Stress Management

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Stress and Relaxation

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a sporadic and unpredictable disruption of the digestive system. IBS is characterised by regular painful abdominal spasms, bloating, or attacks of constipation or diarrhoea.

Each person with IBS has a different trigger, from certain kinds of foods, to stressul situations to bouts of gastroenteritis or food poisoning.

Today, I’m going to focus on IBS and stress. Life is stressful. Our needs, wants and commitments pull us in different direction. Stress and anxiety don’t directly cause IBS, but they can trigger the symptoms.

Stress is small doses is good for us. Its keeps us alert and active. Prolonged stress, however, can leave you feeling anxious and overwhelmed.

There are many causes of stress – at home, at work, finances, health, family, friends or a never-ending to-do list . . . the list is endless.

Many people find that keeping a diary of their feelings of stress can help. Through the diary, they learn to identify their stress triggers. They use this information to learn stress management coping techniques.

Relaxation is the key to counteracting stress. Writing things down is one method of getting things out of your help, thereby helping your body and mind relax.

Another way is through Indian head massage and Reiki. This is what a client came to me for last week. He was suffering from IBS, feeling bloated and was extremely stressed out. There can be a vicious circle with IBS, stress can trigger it, then you get stressed about the IBS, triggering a worsening of the IBS.

I gave my client a 60 minute Indian head massage and Reiki treatment. During this hour, he became very relaxed. After the treatment, he found that he wasn’t as bloated as he had been before the treatment.

Indian head massage and Reiki work by activating the body’s para-sympathetic nervous system. This increases the body’s relaxation response, counteracting the stress response. During stress, the body’s stress response diverts blood away from the digestive system to the muscles, ready for ‘fight or flight’. The relaxation response counteracts this, increasing gut motility, and relaxing the sphincter muscles that close off the stomach.

If you suffer from IBS, or knows someone who does, talk to them about their stress triggers. If their IBS is triggered by stress, then a massage or Reiki session may be just the thing to set them on the right track.

N.B. Massage and Reiki does not replace the need for medical attention. Holistic therapists do not diagnose medical problems or manipulate bones. Always tell your holistic therapist if you have a medical problem, even a minor one. There are certain situations in which caution should be taken when receiving massage and bodywork

My name’s Tracy Fitzgerald and I help people manage their wellness.

Interviews, Stress Management

Those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter

In this blog, I speak with business advisor and mentor Olwen Dawe about positivity. Based in the West of Ireland, Olwen works with SME’s, enterprise and economic development agencies and projects as a business advisor, project manager and mentor. She is also an active blogger, commentator and writer. Olwen is an advocate of female entrepreneurship and has held several roles with Network Ireland; she is currently Secretary and Vice President Designate of Network Ireland.

I first met Olwen in August 2012, when I met with her for a business mentoring session. She came across as very focused, passionate and positive. As I get to know Olwen, I see how true my first impressions were.

Here, we find out how she stays positive and what her top positivity tip is.

Do you consider yourself a positive person?
Yes – I would. Like everyone I guess I have my ‘moments’ but generally I do try to find the ‘silver lining’ in every situation.

What does having a positive attitude mean to you?
Like I said – I think it’s about taking each situation as it presents itself to you and making the best out of it. Life [and business] can throw curve-balls in your direction and adopting the right attitude in how you deal with them makes a big difference and ensure you maintain a positive outlook.

How do you cultivate a positive attitude?
It’s all about how you deal with life’s challenges and ensuring you keep positive people around you! For me, that’s critical in ensuring a positive outlook.

How do you overcome the pull of negativity and prevent yourself from getting dragged down by it?
I don’t tune into it! I am an avid follower of current affairs and certainly, there are some negative realities to the world we live in, but it’s up to us, individually to manage how much interaction we have with the ‘current climate’. Understanding and appreciating the realities of “now” is one thing; allowing it to dominate your day-to-day and impact your life in an intense way, is dangerous and certainly can diminish the chances of you maintaining a positive outlook.

Do you consider values important, and what are your values?
Absolutely. Values determine how you behave in business, in life – and how you interact with others. High-integrity, professionalism, consideration for others, the long-term impacts of decisions and remaining ethical at all times… some of my values! I consider myself very focused on these values – and respecting others’ are hugely important too. Inevitably, there are times where events or other unforeseen issues can impact on your values or how you behave – so being able to bounce-back and recover from these scenarios is another aspect of your value system.

What is the most difficult thing you have ever done?
In many ways – starting up my own business was very difficult. Mainly because I was [like many other female entrepreneurs] a bit risk-averse… but I was surrounded by a great network of supporters who buoyed me up and cheer-lead me on the way.

What is the most positive story you have to tell?
I think a milestone for me was getting into year three of business. Times are tough, for sure, but I am a great believer in the possibility of change and positivity is a big element of that – believing and actioning change can be the difference between success and failure.

Who was the person who must influenced you, and how?
I’m constantly influenced and inspired by the great people I’m fortunate enough to know! My parents have influenced me hugely; they’re both very accomplished people and have pursued their personal goals successfully. Both have also made significant contributions to society, through their work, and I’m enormously proud of them. Their inspiration taught me never to compromise when it came to pursuing the things I believed in, and most importantly, to have confidence in my own ability.

What advice would you give 18-year old you?
Personally, I think something you discover when you’re older – is that life is a journey and experiences, good and bad – are part of it. A younger me would have been a bit dismayed and frustrated with how some things played out – however, looking back, everything happened for a reason. I’m driven and focused as a person but I also have a flexible attitude to change and expect that things always happens for a reason… though that reason sometimes isn’t clear at the time. I guess it’s a lesson learned – and maybe an eighteen year-old me would have been a bit more understanding and pragmatic, if I’d known that ‘lesson’ at the time!

What is your top positivity tip?
Tune out the buzz of negativity. Stay true to your values. Focus on your goals. Be in the now [as much as possible]… and remember: “Those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.”

Find out more about Olwen by visiting her website at, or visit her Facebook page at

Massage Research, Stress Management

Five Surprising Benefits of Massage

Today, I’d like to share an article about the Five Surprising Benefits of Massage. The article can be found at

The newest cure-all may be an ancient one: simple touch. The Chinese have been using massage for all kinds of medical conditions for centuries. Now, Western research is confirming that massage isn’t just for muscle pain. One of the most surprising findings: massage may help premature babies gain weight. When Tiffany Field, a professor of pediatrics, became a new mother, she massaged her premature infant daughter and was so impressed with the results she later founded the Touch Research Institute (TRI) at the University of Miami School of Medicine. Massage, it turns out, may boost immunity and help people with a range of conditions from premenstrual syndrome to high blood pressure. It also seems to help soothe pain from arthritis, burns and even surgery. Here are five surprising facts about massage from the research findings at TRI and elsewhere that you can put to use:

1. Pick Your Spot: You don’t have to massage the part of the body that hurts most. If you’re shy about letting a friend touch your aching lower back, for instance, she could help by massaging your shoulders instead. This is because massage creates chemical changes that reduce pain and stress throughout the body. One way it does this is by reducing a brain chemical called substance P that is related to pain. In a TRI study, for example, individuals with a form of muscle pain called fibromyalgia showed less substance P in their saliva (and they reported reduced pain) after a month of twice-weekly massages.

2. De-Stress, Stay Healthy. Massage may boost immunity. Several studies have measured the stress hormone called cortisol in subjects’ saliva before and after massage sessions, and found dramatic decreases. Cortisol, which is produced when you are stressed, kills cells important for immunity, so when massage reduces your stress levels and hence the cortisol in your body, it may help you avoid getting a cold or another illness while under stress.

3. Blood Pressure Benefits: Massage reduces hypertension, suggests a good deal of research. This may be because it stimulates pressure receptors that prompt action from the vagus nerve, one of the nerves that emerges from the brain. The vagus nerve regulates blood pressure, as well as other functions. In a 2005 study at the University of South Florida, hypertension patients who received 10 massages of 10 minutes each over three weeks showed significant improvements in blood pressure compared to a control group who simply rested in the same environment without any massage.

4. Technique Tactics: There’s little evidence to support one kind of massage over another, says Field, so don’t worry about whether your therapist is schooled in Shiatsu, Swedish or some other technique. The key is pressure firm enough to make a temporary indentation in the skin. If you try massage with a partner, use massage oil, which you can find in a health-food store or pharmacist, but test a little on your skin first to make sure you are not allergic.

5. Self Help. You can massage yourself. Although you don’t have to massage the part of the body that hurts to relieve pain, targeting that area does tend to help more. One example is massaging the arms. If you’re in danger of developing inflamed nerves in your hands or arms from repetitive movements (like typing on a keyboard, or even gripping a steering wheel for hours at a time) try massaging your arms for 15 minutes a day. Stroke from the wrist to the elbow and back down on both sides of the forehand.