Confessions of a Massage Therapist
As a professional and an adult, I feel on top of my game most of the time. But can I let you in on a little secret? I’m only human and I can make some careless decisions. The ones that end up becoming a mudslide of destruction to my day.
Do you ever feel the dreaded snowball effect in your life? You know, when you’re just one step behind everything and you can’t catch up. The weight of your life keeps getting heavier and heavier until you are trudging through the mud slower and slower…and slower still.
I know I have. Many times. Too many to count! (But really, I’m not exaggerating…)
Here is a simple personal example:
I went to bed late, mainly because I wanted some peace and quiet. Some quintessential me time. Well, maybe more like me and a few reruns of Friends. I say to myself, “eh, what’s the problem with just ONE more episode? I want to know what happens next.” Yeah, like I don’t know what happens next. I think I could recite full episodes in my sleep.
So it’s now 12:45 am and I’m pretty upset at myself. I knew I should have been asleep at least two hours ago. Nevertheless, I head off to bed, set my alarm (for 7 am – what was I thinking?!?!), and drift off to sleep.
Waking up is pretty hard. Snooze is my annoying best friend. When I finally get up thirty minutes past my alarm, I am now in panic mode. I have so much to do in such little time. How am I going to eat, shower, get dressed and ready, pack my lunch and my bag, feed the dogs, and drink my coffee in only 35 minutes?!
Nothing seems to be going my way. I can’t find my shoes. My bag gets caught in the door. I left my lunch on the counter, even though it was sitting right next to everything else I was taking. The frustration is mounting.
After leaving the house late, I hit every red light on my way to my destination. My mind races, the anxiety is out of control, and my breathing becomes shallow or non-existent.
I find myself in a fit of internal road rage, yelling (in my mind) at the driver in front of me who is clearly obeying the given traffic laws, but is also clearly in my way.
When I finally pull up and park my car, I walk frantically into my office and begin setting things up at a record pace. As I am putting my finishing touches to the room and the office, in walks YOU, my first client of the day. You are greeted with a smile, a gentle welcome and hello, offered some tea and our session begins.
Right now, I am in a 12-week “whole self” transformation program and I am reading a book called “The Power of Habit. Why we do what we do in life and business.” I want to share with you what I’ve learned about how you can change your habits to benefit your overall lifestyle and snowball in a positive way through your daily activities.
I don’t start the majority of my days like the story I shared, but the truth is, it happens. Sometimes it happens more consistently. That consistent stress I put on myself is preventable, if I had only been aware of my behaviors.
Yes, I shouldn’t have snoozed my alarm. I should have prepared my bag, my lunch, and my clothes the night before. And no, I shouldn’t have yelled, even in my mind, at the innocent, law-abiding driver in front of me. But disregarding the morality of those actions, none of that should have happened in the first place. Why?
It all comes down to the influence of a habit, or more specifically, a habit loop. A habit loop has three parts: the cue, the routine, and the reward. For me, the cue is that it’s nighttime and I want to decompress by myself. The routine is watching a familiar, mindless show. The reward is that my mind is able to calm down and my stress of the day washes away.
The key to this habit is that in order to stick, I have to crave it. And, can I just say, I crave that time every night. Remember how I mentioned that this cycle tends to happen consistently?
In order to change a habit, we must first become aware of the cue, the routine, and the reward. Once you can see clearly what the habit loop is, you can begin to change the routine.
My routine of endlessly watching a comforting show like Friends to decompress has to be replaced with another, more beneficial routine, like coloring or listening to a certain piece of music, meditating, or even watching the show but setting a certain amount of time I could do it.
In the end, the cue and the reward stay the same. It’s only the routine that changes. That routine will replace the old habit once you begin to do it so often it becomes automatic.
(PS – there is a lot more nerdy information about this that has to do with the brain and rewiring, etc in the book. So if you are like me and like to “nerd out,” go get that book!)
Now here is the part that most people aren’t ready to hear. It takes time and a true commitment to change an unwanted habit. You probably don’t even know how many “unwanted” habits you actually have and it can become overwhelming to pick one to say the least. But don’t fret! Here are some tips to help you become aware of ONE habit loop that can become the catalyst for a different kind of snowball effect in your life:
- Write down 3-5 unwanted habits you currently have
- Rank those habits from worst to not so bad
- Narrow it down to 1 habit you would like to change
This habit is called your keystone habit and once that habit is working in your favor, the rest will begin to fall in place and will translate into other areas of your life.
Use a tool to help you become aware of your cue for the routine. For several days, write a checkmark on a small piece of paper every time you have the urge to bite your nails or when you want to go binge on potato chips and ice cream.
Provide yourself with an alternative that will give you the same reward and replace the routine with it. Be consistent. Be all in. You’ll find that the habit will quickly change. Before you know it, you won’t have pesky hangnails anymore or you will be losing that extra weight suddenly.
You can use this technique of changing the routine in your own habit loops on anything! From quitting smoking, to exercising more and eating healthier, and even coming to receive massage and bodywork more regularly.
It’s all about understanding your own habits and how to make them work in your advantage. To create a better, healthier, happier version of yourself.
I am pleased to say that after some diligent practice, I have now become less accustomed to watching TV late into the night. I still watch Friends, because let’s be honest, I always will. But without letting myself go too far, I am still able to fulfill my craving to decompress alone. I get a full night’s sleep and am ready for my day, so I can fully be present for you, as your massage therapist.
My goal is to continue to work on myself from the inside out. I’m not perfect. I have my shortcomings. Be rest assured, I will always be growing, learning, stretching the boundaries of my being.
My purpose for that goal is to be the best I can be personally in all areas, so I can be the best for YOU. I want my smile and warm welcome into our space at Embodiwork to be genuine, instead of a cover up of what really happened before you walked in the door. I confess, I have my moments of imbalance and insecurity, however, the one thing I can promise is that I will always strive to improve myself and continuously fill up my own cup, so that I can be present for my clients and have the best possible session together every time you see me. No matter what either of us is going through that day. That is a habit – lifestyle I am committed to keeping.
Here’s to embodied living!
About Whitney Waugh, LMT