After the Texas freezepocalypse…

I’m working in my office one day per week (Tuesdays) and have since September. I took 6 months off because of COVID, and it’s almost 6 months since I’ve been back.

Working one day a week means that my workday is full with no gaps between appointments. This is time-efficient for me since I have a 30-minute commute each way (barring rush hour, which can take 20 minutes longer).

Although I optimize my road time by listening to relaxing music or audiobooks or podcasts, honestly, I’d rather not be in the car that much.

I’ve had one dose of the Pfizer vaccine with the second scheduled for later this month. My system should reach maximum COVID immunity on April 7, and at that time I will add another day in my office, Wednesdays. I’ll continue to add days as my time in the office fills up.

I’m seeing a lot of people coming in for craniosacral therapy. It’s so good for stress, and the pandemic and recession and political insanity have taken their tolls. You may have heard something about the polar vortex reaching Texas in mid-February, creating what’s being called “snowmageddon” and “freezepocalypse” because of the electrical grid nearly going down.

There was a lot of uncertainty with that. Even for those who came through it with little discomfort (including me), no one knew if they would lose power or how long it would be out, or if their pipes would freeze or burst, or if they would have food and water.

Temps got down to 4-8 degrees F in this area and stayed below freezing for 4-5 days. Usually if our winter temps go below freezing, it gets down to maybe 28 for a few hours. So homes aren’t built for cold. We have no snow plows. We sand icy bridges, and businesses and schools and offices close, and that’s it. “Snow day”.

So…lots of stress means lots of clients for me. I’m offering a discount now, which helps make craniosacral therapy affordable for more people. And we’re still taking full COVID precautions. And because of the downtime, I’ve been able to study in more depth both Upledger and biodynamics styles of CST.

I spent 8 days with my family during the freeze, and it was wonderful, 5 of us under the same roof, cooking, watching WandaVision (which I liked although Avengers fans had to explain the backstory to me), Servant (which I didn’t enjoy), enjoying each other’s company. One member has 4WD but not much was open. Cats, dogs, guinea pigs. Laughter.

I did miss the silence of my solitary abode, where birdsong is the soundtrack, but I was out of propane to cook with, and it was cold. My pipes froze but didn’t burst, and my electric bill will probably be enormous.

And now it’s spring, just like that, with highs ranging from 60 to 80.

We’re taking stock of the freeze damage to the plants. My Meyer lemon tree is probably a goner but I’m going to wait before doing any cutting. My spinach, collards, parsley, cilantro, carrots, onions, lettuce, and fennel made it through with frost damage, but chard and beets, snap peas, fenugreek didn’t.

The live oaks look bad but will probably recover. Palm trees, agaves, cacti, nope.

I’m doing a lot of MELT method sessions to help my body recover from a low back injury last fall when I tried to lift too much. Because some yoga poses were prohibited, I decided to give up yoga classes and to do MELT at home this year. It’s so good at helping the body to release compensatory tension patterns from injury and lack of use (being sedentary or workouts that don’t work the whole body).

I have a way to go but the pain is much less and my range of motion in all my joints has improved a lot.

Although the governor of Texas has declared Texas 100% open for business and ended the mask requirement, all the major grocery and superstores are requiring them, although how good enforcement (which usually falls to low-paid but somehow essential workers) will be remains to be seen.

Texas is something like 47th among states in getting its population vaccinated, and Houston is the only city in the nation with all 5 variants of COVID.

What? What was he thinking? Diversion from the near-crash of the electric grid and dozens of deaths and billions in damages resulting from that? Because of policies recommended during past less-serious strains on the grid but never enacted, to keep Texas attractive (cheap) to businesses? Because he appointed the members of the Public Utility Commission, which oversees ERCOT (whose board is mainly people he appointed)? Because most of the cities in Texas are Democratic — although GOP gerrymandering and voter suppression are what keeps them in power? To slap President Biden in the face after he quickly released FEMA funds to the state (in the minimal amount Abbott requested) with no questions asked?

I’m pretty sure only Republicans will be attending mask-burning parties, before they are even vaccinated. I’m pretty sure that businesses who thought Texas was a good place to do business are having second thoughts.

Time will tell, but this extreme partisanship and lack of sensible governing could sure tilt Texas blue again. I’m ready for it.

New Self-Care for Jaw Pain course starts in February

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I am a bodyworker, and one of my specialties is TMJ Relief. I help relieve jaw pain due to muscle tension. I’ve been doing this since 2013.

It has not been safe to work in people’s open mouths since March. I’m a one-woman practice without the resources of a dental office to acquire state-of-the-art air cleaners and make a large investment in PPE.

Meanwhile, the need for relief is even greater due to the stresses of COVID and the economy, working unergonomically from home, and poor sleep. People are clenching and grinding and damaging their teeth more than they did before COVID.

So…not wanting my skills to go to waste, knowing I could relieve some of the suffering, I spent the summer developing a Zoom course for people who would like to learn how to relieve their own jaw pain, offering it for the first time in the fall.

I’m offering it again in February 2020. There are 4 classes a week apart in the course. You will learn to replace the clenching habit with Relaxed Resting Mouth Position — you can accomplish this during the 4 weeks of the course with some helpful hints and daily mindfulness.

You will learn the quickest stress reduction technique available, documented by a neurobiology lab.

You will get helpful information and direction about stopping a night-time grinding habit. It’s more involved than daytime clenching and usually takes longer to eliminate, yet people have done it so we’ll model them.

You’ll learn how to work on yourself, releasing tension in both your external and internal jaw muscles.

You can learn more and sign up on my website. You can also join my email list for future announcements, join my Facebook group Word of Mouth for people seeking solutions for jaw issues, take a jaw pain quiz, schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation or a 30-minute Zoom consultation.

The class starts February 4, and the size is limited, so if this interests you, please sign up early to ensure you get in.

Not everyone has jaw pain, but nearly everyone knows someone who does suffer from it. I would be much obliged if you would share this post if you know someone who’s suffering who would at least want to know about this offering.

Antioxidants may lessen severity of COVID in older people

My email this morning contained news from Science Daily that researchers have discovered the mechanics of why COVID tends to be more severe in the elderly and people with underlying conditions.

I’m no scientist, but this was something I wondered about. I’m 67 and although I don’t consider myself elderly, I am an elder. (Humor me.)

I wondered what exactly is it about being older that makes one more vulnerable. I know lots of people my age and older who are healthy and living active lives. They don’t have underlying conditions, and apart from wrinklier skin, graying hair, and joints that are a little bit stiffer, are pretty healthy and fit.

According to this research as I understand it, it’s cellular oxidation that gives the COVID virus something to latch onto.

“Our analysis suggests that greater cellular oxidation in the elderly or those with underlying health conditions could predispose them to more vigorous infection, replication and disease,” says co-author Rajinder Dhindsa, an emeritus professor of biology at McGill University.

…According to the researchers, preventing the anchor from forming could be the key to unlocking new treatments for COVID-19. One strategy, they suggest, could be to disrupt the oxidizing environment that keeps the disulfide bonds intact. “Antioxidants could decrease the severity of COVID-19 by interfering with entry of the virus into host cells and its survival afterwards in establishing further infection,” says Professor Singh.

Source: Science Daily article

Cells produce free radicals as the body processes food and reacts to the environment. If the body cannot process and remove free radicals efficiently, oxidative stress can result. Antioxidants can help prevent this.

It appears that over time, an excess of free radicals can do the kind of cellular damage that results in not only more severe cases of COVID, but also heart disease, cancer, stroke, arthritis, Parkinson’s, respiratory illness, and more.

How do you prevent oxidative stress? Avoiding inflammation, pollution, smoking, and too much UV exposure help.

You can also consume antioxidants from food. They are free-radical scavengers.

Antioxidant is a broad label for hundreds of substances that do the same thing: prevent or slow oxidative stress.

You’ve probably heard of some of them, like beta-carotene and lycopene. Each one does a specific thing, but all of them are plant-based, so it’s important to eat lots of fruits and veggies, especially the most colorful ones like berries, citrus, greens, beets, tomatoes, mangoes, etc.

Without knowing this, I learned that I was already doing a lot of things right.

  • I drink matcha every morning (green tea is a major antioxidant).
  • I eat lots of leafy greens.
  • I eat a small apple for a snack nearly every day.
  • I keep frozen berries on hand for smoothies.
  • I make and drink beet kvass (a fermented drink).
  • I cook with a lot of herbs and spices. I grow herbs and pick them right before cooking.

With supplements, more is not necessarily better, and some can interact with meds. You probably want to talk to a nutritionist first.

I hope that this is helpful. I hope you stay well, and if you get sick, that you recover well. If you want to know more, I found this article credible and helpful.

Self-Help for Jaw Pain course coming soon

Update: The website is up for this online course: maryannreynolds.com.

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It’s been a while since I posted here.

I am well. Adjusting to these strange times.

I hope you are well and adjusting too.

Current Austin stats: over 22,000 cases, 287 deaths. The number of daily positive cases has declined from over 700 in June to less than half that since late July.

Austin appears to be doing better than other large Texas cities.

I am still not doing bodywork.

That just doesn’t feel safe any more, especially given that more than half the sessions I gave included working inside the mouth.

That’s very risky in these times.

So…I’ve been working on creating an online course, Self-Help for Jaw Pain. It will be a 5-class series offered on Zoom. I hope to get going in September. ]

Courtesy webmd.com.

The coolest thing about the class is that I don’t know that it’s ever been done before: a course that teaches people with pain and tension in their jaws to work on themselves, working inside their own mouths to release tension in the never-touched but overworked internal jaw muscles.

That is often a revelation, based on my experience of having given over 500 TMJ Relief sessions and consultations since 2018. (I started doing intra-oral sessions in 2013 but switched from paper to electronic records in 2018 and haven’t sorted my records from 2013 through 2017.)

The course will also address factors that predispose people to experience jaw pain: strain patterns, stress, and habits such as clenching and grinding.

Changing these habits will keep jaw pain from progressing.

I’ve worked on so many people (who’ve paid way more than this class costs) who have lived with jaw pain for a decade or longer.

This kind of suffering is optional.

Please help spread the word.

The first class will be limited to 8 students and will be offered at a low price, so I can learn and tweak It as needed.

I will post more here when I’m a bit further along in course development.

Anyone with jaw pain who’s interested can also check out my Facebook group, Word of Mouth: Resources for Relieving Jaw Pain/Dysfunction.

How sleep affects the immune system

Quality and length of sleep affect the immune system. If you don’t get enough sleep or enough good quality sleep, you’re more likely to get sick from a virus, and it can slow your recovery.

While you sleep, your innate immune system releases cytokines (interferons, interleukins, growth factors). Some cytokines protect you from infectious illness, and lack of sleep reduces production. Antibody production, part of the adaptive immune system, also decreases due to sleep deprivation.

So get enough sleep (adults generally need 7-8 hours), and get good quality sleep to keep your immune system working well.

We can check in with ourselves when we wake each morning (always a good idea) to see if we feel rested or not. This is the biggest indicator of “enough good sleep,” but you may be wondering how to measure quality sleep.

Measuring Sleep

I wear a Fitbit watch that monitors my sleep through movement (rolling over) and heart rate variability. Every morning when I wake up, I first tune into how rested I feel. Then I look at my sleep stats. I aim to get at least 7 hours, and I usually do.

Time asleep matters. I know I do best if I get 7 to 7.5 hours. I’m not using an alarm, so I let myself sleep as long as I want. I often awaken early but keep still with my eyes shut to see if I can go back to sleep, and I usually do.

I imagine lots of people are doing that while sheltering in place.

Fitbit measures sleep quality by duration and percent time spent in each of the three levels of sleep: light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep. It also measures how often I awaken during the night. From all that, Fitbit creates a sleep score. I hope to get 90 or better, but usually my score is in the upper 80s. I’m working on it!

We sleep in cycles of about 90 minutes, cycling between light sleep and deep sleep during the first part of the night, and cycling between light sleep and REM sleep in the later part of the night. We also awaken briefly, or for longer, multiple times during the night, usually about 5 percent.

We spend about 50 percent of total sleep time in light sleep. Our temperature drops. Our heart rate and breathing slow. Our muscles relax and may jerk. We can be awakened more easily.

We spend about 20 percent in deep sleep. Getting enough deep sleep is connected to feeling rested in the morning. It’s restorative. Our brainwaves slow way down. Our brain actually cleans itself during this stage. Tissue growth and cell repair take place. Blood pressure drops, and blood flow to muscles increases. It’s more difficult to awaken from deep sleep.

REM sleep takes up about 25 percent of sleep time. We dream during REM sleep, even if we don’t remember dreaming. The brain wave pattern of REM sleep is closer to wakefulness. This stage is where memory consolidation, problem-solving, and learning occur. Respiration and heart rate increase. Brain activity is high. The body becomes immobile to keep us from acting out our dreams (usually).

Sleep patterns change with age. As we get older we usually get less deep sleep. Some older adults take longer to fall asleep, spend less time in REM sleep, and wake more often during the night. Sleep may begin earlier in the evening, with waking occurring earlier in the morning.

Anxiety Affects Sleep

It’s especially relevant that the anxiety so many are experiencing because of the COVID pandemic may be robbing us of good quality sleep when we really, really need it.

We may be anxious about getting sick or about our loved ones following health guidelines or getting sick. We may be anxious about hospitals being overwhelmed.

Personal finances may have drastically declined.

For some, food and shelter and peaceful co-existence with others in the home are major issues.

Uncertainty about how long this pandemic could last, how long it may take the economy to recover, politics nearly everywhere, mixed messages from medical experts and politicians can keep us awake at night.

How can you improve the quality of your sleep in the time of corona? There are a lot of ways, and I’d love to hear what works for you.

For me, when dealing with my own anxiety, I recognize that it’s in my mind and it’s about the future. These are thoughts that may or may not happen. I realize how fortunate I am to have a home, food, family nearby, friends, and enough income to know I won’t starve.

And then I bring my attention to my body. I notice my breathing. I notice sensations, of textures and temperature and weight, of muscle tension and relaxation, of discomfort. I try to feel my heart beating in my chest.

It’s very calming and helps me fall asleep quickly. Turning off my mind like this took some practice.

What Helps Me Get a Good Night’s Sleep

I am admittedly not a person who loves routine. I don’t have much of a bedtime routine. I don’t put my screens away an hour before bed, but I do stay away from disturbing news late in the day.

I get tired anywhere between 9:30 pm and 12:30 am, though those are extremes. I usually go to bed about 11.

  • I use a sleep mask because some light leaks in through my curtains.
  • I don’t drink caffeine after 1 pm.
  • I put together a playlist of binaural beats for delta brain waves (deep sleep), and I listen to that using headphones sometimes. (Honestly, I’m not sure it makes much difference.)
  • I get some exercise every day, whether it’s taking a yoga class online, participating in ecstatic dance online, or simply walking. According to the National Sleep Foundation, even light exercise like a 10-minute walk can improve sleep quality.
  • I get outside and get some sunlight every day, unless it’s raining. Morning sun on my skin feels great and gives me more Vitamin D, which helps immunity.
  • I sleep with my bedroom on the cool side.
  • I use a weighted blanket.
  • I often drink a cup of bone broth in the evening, and I take my magnesium in the evening.
  • I take two supplements, both from Premier Research Labs, with whom I have a practitioner account. Tranquinol is a capsule that improves deep sleep, and Melatonin-ND is a liquid that improves REM sleep.

What helps you sleep better?

Catching Up on Austin COVID Stats

Austin implemented sheltering in place on March 24, so today, April 7, is Day 14.

You may have read in the news about the 70 UT students who chartered a plan to Baja California for spring break and took commercial flights back. Forty-nine of them have tested positive as of 3 days ago.

Zip code 78705, the area west and north of UT that houses many students, has 55 verified cases, the most of any zip code in the county. The 20-29 age group still has the highest number of cases of any age group in the area. It’s a younger city demographically.

Here are our stats (source: http://www.austintexas.gov/covid19):