• Unwinding Your Mind Using Art 

    by Chrissy Langford LMT

    “I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.” ~Georgia O’Keeffe 

    “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” ~ Thomas Merton

    Drawing and painting has been a form of therapy for me since I was a child. It was a way to escape, a way to calm my mind and spirit and a way to express myself when I couldn’t find the words to do so. I could spend hours just lost in a creative zone. 

    After every Unwind the Mind session, I tell my clients to make sure they are practicing their favorite relaxation techniques at home to ease stress and anxiety post massage during the 2 week wait. The two week wait can be a time where anxiety levels are high and emotions are heightened. It’s important to take time for self-care and relaxation. 

    Creative art therapy can help one reduce stress, improve self-esteem, explore emotions hard to explain with words, improve symptoms of anxiety and depression and cope with a difficult or traumatic life event. It is known to calm the nervous system. It can create a quiet and meditative state of mind. 

    I like to use art as a form of meditation. After a long day and usually right before bed, I will take a moment to do some deep breathing exercises and then get to doodling. I put on some music and light candles and incense to set a vibe. Sometimes I just sit in silence and really check in from within. I try not to think about what I am drawing/painting and I just let my mind/pencil/paintbrush just flow. The art I produce in these moments is for no one but myself to see so there is no fear of judgement. I use colors that fit my mood in the moment. Blues and greens can be calming and healing. Reds can stimulate energy and passion. Yellows and oranges are bright and radiate warmth.  I love drawing eyes and lips, leaves and flowers, different patterns and random shapes. At the end, I often am left feeling lighter and free of whatever was hanging over me that day. 

    Again, you don’t have to be an artist to use art as a way to unwind. Try picking up an adult coloring book, doing a collage, origami, beadwork, knitting, embroidery, vision boards and even dance. All are great ways to just let go and quiet the mind. You can also keep an art journal using collage and doodles as a form of self-expression when words are not easy to come by. 

    Join us for a FREE experiential event in Chicago to unwind and learn more about the benefits of Fertility Enhancing Massage for your journey! Save your spot today for Creative Expression to Unwind the Mind on Thursday, November 14th at 7pm here!

    Chrissy Langford LMT

    Here are some great articles and blog posts about using art as a form of meditation and to reduce stress:

    https://www.huffpost.com/entry/study-says-making-art-reduces-stress_n_576183ece4b09c926cfdccac

    https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/07421656.2016.1166832?journalCode=uart20#.V2GKm-YrI6g

    https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/arts-and-health/201606/art-making-and-stress-reduction

    https://mindfulartstudio.com/meditate-through-art/

    https://www.health.harvard.edu/mental-health/the-healing-power-of-art

    If you would like to find a professional art therapist or dig deeper into what art therapy is:

    https://arttherapy.org/ 

    10 Minute Mindfulness Drawing Meditation Tutorial you can easily do at home: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kcAFq7C_CA

  • Abdominal Massage During Stims…Is it Safe?

    by Meredith Nathan LMT

    Lately I’ve had an increasing number of clients raising a concern to me: is abdominal massage safe to receive during IVF?  Some have been warned by their doctors…others have seen precautions online.  And others may have intuitively wondered, as their own abdominal discomfort increased during stimulation.

    The concern is valid – during stimulation, the ovaries grow rapidly, sometimes even reaching the size of grapefruits.  With this increase in weight, ovarian torsion is more likely, and so any deep contact with the ovaries would be ill-advised.  Someone experiencing ovarian hyperstimulation, a condition whereby the ovaries over-produce follicles during stimulation, should be especially cautious.

    There isn’t a clear-cut yes or no answer to this question.  Certain types of abdominal massage should definitely be avoided: for instance, Mercier Therapy, which utilizes a deep raking technique to the uterus and direct massage to the ovaries, can be a wonderful modality in preparation for IVF, but should definitely NOT be received during stimulation.  Other forms of abdominal massage might be safe, but should probably be avoided if the Massage Practitioner isn’t an expert in the field of fertility (and especially in working with IVF clients).  Though their work *might* be helpful, without the proper levels of education and experience they might unknowingly put added stress on the reproductive organs during this delicate time.

    The FEM (Fertility Enhancing Massage) Protocol™ developed at Pulling Down the Moon, was actually created specifically to assist IVF patients as well as clients undergoing other forms of A.R.T.  Each abdominal technique was designed to decrease stress to the reproductive organs while simultaneously increasing circulation and lymph, and promoting organ oxygenation and alignment.  Direct pressure is never applied to the uterus or ovaries; rather, surrounding tendons, muscles, and ligaments are worked while the fascia and connective tissues surrounding these areas are warmed and stretched.  Additional techniques that don’t involve touching the abdomen are also used to boost blood flow to the reproductive organs.

    FEM Massage Practitioners are trained to stay in high communication with the client during any abdominal massage techniques, and to adjust their work if the client experiences any discomfort.  The work usually feels quite good (many clients fall asleep during it), and many clients report a decrease in bloating and abdominal discomfort after the work is done.  There has actually never been an incident of ovarian torsion or injury to the ovaries of any kind reported by a Pulling Down the Moon client after receiving a FEM massage.

    Clients who have a history of hyper-stimulating should only receive our Relax & Integrate session during stimulation, which is even gentler in its approach to working the abdomen (versus our Blood Builder sessions, which use more powerful techniques).

    When dealing with your fertility, the best approach is always to stay safe and do no harm.  If you have any questions or concerns, raise them with your FEM Practitioner, so you can create the most helpful and safest approach to your reproductive health.

    Learn more about FEM during our upcoming FREE webinar on Oct 16th at 6pm Finding the Silver Lining on Your Journey! then Book Your Appointment!

  • Acupuncture Explained

    Kelly Lyons, L.Ac, MSOM 

    The value of your practitioner
    Why do I need to come in to the office?

    One of the beautiful aspects of acupuncture is that your body is seen and understood as the complete instrument that it is. Your acupuncture point system is endlessly evolving. If you have graduated out of weekly or twice weekly acupuncture sessions, or have fallen out of the habit of coming in to the office, this post if for you.  It is also for those who are at the end of their fertility focus, may be on a break, or are wondering if they can use acupuncture for different reasons. 

    What is important about coming to see your acupuncturist is that they will assess the current state of your health and choose point combinations that will tune your instrument, or all out repair it. It needs to be done in the office every now and then, even though we send you home more educated, with homework, or with goals accomplished.  

    There are ways to make this easier and less stressful. Pull out your calendar!  As you assess your healthcare plan for the next year, look at the entire year ahead. Break it down into quarters, seasons, and peak stress times. Book a sequence of appointments for at least 2 weeks before an event like a holiday, a change in season, or as the quarter winds down. Book 2 appointments the week before tax season or school starts.  It is great to touch base with your wellness team to be reminded of how to stay on track. This will help you be at your best.

    Women have the opportunity to use their menstrual cycle, also, for scheduling structure. The frequency of office visits depends on what is going on for you, and what your cycle or the year is like. Talk to your acupuncturist to find out what fits best for you. For some, it could be coming during your period, to help keeps things moving. For others, it could be better to come in before you ovulate.  Reach out and ask us how we can help recharge your wellness routine.  

    Come in and see us then have a great Fall!  Book and save in October with our BOO-GO special that includes a FREE follow-up session ($95 value)!

  • Lower Stress from Conception to Postpartum with Massage

    By Cathy McCauley, LMT

    You’ve received the results – you are pregnant! Take a deep breath. It may have been a long road to get to where you are now.

    Pregnancy is an exciting time, and you’re probably feeling a mixed bag of emotions. Maybe you have concerns or stress. These feelings are normal as changes occur in your life and in your body. However normal, it is important to find healthy ways to deal with feelings, emotions and stress during pregnancy.

    Chronic stress during pregnancy can impact you and your baby as more blood is sent to the extremities rather than to the internal organs as a result of the “fight or flight” response. With blood being sent to other areas over the internal organs, stress can compromise blood flow to the baby, perhaps by as much as 65%. This may result in lower fetal heart rate and blood oxygenation (Gorsuch and Key 1974 as cited in Osborne 2012).

    Massage for Health
    One way you can improve your health and well-being during pregnancy is to receive regular prenatal massage. While multiple sessions can have a greater effect on improving pain and lowering anxiety and depression, even one massage session can offer benefits (Moyer et al 2004 as cited in Osborne 2012).  The Unwind the Mind Massage is safe and supportive from transfer through the first trimester at 14 weeks, the Prenatal Massage can be enjoyed throughout pregnancy, and the Postpartum Massage after delivery whenever you feel comfortable or are cleared by your doctor.

    Safe, therapeutic touch provides you with deep levels of relaxation that signal your parasympathetic nervous system creating physiological balance, steadier blood pressure, pulse and respiratory rates; regular blood flow to the uterus, placenta and fetus; and healthier immune system functioning, emotional states, and responses to stressful stimuli (Nichols and Humenick 2000 as cited in Osborne 2012). This is good news for you and your baby.

    In addition to the therapeutic touch, evidence shows that having a strong support system may reduce pregnancy complications. A study of several hundred pregnant women who had difficult life changes in the two years immediately preceding and/or during their pregnancy found that those who also had strong support systems had one-third the complications of those who experienced similar stresses without a support system (Nuckols et al. 1972; Hobel and Colhane 2003 as cited in Osborne 2012).

    Pulling Down the Moon wants to help support you through your pregnancy. Whether choosing prenatal massage, nutrition, acupuncture, or one of our community events; we offer nurturing care for you during this exciting and stressful time of transitions.  Our partner, CocoonCare can support your prenatal/postnatal fitness, health coaching, and informative workshop needs!

    Take time to relax and celebrate with a massage todayCathy is available in Highland Park on Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays, as well as, Buffalo Grove on Tuesdays! Enjoy savings with our package options throughout your journey!

    References:
    Osborne C. Pre- and Perinatal Massage Therapy, A Comprehensive Guide to Prenatal, Labor and Postpartum Practice. 2nd edition. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2012.

  • The Two-Week Wait: Your Holistic Guide to Wellness

    The anticipation, anxiety, the loss of control and not knowing what to expect can be especially difficult during the “two-week wait.” The two-week wait – between ovulation and when your next cycle is due to start – can feel as if you are in limbo as there is no way to tell if you’re pregnant. 

    You may find yourself watching for signs and symptoms of pregnancy. Each twinge in your belly, tenderness in your breasts and feeling of fatigue, asking yourself, “Does this mean I’m pregnant? Or am I getting my period?”

    The questions, the “what if’s,” the TIME all feels endless and one seems to build upon the other until what you’re left with is a gigantic ball of anxiety and feeling a loss of control. 

    What if instead of “getting through” the two-week wait, we were intentional and mindful of nurturing ourselves by creating a plan? This holistic guide to self-care will provide you with a plan for nurturing yourself in four areas: physical, social, emotional and spiritual. 

    Physical

    Sleep is not only necessary and restorative for our bodies, it also allows us to cope with our feelings of anxiety and overwhelm in a more manageable way. If you find yourself having difficulty falling asleep, here are a few helpful tips:

    • Keep a journal or notepad next to your bed and write down the thoughts, worries or items on your ‘to-do’ list. Say to yourself, “This will be here for me if/when I need it.” Sometimes the act of writing something down allows for a cathartic release of whatever we’re feeling preoccupied with.
    • Listen to a guided meditation app before bed to relax into sleep and take your mind off of the two-week wait. Bonus: the more you practice, the more this cues your body and mind that it’s time to sleep.

    Gentle exercise such as planning a walk to a scenic place, a lake or forest preserve. Getting outside can have a calming, centering effect while you are present in nature. Try Yoga for Fertility poses on your own or building community through practice with others. Schedule an Unwind the Mind Massage, “This session was created to be a safe oasis from post-ovulation stress, boosting immune and endocrine function, while supporting a potential pregnancy.” (Pulling Down the Moon, Fertility Enhancing Massage (FEM)

    Social

    • Plan a social outing with your partner or friends. Socializing provides an outlet for connection as well as a distraction from the thoughts and feelings you maybe preoccupied with. And, it’s fun! What activities do you enjoy doing? Want to try something new? Try being intentional about planning enjoyable activities, especially during the two-week wait.

    Emotional

    • Create a list of friends, family members or supports you can reach out to check in with during the two-week wait. Is there a fellow member of your support group, a friend or family member who has an understanding of what you’re going through? Who acts as a sounding board, offers encouragement or provides a fun distraction? Write these supports down so that when you’re feeling especially alone or overwhelmed during your journey you have a few go-to people you feel safe reaching out to.
    • Mantras can have a powerful and empowering impact. Choose a word or short phrase you would like to be the focus during your two-week wait. How would you like to feel and respond to yourself and others? Write the mantra on a post-it note or schedule it as a daily event on your phone to be reminded of your intention. 

    Nurture ~ Empower ~ Peace ~ Joy ~ Warrior

    Spiritual

    • Practicing meditation & mindfulness “Mindfulness is the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment… Being present is the most powerful place to be.” Thich Nhat Hanh. Bringing your attention back to the present moment can help decrease feelings of anxiety and increase self-awareness. New to meditation? Try a guided meditation app. There are guided meditations specific to fertility, sleep, anxiety and grief that you may find especially helpful in starting or ending your day.

    In summary, while creating a plan doesn’t take away the uncertainty, it may allow you to feel a sense of control with how you choose to meet this part of your fertility journey. Creating a plan for the two-week can be a nurturing way to care for yourself during a time when your thoughts and feelings may be overwhelming. Take this time to connect with yourself, your partner and those you enjoy spending time with who play a supportive role in your journey. 

    Links:

    Emily Heilman is the founder of Flourish Counseling & Wellness. As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and Certified Perinatal Mental Health specialist (PMH-C), she specializes in perinatal mental health and wellness, supporting women and their families navigate their fertility journey, the pregnancy and postpartum period, and throughout motherhood. Her experience in the field of women’s and perinatal mental health spans the past 13 years where she has worked in community mental health, hospital settings and private practice. Emily offices are located in the Chicago Loop & Oak Park. To learn more, visit: https://flourishcounselingltd.com/

     

  • Yoga at the Plate

    by Cassie Harrison RYT

    When I think of July, I think of baseball.  I imagine it has to do with hoping a few of my favorite players make it to the All Star Team and that my team will be over .500 by then. So it’s no surprise to me that a Baseball analogy found its way into my teachings during my online Yoga for Fertility class. I used it to demonstrate the power of being present. So grab the peanuts and join me in an at bat experience of past, future and present through a batters mind.

    A batter’s at bat, they adjust their grip and the pitcher gets ready to throw the first pitch. The batter’s lost in thought, thinking about the last time they faced this pitcher, remembering how bad it went, would it happen again? A feeling of dread overcomes them, the batter begins to feel helpless, powerless, and decides they can’t can’t get a hit when, Whoosh! A fast ball whizzes past them. The batter didn’t even see it coming.

    A second batters at bat, takes a few practice swings, steps up to the plate, and eyes up the pitcher. The pitcher throws the first pitch, a curve ball, the batter swings and misses. The batter regroups, steps back up to the plate, starts to think about what the pitcher will throw. Will it be another another curve ball? Maybe a fast-ball? What should I be ready for? Adjusting their stance, fidgeting with their hat, glove, trying to anticipate what’s coming, and trying to be ready for it all.They worry about what’s coming next, the pitchers throws, the batter still trying to decide what’s coming when another curve ball bends past them. Strike!

    A third batters at bat, they take a few practice swings, feels the weight of the bat in their hands. They adjust their helmet and gloves until they feel snug and right. They walk towards the field, listening to the roar of the crowd. Excitement begins to fill them as they get closer to the plate. Stopping just short, they take a few more swings, knock the dirt off their cleats,  and take their stance. They look at the pitcher and can see them spinning in ball in their hand. They hear the catchers breath next to them, and in their peripheral they see the infield moving closer. They feel the energy changing. They wait, watch, eyes sharp, mind quiet. They squeeze the bat, kick the dirt, and listen for what the pitcher is about to throw. The pitcher gets the call, whoosh…crack, the ball flies deep to center…  

    Which batter are you in your fertility journey? Are you like the batter lost in thought reviewing the past? The past are our memories, it happened, it might feel like you are reliving it, but it’s done. Like the batter, if are you lost in what happened and unable to move forward, the world will continue and you will miss it. Maybe you identified with the batter worrying about the future? You are so busy trying to figure it all out and anticipate everything that instead you’re missing what is happening now, unable to react to your current circumstances. Are you afraid to step out of your thinking mind, fearful that what you’re working towards won’t happen if you’re not constantly thinking about it? This could result in living in fear. Fear of making a mistake, not doing everything, not staying on top of current procedures, etc… you name it! The future is yet to come, not set in stone. The only thing real is what’s happening at this very moment. Are you missing it, because you are numb with thought? The more your mind is here, present, the more you will be free from thoughts that don’t serve you and cause the constant chatter, mind stuff (in yoga we call it citta). Sometimes those thoughts are painful and we escape them by planning ahead or reviewing the past. I’m asking you to be present with them. By facing them makes this present moment not only real, but may give you an opportunity to heal.  If your thoughts are mostly those in past or future, your mind has sabotaged your time and taken you away from the present. We aim to be the third batter, in tune with what’s around you, finding your center. The power of presence calms and quiets the mind, taking away our state of worry or panic. We surrender to the present moment and tune in to our true selves. In the present we are not being driven by the emotions behind the thoughts. We’re here and now, the mind is quiet. We are present with what is around us. Not reacting to the emotion, the fear behind the thoughts. Do and plan the schedule of what you need to stay on track on with your fertility journey this summer, but then step away from the clock and be present. Swing into now and hit your center. Don’t let the fear of striking out, stop you from playing the game!

    See how Yoga for Fertility can shift your summer at our FREE workshop on Monday, July 15th at 7pm.  There will be a special REI Q&A at the start of the workshop! Then join our next Yoga for Fertility Series in Highland Park starting on Monday, July 22nd!

  • The FEM SEM

    by Meredith Nathan, Director of Massage at Pulling Down the Moon, LMT
    Fertility massage is a cutting edge field, with far-reaching benefits that are still being explored.  At Pulling Down the Moon®, we’ve developed researched-informed and results-oriented techniques for working with the body after seeing thousands of fertility clients for over fifteen years. Our award winning, nationally recognized FEM Protocol™ is a five-part series using massage and related techniques to enhance the health and functioning of the pelvic and abdominal organs, and to promote the client’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
    The five parts of the protocol focus on cleansing and detoxification, enhancing reproductive circulation, oxygenating the pelvic organs, encouraging pelvic alignment and combating stress. Benefits may include:
    * promoting egg quality by improving the follicular environment and increasing it’s supply of oxygen-rich blood
    * lowering hormone disruption through stress management and clearing lymphatic congestion (a common storehouse for excess hormones and toxins)
    * supporting uterine lining and alignment through melting abdominal scar tissue, clearing circulatory pathways, and releasing structural tension patterns
    * encouraging relaxation and an overall sense of well-being during your fertility journey
    Learn more about why this protocol has caught the attention of the American Massage Therapy Association, the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, and thousands of patients-turned-parents at The FEM SEM, a seminar geared towards helping you understand if The Fertility Enhancing Massage Protocol could assist your fertility journey.  The replay of the free webinar is available here.

  • Unwind Your Mind…Either with Us, Or in Your Own Way

    by Melissa Hinshaw, LMT

    Whether you are going through IVF, an expecting mother, a current mom, or any typical person, you worry. Let’s face it, we all have things to worry about in our lives and worry feels like a natural way to go with our minds. Chronic and continued worry, also known as stress, not only does absolutely NO good in helping the issues we face, but it has many negative side effects on our bodies.

    When you worry or are stressed about something your body releases cortisol. Cortisol is important and essential. It helps when you are in your “fight or flight” response, like when you are running from a lion, or when you need to lift a car to help someone who is crushed. On the flip side, when cortisol is being released into your bloodstream continually, like what happens when you are in a high stress mode, it becomes toxic to your system. It can cause you to be exhausted. It can reek havoc on your digestive system and also effect the quantity and quality of your sleep. It can increase blood glucose levels and even cause weight gain. None of these ugly side effects can change the outcome of your stress bomb, right? That may actually make the situation worse if you get sick or run down.

    So, how can you quiet that part yourself that twists you up, both in your body and in your mind? Am I pregnant? How many eggs will I get? Is my baby going to be healthy? I just lost my job. My father passed away…these are a few things you may have on your mind’s plate. I am not suggesting that it is easy to quiet your inner worry voice, but it is a good idea to try. At Pulling Down the Moon we offer a very unique massage that addresses this exact issue. Our “Unwind the Mind” massage is specifically for the two week wait and the first trimester of pregnancy that many of you are in the middle of today. Sometimes clients come to the center to have this massage simply to “veg-out,” as they say, completely unrelated to family planning. This treatment is nurturing, quiet, and developed in order to help you relax and release and refresh. Other ways to quiet down chronic worry is through meditation and yoga. Even making a conscious choice and asking your mind to take a break from the worry can have a positive impact on your body. “OK stressors, I know you are out there but I need a break for an hour, a day, a week…” You can use your breath to help as well. Every time you exhale you are detoxing so use that detox to help filter some of your scary thoughts. Again, be conscious in your effort. Take a minute and use five nice, deep breaths. On each exhale think in your mind what you are letting go of. Say it out loud if you can. If the worry starts to creep up later, try telling the voice that it is not helping you.

    Everyone has stress. It is not going anywhere soon. But, if you can control it even just a bit and avoid the negative side effects that come along with it, your mind and your body will thank you. We hope to offer you a quiet and safe retreat at Pulling Down the Moon. Let us help you either through our services or simply by talking with us. In any case we are here to help you unwind…let’s help each other unwind.