Stress, ninjas and taking care of yourself

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Stress is weird. You can’t see it, it isn’t tangible, and it has a funny way of sneaking up on you. It’s like a ninja.. the bad kind you fought off in video games as a kid.
And then, once you’ve managed to get rid of it, it hits you how much stress you were actually holding on to. It’s very elusive in that way. Stress lives in your mind, your body, and your spirit day in, and day out, slowly dragging your quality of life down but you almost never know its happening. Someone asks “how are you?” and you give them what you think is an honest answer of “Good!” But are you really good? Unless you’ve trained yourself to be very present and aware of specific self cues, you probably don’t realize the physical effects that stress has manifested for you.

Cartoon ninja

© intense_media -

And that, my friends, is why it’s so, so, soooo important to maintain. Because life goes on, things happen, and that’s ok. But keep a tight leash on your ninjas with regular massage treatments, acupuncture, exercise. Heck.. 10 minutes sitting in a quiet room, with your eyes closed will knock ’em down.

Without maintenance, your anxiety will grow, slowly, but steadily until one day your breathing is shallow, your’e rushing for no reason what so ever, and your thoughts are an incessant reel of things you need to get done… and you don’t even realize it!! What a black hole.

And then, you finally convince your self to take a yoga class or go on vacation, and you feel… magnificent!! And you think “I should have done this sooner, why did I wait so long!?” (Which is a common thing I have the pleasure of hearing after finishing up with clients.) Well, why did you? Oh that’s right, because you weren’t aware you had so much stress.. Am I getting my point across yet?

Its like, when you don’t know how unhealthy your last relationship was, until you find yourself in one that fulfills all your needs. Or how rough and bumpy your last car rode, until you drive one that rides smoothly. So here’s a few tips I like to use to keep my own stress levels in check.

Book a massage, or some other type of healing bodywork you love. And about a week or two in advance, stop in the middle of your day.. and answer these 3 questions honestly. (Set an alarm on your phone for some random Tuesday afternoon as a reminder.)

1) What is the quality of my breath?
Our breath is always with us, and it’s a really great indicator of anxiety. Check in to see if it’s shallow, quick, constricted, or being held.

2) What have my thoughts consisted of in the last 10 minutes?
Many times our thoughts are on autopilot. They are usually nothing new, productive, or helpful. If you notice you are thinking about the
same 3 or 4 mundane things going around and around in circles, when you’ve JUST thought about them, you’re probably due for a time-out.

3) What is my pace like today?
Are you moving quicker than you need to? Driving over the speed limit, scarfing down your lunch, speed walking to your car from the grocery store? Unless its -20 degrees outside, a wizard of OZ style twister is coming, or your being chased by ACTUAL ninjas there is no reason for this. The “Pace” check is the one I use most, but try to use all three together when you first get started.

And then go get that massage. A good one. Maybe even a 90 minute treatment. Why not? You have time, remember? And then before leaving the room, or even while still on the table, once your therapist leaves, answer those questions again. Breathing, Thoughts, Pace..

How do these answers compare to the ones you gave yourself a week ago? Massage therapy has a magical way (actually, its not magic, its science.. okay maybe a little magic) of shutting down “fight or flight”, which we live in 90% of the time, and moving you into a more natural place where the body can heal itself. Your thoughts either cease to exist, or are comprised of very little. Your lungs are able to expand because the tissue around them has softened, allowing more oxygen into the body. And you are likely to move very slowly for the hours following your treatment.

The goal? Try to keep this pace. This breath. This simplicity of mind, by staying present in the moment you are experiencing. And when life comes knocking again and asks of you, do what needs to be done, and then be sure to come back to that peaceful place that already resides with in you. The harder it is to come back to, the closer you should be to getting your next massage.

*Side note* If you are an MT, Reiki Practitioner, Acupuncturist, Yoga Instructor, or provide any other type of holistic treatments and services to people, this post applies to you twice.

1) This is a great tactic to introduce to your clients. With a heightened awareness of the “before” and “after” and seeing the importance of regular treatments more clearly, you may find clients see you as more of a health care necessity than a luxury.

2) We often don’t receive body work as often as we know we should. A shame, but true. Follow this 3 question experiment on a bi-weekly basis. Because how can we kick ninja-butt if we are infested ourselves?! 😉


  • Leah

    I love this article! Written very well…I’m booking mine 😉

  • Love this!!!!

  • This is a GREAT article Steph and sooooo well written!!!! <3

  • I really enjoyed this article! As a massage therapist myself, I will definitely be introducing this technique to my clients, as well as using it for myself. And while I know all these things in my brain, the process of actually doing them on a regular basis is something I need to practice more frequently. Thanks for the refreshing and well-written reminder!

  • Dianne Parker

    Already have mine booked, gonna make the checks and establish the connection! Thanks!!

    • Stephanie Palermo

      That’s great Dianne!! I’ll be interested to see how it works out for you. Enjoy =)

  • Very well put. I like the three questions