bodies are 75% fluid. That ocean of liquid that lives inside of us is essential to cellular metabolism, muscle movement, blood flow, the cerebral spinal fluid that bathes our brain and spinal cord, and much more. As our body is fighting off “invaders”, the need for fluid increases. White blood cells go to the site of infection. As they destroy the virus, they too die. Fluid is necessary to flush, sneeze, and excrete the germs and dead cells.

Drinking is more important than what you drink. Your body will take fluid from wherever it can get it. Of course, water is the simplest way to get fluid in, but it may not be the palatable when you are sick. Try to avoid lots of sugar. (Germs love sugar to feed on.) My go drink when I am sick is echinacea tea with local honey.

Moxie a black rescue dog laying her head on my lap which is covered by a striped blue & green fuzzy blanket. Moxie has a white line down her nose.

Rest. Relax. Stop doing.

Rest. Relax. Stop doing. For me, that means couch time.

When I am sick my world shrinks to the couch. That’s not just because I don’t have enough energy to go anywhere else. The couch is my way of limiting what I can do. I usually end up sick because I am “doing too much”.

Everything I need has to be within reach of my spot on the couch. This includes my hot tea, a snack, tissues, trash can (for my dirty tissues), my smartphone, my Kindle, my journal, pens, the remote control, and hopefully an animal or two. I watch Netflix. I read. I journal. I drink, and drink, and drink. I snuggle with Moxie the dog or Parker the cat. I sleep.

Interestingly, my forced downtime sparks my creative flow. So, I always make sure I have a place to write things down or draw ideas out. However, I do steer clear of making any big decisions or putting things into action. My neural synapses are too clogged up with buggers to be reliable at this point.

Caucasian women's hands covered with soap bubbles with water from silver sink faucet running into her cupped hands.

Wash everything.

Wash everything that comes in contact with your hands and face.

The common cold is transmitted by virus-infected air-born droplets or by direct contact with infected secretion from contaminated surfaces. Yes, it is important to cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. And to wash your hands thoroughly before touching communal items. Those things help others to not get sick. But how does washing everything  help you when you are already sick?

The common cold can be caused by many different viruses. More than 200 different types of viruses are known to cause the common cold, with rhinovirus causing approximately 30%-40% of all adult colds (1). We are constantly surrounded by germs. In the winter, we tend to spend most of our time indoors without the air being refreshed. Luckily, most of the time our immune system takes care of all of those likely invaders without us even knowing. But when you are already sick, the immune system is not playing its A-game.

Washing everything that comes into contact with your hands or your face limits our exposure to new viruses and mutated viruses. Here is my list of things to wash or replace at least once daily:

  • wash cloth
  • hand towel
  • tooth brush
  • pillowcase
  • kitchen towels
  • water bottles
  • cloth napkin
  • dishes & utensils
  • my body & hair
  • my nasal cavity
  • clothing

You may not be ready to shower twice daily at the onset of your cold. You may want to stay in those same comfy clothes you put on when you first started feeling sick. You may feel so tired that you just want to rinse your hands instead of taking the extra time to lather them up with soap. Don’t! Get out of your germ filled stew in any way you can.

Listen to your body.

Listen to what your body is asking for. It knows what you need.

No matter how great the suggestions and ideas are for helping you move through the common cold, if they don’t resonate or make sense to you, then they are not right for you. Ultimately, everything I have written about above is designed to stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system. 

The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is one of the two branches of the autonomic nervous system (which regulates the body’s unconscious actions).  The parasympathetic system is responsible for stimulation of “rest-and-digest” or “feed and breed” activities that occur when the body is at rest (2). The action of the PNS counterbalances the action of the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for stimulating activities associated with the fight-or-flight response (2). We do not heal in a sympathetic state. We heal in a parasympathetic state.

What do you do to support yourself through a winter cold?


References:

  1. “Common Cold” by Steven Doerr, MD & Sandra Gonzalez Gompf, MD, FACP https://www.medicinenet.com/common_cold/article.htm
  2. “Parasympathetic Nervous System” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parasympathetic_nervous_system

Photo Credits

  1. “Soft focus pause button, focusing on the word pause, vintage style” by NikomMaelao Production https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/soft-focus-pause-button-focusing-on-274091471?src=library
  2. “Hot tea with honey” by Chris Widlund
  3. “Moxie dog” by Chris Widlund
  4. “Woman in a bathrobe is washing hands” by Summer Photographer https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/woman-bathrobe-washing-hands-414180118?src=library
  5. “Young man eavesdropping” by file404 https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/young-man-eavesdropping-249034309?src=library

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Malfunction in the Junction

(aka a letter to the Essex Junction Trustees re:Massage Establish Permitting)

essex junction10/14/2014

Good Evening. Thank you for taking the time to listen to my letter to the Essex Board of Trustees in place of my presence at this meeting. I am writing in regard to the Draft Massage Therapy Establishment Regulations. I am unable to attend this evening meeting due to an illness in my family.

Before commenting on the draft regulation, I would like to take a moment to introduce myself. I have been practicing massage therapy as a Licensed Massage Practitioner since 2003. My license is from the state of Washington and I have maintained for the last ten years that I have been in Vermont because I believe so strongly in professional licensing.

In 2006, I was elected to the Board of Directors of the Vermont Chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association.I was also appointed as the Government Relations Chair for the chapter with the priority of working with local massage therapists and and the state government to lay the groundwork for licensing massage therapy in Vermont. In 2008, I formed Vermont Initiative for Massage Standards, a coalition of of massage therapists, representatives of massage organizations, a CAM (Complimentary & Alternative Medicine) advocate who works on the national level, and a legislative consultant who has help create massage regulation in many states.

In 2010, we submitted a Sunrise Application for Regulation of Massage Therapy to the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office of Professional Regulations. After an open hearing with good discussion by massage therapists on both side of the argument for regulation and a positive response from the OPR counsel assigned to this application, OPR came back with an official ruling against regulation for massage therapy. The stated reason for OPR’s decision is that the director did not believe there had been enough instances of documented harm involving massage therapy.

As of the birth of my daughter in 2012, I resigned from the Vermont AMTA and Maureen Slayton White took over as the Chair for Government Relations. You will also be hearing from her this evening.

Earlier this year, when the Vermont House Operations Committee decided that regulating massage therapy through House Bill 644 was not a priority, I breathed a sign of relief and frustration. HB644 was a reactionary piece of legislation written in response to the ever present problem of prostitution and human trafficking occurring under the guise of massage therapy. Regulating massage therapy is not an effective way to to manage prostitution and human trafficking. I fully agree that sexual exploitation, sex trafficking, and prostitution pose a significant public risk and should be stopped. However, those issued should be addressed directly.

My overall concern with the Draft Massage Therapy Establishment Regulations being considered tonight is that you are opting to regulate where, how, and by whom massage therapy can be practiced. But you are only doing this as a means to combat the illegal activities of sexual exploitation, sex trafficking, and prostitution.

Massage therapy is a healthcare profession and should be regulated as such. Sex trafficking and prostitution are crimes that should be investigated by the police and prosecuted. Please lets not confuse the two issues. They are not one in the same.

Let’s work together to protect the citizen of Essex Junction and the Town of Essex without putting undo permitting and operational restrictions on the massage practitioners that work with those citizens.

Please feel free to contact me directly with any questions or concerns. chris@stillpointmassage.com

Thank you,

Chris Widlund

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Touch is everything

touch is everything

Last Wednesday morning, I was finalizing a “sample letter” for you (those who have benefited from massage therapy) to send to the Vermont House Operations Committee regarding H644, the proposed bill to license massage therapy. And then this Rutland Herald article, Panel Rejects New Massage Regulations, landed in my inbox.

As you know, a bill, H644, was introduced in the Vermont House to license massage therapy. The bill was designed to regulate a healthcare profession in order to curb human trafficking and prostitution. These are two separate issues and should be dealt as such. (Thus the “sample letter” for you to send.) You can read more about this bill here.

In short, here is what happened. After being in contact with the legislative assistant for the Government Operations Committee, we were told that it would be several weeks before the bill was considered by the committee. That time span shorted to a few days.

On February 18th, H644 was introduced to the committee. “A majority of the House Government Operations Committee members said they did not favor taking up the bill this year.” So for now the effort to regulate massage therapy in Vermont is once again shelved.

Representative Tim Jerman, one of the legislator who sponsored H644 is from Essex Junction. The Junction is where one of the “massage parlors” that was fronting human trafficking last fall was located. “Essex Junction is considering instituting a local ordinance to prevent illicit activity in spas, Jerman said. However, that may not be the right approach, he said, for a problem that has sprouted up in several locations across the state.” I will keep you appraised of any developments on this local call for regulation of massage therapy.

So what should you do in the mean time to protect your self?

  • Ask your massage therapist if s/he is licensed in another state or certified nationally through NCBTMB.
  • Ask your massage therapist if s/he belongs to a professional association for massage therapy.
  • Ask your massage therapist if s/he takes continuing education class for massage therapy, ethics, and business practices.
  • Ask your massage therapist if s/he has liability insurance.

All of these questions will help you gauge the training, experience, and professionalism of the person you are allowing to touch your body.

And last but not least, GET MASSAGE. Touch is everything!

 

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Colds, flu, and massage

Having just made it through over a month of flu, colds and sinus infections in my house, I think it is a good time to remind you, if you have cold or flu symptoms you should reschedule your massage.

sick daysSometime massage is not a good idea.

It is that time of year again and there are more sniffles and coughs going around than ever.  If you are not feeling well, please reschedule your massage. If you are coughing and sneezing, or if you are feverish, massage can be downright unpleasant and make your illness worse.  I want you to take the best possible care of yourself, and sometimes that means massage should be delayed.

Please don’t hesitate to call or email me to discuss if you’re not sure about receiving massage. I can help you make that decision and if necessary, get you rescheduled for a more appropriate time.

Take care,
Chris

Reprinted with permission from Allissa Haines.

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Massage Regulation & Vermont

The real title of this blog post should be Good News, Bad News.  I am referring to the fact that at the end of January, two state representatives introduced a bill to regulate massage therapy in Vermont. At face value that seems like good news, but it is not. To understand this conundrum, we need to start with a basic understanding of state regulation of a profession, how that happens in Vermont and some history about massage therapy regulation.

regulationWhy regulate a profession 
States impose regulation on a profession for one reason: To protect the public. To understand the rationale for the regulation process lets look at medical doctors.  The state feels there is risk if it does not establish a standard of practice (a set of guidelines for providing high-quality care),  a basic education requirement, and a continuing education requirement. Regulation provides several protections: a doctor must be properly educated to practice; a physician who does not meet the standard of practice may be investigated and, if appropriate, their license revoked; continuing education will be monitored.  Pretty straightforward, right? Well it’s not just medical doctors that are regulated by the state. Hairdressers, landscape architects, physical therapists and many, many more are regulated. All are regulated as a means of public protection.

How does this work in Vermont
In most states, the process for regulating a profession starts with the introduction of a bill in the state legislature. However, that is not the case in Vermont and a handful of other states. Here, there is a process called the Sunrise Application that a profession must go through (and pass) before proposed legislation can be passed to a state legislator for introduction, consideration, and vote. The Sunrise Review process puts the ownness on the profession to prove that regulation is necessary. (Remember, regulation for a profession is to protect the public.) The Sunrise Application is submitted to the Office for Professional Regulation (OPR). Once the application has been reviewed by OPR counsel (an assigned lawyer) by an open hearing is held for any interested party to speak for/ or against the proposed regulation. After the hearing the OPR counsel will make a recommendation to the director of OPR. But it is the director who puts the final stamp on the application.

A little history of attempts for regulation of massage therapy in Vermont
In 2010, with the help of a group of massage therapists, representatives of massage organizations, a CAM (Complimentary & Alternative Medicine) advocate who works on the national level, and a legislative consultant who has help create massage regulation in many states, I submitted a Sunrise Application for massage therapy (over 1000 pages long). After an open hearing with good discussion by massage therapists on both side of the argument for regulation and a positive response from the OPR counsel assigned to this application, OPR came back with an official ruling against regulation for massage therapy. The stated reason for OPR’s decision is that the director did not believe there had been enough instances of documented harm involving massage therapy.

I maintain my Washington massage license because Vermont does not currently have any state regulations for massage therapy.

I maintain my Washington massage license because Vermont does not currently have any state regulations for massage therapy.

So why do other states think massage therapy should be regulated?
Regulation for any profession is based on public protection. So the real question is “can massage therapy cause harm?” The answer is yes. Harm can come in many forms: physical, emotional, financial, etc. A basic massage therapy training (usually at least 500 hours) clearly defines in what instances massage therapy should not be done because it is contraindicated. A few examples…There are times when massage is completely contraindicated for a person, such as fever, or when a single area should not receive treatment, such as varicose veins. Even further, there are time when massage therapy should be received only with the approval of a physician, such as post surgical and cancer treatment situations. Harm can be immediate or potential. Immediate harm could be a burn from a hot stone massage. While potential harm is certainly present when massaging a calf that has a clot (deep vein thrombosis), the real harm develops when the clot could break free causing an obstruction elsewhere in the body. Potential harm is equally important to recognize in the instances where empirical data does not yet show examples of harm. In order to understand the potential for harm a massage therapist must be appropriately educated.

The financial harm of committing to a long-term course of work with a massage therapist who can not show their skill base and it’s effectiveness is another reason for regulation of massage therapy.

Massage is a very intimate experience. The therapist must be able to appropriately and respectfully navigate the relationship with each client.  A massage therapist  makes people feel better, but must remain professional.

With the current lack of standards in Vermont, anyone can call themselves a “massage therapist”. There is no definition of what’s massage therapist is, what a massage therapist can do, and how a massage therapist is to conduct business.

Now that I have convinced you of the need for massage regulation, why am I suggesting not supporting Vermont House Bill 644?
The current proposed legislation, H 644, is a reactionary piece of legislation written in response to the ever present problem of prostitution and human trafficking occurring under the guise of massage therapy. Regulating massage therapy is not an effective way to to manage prostitution and human trafficking. I am in no way advocating for prostitution (that is a blog post for another day). Those issued should be addressed directly.

“It has been demonstrated that the unregulated practice of massage therapy can clearly harm or endanger the health, safety, or welfare of the public, including harm caused by human trafficking which has been known to take place in unregulated massage therapy shops, and the potential for harm is recognizable and not remote or speculative.”

This quote is taken directly from H 644 as the number one reason for regulating massage therapy. And when looking at what unprofessional conduct (or reasons for revocation of a license) the top two reasons are:

(1) sexual harassment of a client; (2) engaging in a sexual act as defined in 13 V.S.A. § 3251 with a client;

The bill outlines in very slim terms a basic education of 500 hours (or for existing massage therapists, 5-years of practice). There is no definition of what that education includes or the need/requirements for continuing education in the field. It is obvious that this bill was not actually written about massage therapy. Let’s start with a well written bill that is focused on the profession it is regulating rather than hijacking massage therapist as a means to convicting the criminal activities of prostitution and human trafficking.

My proposed solution
A fellow massage therapist recently reminded me that if you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem. I am grateful these three state representatives brought the need for massage therapy regulation to the legislature (after all the OPR was not willing to support it) but I think they missed a great opportunity. In the last three years, Vermont has been left behind by the rest of the country in regulating massage therapy. We are now the only state in which there is no regulation of massage therapy. Let’s get a better bill proposed. Let’s encourage our state legislators to make Vermont a  better place for massage therapists to work

What can you do?

  • Talk to your massage therapist about what is happening in massage therapy regulation.
  • Talk to your friends about the benefits of massage therapy.
  • Read the legislation we proposed to OPR in 2010 (no need to read the entire sunrise application).
  • Write your state senator and representative sharing your concern about the poorly drafted H 644.
  • Get a massage.
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Resolution

Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties. ~ Helen Keller

20140103-102857.jpg

A new year has started. Many people want to create themselves anew with this mark or time’s passage. Join a gym. Make a resolution to eat better. Lose weight. Be healthier.

But what about the “you” your were in 2013? The challenges you faced. The things you learned. The ones you loved. What you lost.

Your stories have made you who you are. They are what makes you strong. They are what builds your resolve. Love your stories. Love the “you” they have created.

Want more? Know where you are starting from and resolve to move forward educated by your history. Eat well. Laugh a lot. Get a massage.

Let’s talk about how I can help you strengthen your resolve.

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Rate Change

looking-at-the-books

I can’t believe that it is the middle of September. It has been wonderful to be working with you all again for almost a year now. As you know I have been able to extend my hours from the initial one day a week to two and now three days a week. I appreciate to be once again helping you to find ease in your body. Thank you for this opportunity.

Looking back, I realize that it has been almost four years since I have changed my rates. While I am sure that this has been nice for your wallet, it is not sustainable for me. Starting October 1st, my rates will be $85 per session. BUT, as a thank you for being a supportive & loyal client, I will be offering you a $5 discount on your sessions. All new clients will start at the full rate.

Again, thank you for your continued patronage. And I look forward to seeing you at an appointment soon. You can email me, call me (802-233-0600), or schedule an appointment online.

Take care,
Chris

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More, more, more

More, more, more. That is one of Aida’s favorite signs. And I have been hearing it from you too. So here it is.

Online scheduling is back! No more playing phone or email tag to schedule an appointment. Now you can book your appointment immediately online. Follow this link to schedule an appointment. (My website is getting updated with this link but it will be a few weeks, so save this email or bookmark the link on your computer.)

Still want that personal touch of scheduling through me? No problem. You can still email, call or text me at 802-233-0600 to schedule an appointment.

But wait there is still more…

Expanded office hours! Appointments are now available Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9:30a to 4:30p. Starting August 15, I will be seeing clients on alternating Thursdays. I plan to be working Thursdays full time in the fall.

Take care & I hope to see you soon,
Chris

P.S. And lastly, the much requested photo of the kiddo…

Aida meeting her first horse, Blackjack, in Stowe. (I think we might be in trouble.)

Aida meeting her first horse, Blackjack, in Stowe.
(I think we might be in trouble.)

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She is here!

20120409-205310.jpg

There is a baby in my arms!

After a long awaited arrival, she is here! Aida Widlund (pronounced with a long “A” and a silent “I”) was born on Thursday, March 29th, at 6:29am. She was 9 pounds 6 ounces and 21 inches long. She has here daddy’s eyes and my mouth, but neither of are sure where she came into her height and her size. Regardless, she is beautiful!

My heart has doubled (at least), since Aida made her debut. I never knew I could be so in love with two people (Eben & Aida). I also never knew I could find such patience in a state of “new parent” exhaustion.

Thank you all for boundless support through this adventure of becoming a parent.

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