How to Self Care
Here are some tips to help you actually want to do your self care instead of groaning at it as just another chore. Holistic treatments for pain relief and health require time, repetition, and consistency. Agreed? Now raise your hand if the first thought that comes to mind when you are given stretches by your physical therapist, meditation suggestions by your massage therapist, or basically any home care by anyone ever is “Oh, great. Another thing to do.”
Totally normal reaction. Between all the things you already have to do, trying to squeeze in a stretching routine or self massage can seem like a burden. But think back to when you were first learning to brush your teeth. When you’re a kid, that two minutes morning and night seems like the most cumbersome, intrusive activity in the world. Now it’s something that you barely think about, right?
Incorporating new self care routines is much like learning to brush your teeth. Annoying at first and then it becomes habit.
Find Your Motivation
To help ameliorate the annoying part, first find your “why.” One technique healthcare professionals use to help their clients stick to their routines is called motivational interviewing. Basically, it’s a series of questions designed to help you verbalize your reasons for wanting to feel better than you do at present. Do this for yourself to cement the goal you hope to achieve.
This might seem like a really obvious thing. You want to get out of pain because pain hurts. You want to lose weight to be healthier. You want to stretch so you can be more flexible. But none of these reasons have emotional ties to them, making it easy to fall back into your established, comfortable patterns.
Finding the deep, emotional reason provides much better fuel for your action. A method I find really helpful is to ask “Why?” seven times. Doing this with another person as a sounding board can be really helpful. Here’s what it looks like:
Questioner: Why do you want to do self massage every day?
You: So I can fix my back pain.
Questioner: Why do you want to fix your back pain? You: Because it hurts. Because it is distracting when I am trying to work. I can’t focus on the conversations my family is having.
Questioner: It sounds like your back pain is interfering with your work life and family life. Is that right? You: Yes. It feels like I’m only half there. Questioner: Why is it important important for you to be fully present?
Continue that way until you have given an answer to “Why?” seven times, offering clarification when your question partner asks. By the time you reach the seventh why, you will have hit an emotional motivation that you can really hold on to and return to when you feel like it’s too much to do.
Make it Work for Your Schedule
Once you find your motivation to commit to your new self care, the next biggest hurdle can be time. Often care providers propose home care as if you are supposed to carve out huge chunks of time to dedicate solely to these practices regardless of your other commitments. But that’s really unreasonable. You have a life, and unless you have the luxury of suspending your normal routine for several months or longer, it needs your attention.
Three of the best ways to incorporate your new routine into your existing one are to 1) break it into smaller pieces, 2) use the periphery, and 3) stay flexible. Thirty minutes of straight stretching can seem overwhelming or like an unreasonable ton of time to block off in your world. But doing one stretch, two minutes at most? Much easier! Whenever you find you have a couple free moments, perform one aspect of your new self care - when you get into your car, before you get out of it, standing in line, waiting for water to boil, watching coffee finish dripping, at lunch.
Some of the minutes you find might be in public. At work, the grocery store, for coffee. It might make you feel a little self conscious. Remembering your “why” can go a long way to helping to overcome that hesitancy. Plus you can always choose your more subtle moves for the public realm leaving anything ostentatious for privacy of your home which leads us to the next suggestion.
Just like brushing your teeth is done at the very beginning and the very end of your day, tacking on your stretches, massage, or exercises to the edges of your day can make the time commitment seem much less overwhelming. For example, I do the Arvigo abdominal self massage every day. I do this in the morning at the same time I do my lotion routine. Takes 10 minutes, happens long before any of my other responsibilities must be addressed, and is combined with something I have already ritualized.
Another great thing? You can keep the option for flexibility open. If I’m running late in the morning, I can do it later. Don’t trap yourself into thinking you must do things at exactly the same time every day for the same length of time. Life doesn’t work like that as we know.
Last, it doesn’t matter how much time you make if you don’t enjoy what you are doing. Even the best of motivations can be worn away if you are bored or hating the steps you are taking to achieve your goals. There are many different tools to use to achieve an outcome. Yoga or static stretching. Running or swimming. Thai ab massage or Maya. Find what works for you or change it up if things start to feel stagnant. What other tools do you use to keep up with your self care? How do these tools work for you? Let me know in the comments!
And share this with someone you know who has trouble sticking to their self care!
LMBT & Founder of Philosopher's Stone Therapeutic Massage
Serving Haddonfield, NJ and Surrounding Areas
Rhiannon loves helping you solve your pain puzzles! A chronic pain specialist with a sub-specialty in pelvic dysfunction, she understands the huge impact pain can have on your life and is dedicated to helping you reach your health goals so you can enjoy your life fully and whole. Though her style can sometimes be described as "therapeutic fluff," she is not the therapist to see for a "just to treat myself" massage.
Augmenting her initial massage training with multiple courses and certifications including SMRT, ATMAT, and IHPS she has the skills to create effective and lasting change for you. But don't go on blind faith - check out her amazing reviews!