Massage In A Time of COVID: Week 7

Holy $#*! It’s August

massage COVID week 7

Welcome to massage in a time of COVID week 7. As it works out for most of these newsletters, I started this one has a one month update. Then, life got in the way and it’s now something more like a month and a half-ish update. Things are still going okay, everyone coming in has been fantastic about wearing masks and being patient and understanding. I range anywhere from “This is good, we got this!” to “OH MY GOD WHAT AM I DOING?!” but as Dory says “Just keep swimming!”

I’ve settled into the cleaning and disinfection routine pretty well. It takes about 20 minutes to get everything wiped down. Then, it needs to air dry for 10 minutes or so before I put linens back on the table in preparation for the next appointment. I found I have to set an alarm reminder or I might forget to put the sheets on!

A few things that have been tweaked as time progresses:

massage COVID week 7

COVID exposure reminder
  • I now have a card with a date range to give you that reminds you to contact me if you learn about exposure to COVID-19 or test positive.
  • MassageBook should automatically send you a request to update your intake form the day before your appointment. I’m double-checking that you’ve updated that instead of emailing or texting a check-in.
  • Please wait 14 days to schedule if you have traveled out of the state.
  • Please wait 14 days to schedule if you have had visitors from out of state that you haven’t been able to socially distance from.
  • There’s a written policy for COVID-19 exposure on my website.

University of Maine Students Returning to Orono:

  • If you are a regular client, but just returning to Orono for classes, please wait 2-3 weeks before scheduling a massage.
  • Regular clients employed at the university: I’ve talked to many of you about exposure risks, testing, etc. I trust you to be aware of your risks, and I believe most of you are getting tested regularly. Just let me know how things are going.

Meanwhile, I’ve opened up the schedule through October. Just keep in mind that there’s always a chance we may have to cancel your appointment if cases in Orono increase too much or (God I hope not) I get exposed.

Wash your hands, wear a mask, and stay negative, my friends.

Massage in a Time of COVID: Week 2

massage 
COVID-19
lessons
week 2

This past week, I saw 15 massage clients. That may have been a few too many appointments during COVID times – because I was pretty much dead by the end of the week. Mostly because Thursday and Friday both had four appointments each. By the time you spend half an hour cleaning and resetting the room after each one, it makes for a very. long. day. Everyone was still awesome and helpful and I truly appreciate that! Most everyone remembered their masks and got their health information filled out ahead of time, which definitely makes life a little easier. 

WHAT I LEARNED THIS WEEK

massage 
COVID-19
lessons
week 2

I learned that between “COVID Brain” and generally having to re-learn and change my routine, I’m still kind of scattered and forgetful. It’s equal parts hilarious and embarassing. I’ve messed up a couple of appointment lengths, ending a little too early, which of course I didn’t charge for the part I forgot. The people I messed up with were gracious and understanding.

Since I have to let the disinfectant air dry for 10 minutes, my most frequent thing is forgetting to go back in and put the sheets on the table. I *mostly* catch that before you arrive, but a couple of you had to watch me put the sheets on (insert facepalm here). I’ve started setting a reminder alarm so I’ll get them on BEFORE your appointment. 

Did you know there is an art form to disinfecting a yoga ball? You do now!  Hold it between your feet, spray and wipe one hemisphere. Rotate and repeat on the second hemisphere! Or chase it across the room, a less efficient option.

THINGS I AM CHANGING A LITTLE

INTAKE PROCESS: I now have a second laminated form that I go over with you when you arrive. I’m asking the same COVID-19 symptoms & exposure questions plus a few that are screening you for potential clotting risks. The good news is, it seems like clots are potentially less of a risk for those who have had mild to moderate cases of COVID-19, so some of my anxiety around that is lessened a little.

massage 
COVID-19
lessons
week 2

HEALTH INTAKE FORM: Everyone will need to go in and review/update their intake form on MassageBook prior to each appointment. If you’re coming in weekly and we’ve been in contact, then we can do it bi-weekly. Other than that, I want to keep an ongoing track of any health changes and also make sure you’re looking at the COVID-19 policies each time. 

30 MINUTE MASSAGES: I’ve decided to stop offering 30-minute massages for the time being. It takes at least a half an hour to clean, disinfect and reset the room between appointments, and I feel like a half-hour of massage followed by 30-40 minutes of cleaning and prep just doesn’t make sense at this time. If you have a gift certificate for a 30-minute massage or study break, you can apply it towards an hour massage. If you’re truly in pain and can’t afford an hour, contact me and we’ll talk.

SCHEDULE YOUR MASSAGE TODAY!

I have opened up online booking for all existing clients (this means if you have been in within the last year) through the end of August. I encourage you to book online. It’s still the fastest way to get your appointment. Playing text/email/message tag takes forever, more so now than before.

Meanwhile, wash your hands & stay negative!

THANK YOU AGAIN!

Massage & COVID-19 Risks: Close Contact

massage covid-19 close contact face mask

I’d like to start talking a little bit more about the risks of massage during COVID-19 so that you know what you’re getting into if you decide to come in for an appointment. To start with, let’s look at one of the biggest factors… close contact.

massage 
covid-19
close contact
face mask

We all have heard from the start of the pandemic… keep at least six feet away from each other – whether it was with or without masks. Now, the popular scientific community opinion is to wear a mask, but still stay six feet apart. I don’t know if you’ve had a massage recently… but we’re not six feet apart.

Working Around Close Contact Rules

So, I’m asking everyone to wear a mask and stay as far from me as my office space will allow until you get on the table. At this point, you’re still keeping a mask on, or are face down with the pillowcase acting as a mask. However, even though I have on an apron, mask, and face shield, we are nowhere near six feet apart. Sorry, but my arms just aren’t that long.

I realized how fleeting the protection is from the face masks and shield when I feel a puff of breath from a client. That means that somehow “vapors” from that client are still reaching me, and mine are probably reaching them. Granted, since we’re both wearing masks, the risk is greatly decreased, but as I like to keep saying THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES.

Well Great, Now What?

massage 
covid-19
close contact
face mask

To start with, make sure the mask you’re wearing to your massage appointment fits well. There shouldn’t be big gaps on either side of your nose, blowing breath upwards. Nor should there be gaps pooching out at the sides, blowing breath out to the sides. (You might have noticed, I’m kind of all over the place during a massage.)

I’m wearing a face shield, which helps, but I think I’m going to look into one that actually fits the opposite way of traditional face shields. I like to call it the “half a doggy cone of shame”. The traditional top-down shields still leave space below for your breath to float up and mine to flow down, which is the part that is really close to you, especially when I’m working on your neck (and I don’t think you want me to skip working on your neck).

Think Outside the Appointment

Consider these risks and ask yourself if you are healthy enough to risk the chance of exposure. But also, think about beyond just you and me. I’m doing my best to stay healthy and not become exposed to COVID-19.

BUT.

massage 
covid-19
close contact
face mask

What if I am? What if you get that call from me that says I had a client who tested positive for COVID-19? Do you feel like being in close contact with someone is worth the risk? Is there someone that you don’t want to bring that risk home to? It’s a lot to think about, I know. But it’s important to consider all the risks when deciding to schedule a massage during this pandemic.

As always, I appreciate your thoughtfulness and patience. Stay negative.

Massage in a Time of COVID: Week 1

How The First Week Went

massage 
COVID-19
appointments
safety

This past week, I saw 8 massage appointments. It was mostly friends and a couple of people who had something like a million appointments canceled over the duration of the shutdown. (I may be exaggerating a tad). I want to THANK BIG TIME everyone who came in!

It was inspiring! People filled out the requested health forms without complaint, arrived wearing a mask, and let me check their temp with my no-touch thermometer on arrival. Some of you were so intent on being helpful, you tried hard to touch as few things as possible while you were there. You hand sanitized and kept your mask on for your massage, and I am so, so, grateful. It really helped make a stressful, scary time much more manageable.

WHAT I LEARNED THIS WEEK

I learned that yeah, for the time being, I’m going to need to leave the one hour space between appointments. It takes me 20-30 minutes to wipe everything down, let it air dry, and then get set up for the next appointment.

massage 
COVID-19
appointments
safety

I learned/realized that one of the disinfectants I bought is a cleaner AND disinfectant, so I can save a little time using that. At the end of the day, I may use the separate cleaner and disinfectant just to give everything a good scrub and then let it air out until the next day.

I also learned that having people just request appointments was a big pain in the butt. So, you can schedule online like normal now!

THINGS I AM CHANGING A LITTLE

After my first day of trying to use the new Hands Heal EHR to take the appointment notes, I realized I hated it. So, literally the only thing it was doing for me was the fancy COVID-19 screening form. Nevermind that, then.

I’ve gone in and updated the intake form on MassageBook, it does have some symptoms screening questions, and I have added some information on the waiver page reminding you of policies and risks. I will be asking everyone to update that form before every appointment, even if you’re coming in more than once a month.

massage 
COVID-19
appointments
safety

Today I’m working on a more thorough screening process for when you arrive for your appointment. I’ll be making a second laminated form to the one that I use for taking your notes that will be specific to COVID-19. There are some risk factors that are really hard to predict, particularly clotting risks. (Even if you don’t think you’ve had COVID) So, I’ll be asking you some specific questions to hopefully rule out those risks. I think I will probably also write a specific blog post about it if I can distill it down into bite-size morsels.

SCHEDULE YOUR MASSAGE TODAY!

I have opened up online booking for all existing clients. Right now the schedule is open through the first two weeks in August. I encourage you to book online. It’s honestly the fastest way to get your appointment. Playing text/email/message tag takes forever, more so now than before.

Be sure to review the COVID-19 Policies and High-Risk Client Policy before scheduling. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

Meanwhile, wash your hands & stay negative!

THANK YOU AGAIN!

Safety Preparations

Let me preface this post with my recurring mantra… THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES. Meanwhile, I take your safety seriously, and will my best to make your massage experience as safe as possible. I just ask you do take the proper precautions on your end, so hopefully, we can all stay safe and healthy.

In the meantime, I wanted to give you a more thorough rundown of some of the stuff I’ve been doing around the office. These steps are based on a combination of guidelines from FSMTB, AMBP, the State of Maine, and other resources.


Personal Prevention

Face Coverings/PPE:

safety, safe massage, COVID-19, sanitizer, birch tree wellness
  • Everyone needs to wear a face mask.
  • If you don’t have a mask, I have one for you.
  • I will be wearing a mask and face shield during your massage, this includes a fresh mask for each client and a sanitized face shield.
  • A fresh apron is used for each session.
  • I will wear nitrile (latex-free) gloves if one or both of us have any open cuts/scrapes, or broken skin.

Hand Sanitizer: Bottles of hand sanitizer are available upon entrance to the office, as well as in the massage room.


In the Massage Room

The Massage Table: The table has a protective cover over the padding & table warmer that can be disinfected. It makes the table a little bit slippery, but you get to keep all the comfy padding. I disinfect all the hard surfaces of the table after each appointment.

safety, safe massage, COVID-19, sanitizer, birch tree wellness

Air Flow & Purification: The windows do not open. So, there is an air purifier in the office with HEPA filtration and UV sanitation that is in constant use throughout the day. A fan will be used to get air moving out of the office between appointments.


General Stuff

Linen Storage: The sheets and other linens are in closed storage areas.

Dirty Laundry: After each session, the laundry is placed in a closed, step-lid container.

Trash Cans: The trash cans are now all closed, step-lid cans to help contain germs.

Table Covers: The cloth table coverings have protective vinyl over them for easier cleaning & disinfecting.

Disinfecting: I use a checklist to help thoroughly clean & disinfect every area of the office between appointments.

safety, safe massage, COVID-19, birch tree wellness

How I’m Doing: A dry erase board in the office has my temperature (morning and afternoon) and if I have any symptoms, as well as the number of contacts & places I’ve visited in the last 5 days. I’m also willing to use the touch-free thermometer to check my temperature on your arrival if you wish.

General Clutter: This part hurts my heart because I love all my gifts from clients and shiny doo-dads, but I have cut down on the number of things around the office that might collect dust and germs.

Self-Serve Items: The self-service baskets of mints, chocolates, and tea have been put away. The candy will still be out in small amounts for your sugar rush! Water will be available.


One more time: THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES. If you are coming in for a massage, I am trusting you to be honest with me about your health and your risks, as well as your potential exposure to COVID-19. Safety is a two-way street right now. See the COVID-19 Policies section for more details, and be sure to check out the High-Risk Clients section to make sure you’re not missing an important risk.

Thank you for your continued patience, cheerleading, and moral support!

Phased Massage Reopening

phased massage reopening
covid-19 safety
massage safety

Here we go, folks. I have started reaching out to those of you whom I had to cancel so many times to get you scheduled. I’m giving those clients and other frequent flyers first shot at appointments as part of my phased massage reopening.

Online booking is set up so that you can request an appointment. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s available, but I will let you know. You may also email me or message me on Facebook to check on appointment times.

After a week or so, I will see if I need a whole hour between appointments and how the process is going. If all is well, I will turn on regular online booking. I’m not going to book appointments super far in advance until we see how things are going, because it was frankly pretty depressing to have to cancel all those appointments this spring.

Click the links in the bullets below to learn more about the policies I am implementing. The two most important things are High-Risk Client Policies and the mandatory face covering.

Keep in mind, appointments could be canceled at any time if the state requires us to shut down again, if cases spike in the area, or if I or a client have been exposed to COVID-19.

phased massage reopening
covid-19 safety
massage safety

Highlights of Current Policies & Procedures in Place

Follow the links to learn more:

  • I am not accepting new clients at this time.
  • Current clients must review COVID-19 policies.
  • All clients must wear a face mask.
  • You will receive an additional email from Hands Heal EHRThis is where you will update your health information and COVID-19 screening. YOU MUST COMPLETE THESE FORMS BEFORE YOUR APPOINTMENT.
  • If your temperature is over 100.4°or you have any COVID-19 symptoms you will have to reschedule
  • You must review the COVID-19 High-Risk Client PoliciesClients in the highest risk categories will require a doctor’s note before you can schedule.

Other Policies, Procedures & Protocols

I am working on other policies this weekend. All of these policies and procedures are subject to changes as the state of COVID-19 and related issues change. As always, I remind you that THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES. I am doing the best I can with the situation in order to keep us all as safe as possible.

  • Daily Self-Monitoring
  • COVID-19 Exposure Protocol
  • COVID-19/State Mandated Closure Protocol

If you have any questions about the policies or procedures I have set up in the office, feel free to contact me. Meanwhile, stay safe, stay healthy!

Back to Massages: The Plan (So Far)

I’m so excited that you’re so excited to get back to getting massages! Here’s a little information to help keep things calm:

back to massages
  • I have not picked an opening date yet. Don’t worry. It’ll come to me eventually, I’m considering a lot of different things (including Maine COVID-19 data) before I start scheduling.
  • I’m going to start with those of you I had to cancel three or more times over the last few months. I know a few of you have elected to wait a little longer, and that’s fine! Please take any health risks you may have into consideration.
  • I will reach out to you to schedule. I’m not ready to open up online booking just yet. It may be a little fussy, to begin with, but once we get going, I’ll open up online booking!
  • Since I’m going to start with an hour between appointments to clean and reset, this means probably only 3-4 appointments a day, 2 on Sundays. Once I get a feel for the cleaning routine, I may be able to shorten the time between appointments again.
  • If you have pre-scheduled appointments into late July & August, chances are we will keep them. I may just need to ask you to shift the time a little to allow for cleaning.
  • Please be patient and we’ll get back to massages again soon ❤️
  • Feel free to contact me if you have any other questions!

Massage Changes in a Time of Changes

COVID-19
massage changes
wellness
health

Okay friends. We’re getting serious now, and I need you to know some things. Massage in the age of COVID-19 is not going to be the same as it was before we closed, changes are afoot. Things are going to be pretty different, and probably a pain in everyone’s butt.

But here’s the thing… I’m adjusting my mindset to think about these changes as adding to the existing culture of care at Birch Tree Wellness. This is about taking care of you. It’s about doing what I can to help you with your pain and stress, PLUS having you arrive healthy and leave healthier.

There Are No Guarantees

In lieu of a cure, vaccine, or other intervention for COVID-19, there is no way right now to reopen a massage practice without changes & protocols to protect all of us. Until that changes, there is no guarantee that that we will come away from our interactions unscathed. As I write this, COVID-19 cases in Orono & Old Town are estimated at 1-5 probable/confirmed cases.  In Bangor, 43 probable/confirmed cases. In Penobscot County, 101 confirmed, 2 deaths. We’ve been pretty lucky so far, but it’s far from over.

What I’ve Been up to Recently

research
wellness
massage changes
COVID-19

My previous newsletters/posts have been mostly about the supplies that I’ve been putting together in order to provide a safer massage experience. But let me tell you, that was just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve climbed out of my gardening cocoon and really started diving into all of the information out there.

I have taken two online continuing education courses outlining all that is entailed in creating a safer (note: not SAFE, just SAFER) massage practice. To give you an idea of what we’re working with here, here are some of the main sources I am referencing. I’ve also been reading numerous articles & books.

PPP: Protocols & Procedures in Progress

Information overload, right? Tell me about it! In a nutshell, this is what I’m doing to ensure your safety (and my own) while continuing to deliver the pain & stress relief you need. What I’m asking of all of you is to remember, I’m not doing it to be a pain in your ass.

research 
protocols
safety
wellness
massage changes
massage

We’re all in this together. I love you all, and I will be beyond heartbroken if any one of you contracts COVID-19 as a result of your visit to my office. So, please… brace yourselves for a new norm for a time. It’s not forever, it’s just for now. Here are a few of the protocols I’m working to put in place:

Before Your Appointment

  • Update your online health intake form
  • Health check in 3-7 days before your appointment
  • Health check in 24-48 hours before your appointment
  • Wait in your car or outside until 5-10 minutes before your appointment

At the Office

  • Mandatory face masks worn for the entire time you’re in the office
  • Hand sanitizer will be made available for use upon arrival and any time you need it during your appointment
  • COVID-19 symptom screen upon arrival for appointment
    • If you have ANY symptoms, or your temperature is over 100.4°, we will need to reschedule your appointment
  • Signed informed consent about the risks associated with COVID-19

On My End

massage changes
wellness
face mask
safety
  • I will be wearing a mask during your entire appointment
  • Daily self-screening. I will have a white board posted with:
    • My morning & afternoon temperature
    • If I have any COVID-19 symptoms (even if it’s *just an allergy cough)
    • How many people I have been in contact with, in the last 5-7 days
  • Protocols for what to do if I or a client have been exposed to or tested positive for COVID-19
  • Closing protocol in the event of COVID-19 exposure
  • Cleaning checklist for after every appointment

I’m pretty sure there’s more, but I think you get the idea! As the new policies are written, you’ll find them on my Policies Page. I know you’re probably freaking out about the face masks. There’s a way I can set up my face cradle so that you don’t have to wear the face mask when you’re face down. BUT you need to wear it the rest of the time. Also, yes, I will be using a touchless thermometer to check your temperature. Keep that in mind if you’re biking, walking, or running to the office.

I Repeat: We’re All In This Together

community
COVID-19
small business
massage changes
wellness

I know this is a lot of stuff. That’s why I wanted to get it out now, while I work on my end to make it all happen. On your end, it’s mostly just being patient with me, being willing to jump through a few hoops, and being willing to keep that mask on. Be honest with me about your health and your risk of exposure to COVID-19.

I also need you to weigh the risks for yourself before you schedule. Watch the numbers of cases in our community. Think about your own health risk or the risks to those you are caring for. As I said in the beginning, there are no guarantees, we can just do the best we can to try to be safe, and maybe get a little massage in the process.

I still don’t have a firm date that I’ll begin scheduling appointments. I’ll be starting with many of you I had to cancel over the last several months. Stay tuned for more details, information, and to get an idea of what the appointment schedule will be like. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Stay safe. Wash your hands. Be good.

Are Gift Certificates Really Helpful?

In uncertain times, are gift certificates really helpful?

I’ve read quite a bit online about purchasing gift certificates to help a small business stay afloat. Many of you have generously done so already, or prepaid for your next series of appointments. This is all extremely thoughtful and wonderful.

That being said, there’s something of a catch-22 to this plan. For example, If I bring in enough money in gift certificates to pay my May rent, that solves that immediate problem. However, if I can open in June and everyone who’s prepaid comes in at once, I’ve already spent that money and now have no cash flow to pay June’s expenses.

This is why, as my business has grown, I’ve worked hard to put everyone’s gift certificate and prepaid appointment money into a separate account, and I don’t take it out until you actually come in for that appointment. So, you can see how I am basically putting off the inevitable by spending your money before you come in.

Saving money from gift certificates

Additionally, there’s something of an ethical quandary. As I said, these are uncertain times. I feel pretty positive that I will eventually be able to open for business. But if I don’t? I need to be able to pay people back. Or, God forbid, my estate needs to pay you back.

So. I love you all, and if you really want to pre-pay for appointments or purchase gift certificates, I’m not going to stop you. Just keep in mind, I’m probably going to try my darnedest not to spend it until we can actually see each other again.

If you’d really like to help me stay afloat, there’s a couple of ways you can help. Schedule a Distance Reiki session! In addition, you can purchase my artwork! Watch my art website (triciagriffitharts.com) or art Facebook page (@triciagriffitharts) for artwork for sale. Stay tuned for the possibility of T-shirts and other Birch Tree Wellness items for sale.

In the meantime, stay negative, friends.

To My Empathic Friends

empathic
energy
selfcare
meditation
well being

These are stressful, scary times. And, as I am wont to do, this didn’t occur to my empathic self until I suffered the effects a few times. If you HAVE to go out in public, be prepared energetically.


What On Earth Does Empathic Mean?

Empaths, or highly sensitive people, are those who are very attuned to the energies and emotions of the people around them. This often makes them very caring, loving people, but it also makes them vulnerable to the negative energies and emotions of people around them.

Am I An Empath?

Dr. Judith Orloff, assistant clinical professor of Psychiatry at UCLA, wrote an article “Are You An Emotional Empath?” that helps people recognize the traits of an empath, and gives great suggestions for dealing with the effects. I created this list of 10 signs you’re an empath based on her article and my own experience. If three or more of these signs apply to you, you’re very likely empathic.

10 signs you are empathic:
1. You feel/react to the emotions of others
2. When others are happy, you're happy
3. Groups of people make you tired/exhausted
4. You feel drained by negative people
5. You require alone time to recharge
6. Your nerves get frayed by noise, smells, or excessive talk
7. People come to you for advice
8. You feel drawn to heal/help others
9. You overeat to deal with emotional stress
10. You develop strong first impressions of people

Well Great, Now What?

So, what tends to take me a few times to catch on to are the situations that really drain me as empath. I finally realized that going out on essential errands during this COVID-19 crisis is kicking my butt. Just stopping to buy milk & toilet paper made me want to take a nap when I got home.

I live in a fairly sparsely populated neighborhood, so I do get a break when I get home. Empathic people living in towns and cities may not get the opportunity to “socially distance” themselves from the stress and anxiety of those around them. So, while I plan to heed my own advice the next time I need to go out, here are some tips on how you can protect yourself whenever you’re around others who are stressed & anxious:

Empathic Friends
How to protect yourself in public:
1. Take a Deep Cleansing Breath
2. Visualize A Sphere of Loving & Protective Energy Around You
3. Set The Intention: "I Allow only that which is for my highest good to enter"

What Do I Do If I Still Get Bad Vibes On Me?

You can clear yourself of these negative energies and stressors with a little creative visualization. As you’re getting back into your car, or walking in your front door, take a moment and physically brush yourself off. Brush your hands from the top of your body down, and imagine flinging the energies into the earth to be absorbed and cleansed. If you’re really wiped out, consider taking a shower and visualizing the emotions and energies washing down the drain.

I’m Here For You (You Know… Empathic)

If you feel like you’re still being affected by the stress & anxiety around you, you can contact me for some suggestions. We can also schedule a guided meditation or Reiki session to help you center and manage stress.

Be well & stay well… ~Tricia