Self Care and Why You Should Put Yourself First
A big part of what I do as a massage therapist and a health educator is encouraging self care so that you, as a client, feel the benefits of my work as long as possible and take responsibility for your healing. It wasn’t until recently that I had to take my own advice seriously. It’s so easy to neglect and yet the most important thing we must all do for ourselves and for those around us. In addition to the advice I give you after your session, I would like to share with you a little more about what I do for my own self care practice and how you can step up yours as well.
No pain, no gain, right? Pain is a message from our body that something is wrong. The more we neglect that message the bigger the problem we’re going to have to face and the longer we may need to abstain from the activities that we enjoy. It’s important to quickly address the issue with simple remedies such as the usual things I recommend: Arnica, Epsom Salts, magnesium oil or lotion, internal arnica, magnesium, Salon Pas patches and ibuprofen for the really bad stuff, regular stretching and self massage and rest. For issues lasting longer than a few days or for anything that is acute or impeding the way you go about your daily routine, such as walking, it’s important to seek medical assistance. But, this is not our goal. Pain is inevitable in our lives, but we should be doing the work to limit the injuries and stresses that cause pain. Regular massage is a great way to avoid injuries and keep your body and mind healthy, but self care goes far beyond that. I will share with you what I do for my self care routine so you can take from it what works for you and add it to yours.
Every morning I start my day with meditation. If I know I have to be up by a certain time to fit it in, I set an alarm. The important thing is to practice every day at about the same time, even if it’s only 10 minutes. I highly recommend everyone have a meditation practice to reduce stress and connect with yourself. If there is one thing I would suggest to really take your self care to the next level, this would be it. There are great aps out there for some guidance if you’ve never had a meditation practice. I personally like Headspace as a good place to start.
I am not on any medications, but I did recently have bloodwork done (which is usually a good idea to get an overall snapshot of your physical health) and am a little lacking in the Vitamin D department so I do take a Vitamin D supplement in addition to a multivitamin, probiotics and omegas. Most natropathic and chiropractic professionals I have been to will recommend priobiotics for a healthy gut which has so much to do with your overall general health and immune response. Omegas are awesome for your brain, eyes and heart and also help with reducing inflammation in your body. These, in addition to a nutritious diet and drinking a lot of water, help you from getting infections and feeling better on a day to day basis. If nutrition is a tough subject for you, I would direct you to any of Michael Pollan’s books or documentaries such as In Defense of Food (which I do believe is currently on Netflix).
For me, coffee is also a daily routine. Caffeine is not something that I recommend you start if it’s not already a part of your routine, but I personally do love coffee. I’ve tried to give it up just because I felt like I should, but really, I don’t have a desire to. It makes me happy. I enjoy the process of grinding the beans and smelling the aroma, slowly pouring water into the filter and stirring it after the last pour. I almost enjoy preparing it as much as I enjoy sipping it… Which brings me to my next self care tip: Mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a simple tool for being in the now. The present moment is all we have and living outside of that is the reason for most, if not all, of our suffering. Clinging to the past and anticipating the future are the source of depression and anxiety. Meditation is a practice for directing the mind to the now. The beauty of mindfulness is that you can do it at any moment. While making coffee, washing the dishes, brushing your teeth, driving to work, going for a run, preparing a meal… The possibilities are infinite and so simple. By being present with what the moment is, the sounds, sensations, smells, without fighting this moment and anticipating the next, we are really living. If you need a teacher on the subject, observe a dog, a cat, or a butterfly, just being and doing its thing. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle is such a great intro to the basics of mindfulness and dives deeper into what’s holding us back from our true potential.
Maitri is a Sanskrit word for “unconditioned friendliness to oneself” and a concept that works with mindfulness. Mindfulness is a general practice for being really aware of what is going on around you, to you, to others. Maitri is more of the mindful attention and compassion we give to ourselves. This can be said to be true when we book ourselves a massage, but more importantly when we feed ourselves, when we wash our hair, dress ourselves, care for ourselves in mindful way. When we do these little things with awareness, we are giving ourselves love. The more we can love ourselves, the more we will be capable of loving others, even strangers. If you really want to dive in deep, give The Bodhisattva Path of Wisdom and Compassion by Chogyam Trungpa a read. It might take you awhile to get over his blunt writing, but it has some really serious insight on compassion for yourself and everyone you will ever encounter.
The mind and the body are not separate from one another. I promise you, the more you bring these things into your daily routine, the easier life we be to approach. The things that have stressed you out in weeks past may now just roll off of you like water on a duck’s back. I promise you that this works because I’ve been there and have made this a part of my practice for over 10 years and it has made more difference than a foam roller.
At the end of the day I usually require a lot of rest. The last thing I feel like doing is getting on the floor with my foam roller and yoga strap and rolling and stretching out after my day. However, this is when it is most important. I always try to impress on my clients that stretching is so important, especially after being active and our muscles have been getting repetitive signals to contract, contract, contract… Stretching neuromuscularly reeducates the muscle fibers of where they should be at rest. This is also a good time to take some Calm or another magnesium supplement to help stop the muscle contraction response.
I usually go to bed by 10 and cut off phone use by 10-10:30. If you have trouble sleeping, it’s best to keep your phone far away where you won’t be tempted to check it. If you do choose to be on your phone, most devices now have a setting to use red light instead of blue light that you can set for a certain time (mine is set for 10pm). Blue light really messes with your circadian rhythm and melatonin production so it can make it tricky for your brain to want to shut down for the day. Daily meditation will eventually help you quiet the internal chatter, but reading a book will help you sleep better than scrolling through your phone if you do need some distraction from the to do list in the brain.
This article doesn’t encompass everything that you or I could do to be a better version of ourselves, but I hope that I offered something that you can take and build into your daily routine. The trick is to recognize what works for you. Do what makes you happy and healthy, find the balance, make the time, and keep at it every day. You can’t pour from an empty cup. If you can’t provide love and energy for yourself, how can you provide love and energy to others? Put yourself first.
For questions or further suggestions please don’t hesitate to contact me!