Self-Care: A Daily Practice

People always want to know how frequently they should come in for treatment.  The answer varies from person to person because everyone is different!  Some folks need treatment multiple times a week to work through some big issues while others have moved into more of a maintenance phase of once every few months, and everything in between.  What doesn’t vary from person to person is the need for daily self-care. Commit 5 minutes to self-care every day and your life will noticeably improve.

The most common excuse for not doing daily self-care is “I just don’t have time.” Here, we could totally get into a philosophical conversation about how time is just an illusion that we create for ourselves. But, truthfully, it is easier to acknowledge that it’s just 5 minutes.  At a minimum, I know you can find 5 minutes of your day to take care of yourself. I also know this can seem surprisingly daunting, and have found myself giving the “no-time” excuse.  However, as my teacher John F. Barnes likes to say, “if you can’t spend 5 minutes taking care of yourself every day you should probably re-evaluate your priorities.” But what can you do in just 5 minutes? 

Self-Care Made Easy

 Self-care doesn’t have to be long and involved or difficult.  Really, it is about creating space for yourself to tune in, listen to and be present within your mindbody. Here are a few things you can choose from to do for 5 minutes and treat yourself.    

Try a breathing/mindfulness exercise to connect with yourself, listen to what needs your attention and reduce stress.

You can do this sitting in a chair on your lunch break at work or even lying in bed after the snooze button. Either way, close your eyes.  Take a few deep clearing breaths, you can even make an audible exhalation if it feels good. Now, start breathing all the way from your lower belly up through your chest and lungs, then back out from top to bottom. Allow your mind to completely focus on this activity. Really feel yourself breathing into every cell from head to toe. When you get distracted, try not to criticize or place judgement on the distraction and just re-focus on the breath. Breathe mindfully like this for 5 minutes and see how the rest of your day goes!  Do this when you feel the need for that 3rd cup of coffee to cure your afternoon slump and see how energizing you can be on your own! 

Take a stretch break; free your fascia and the rest will follow!

The key to a good stretch is the time factor.  Pick a stretch that speaks to you and your mindbody then hold it for 3mins to effect a deeper myofascial release. Ok, I know 3+3=6mins and not 5…but it is super close!  Do two stretches a day and your mindbody will thank you for your care.  There are many stretches that are good to do, but a favorite of mine is the Cactus Arm in a doorway.  It is great for folks who have to sit down or hunch over a lot (just about everyone) and can even be done standing in the workplace bathroom if you work somewhere that frowns on stretching in public. If you are at work please keep your shirt on…unlike the illustration below, haaha!

Bent-Arm-Door-Stretch.jpg

Take the stretch just into the point of sensation and then wait patiently for a softening and a lessening of sensation. Then, deepen the stretch.  Rinse and repeat for 3mins on each arm. Of course, please be smart about this and if you have any previous injuries or are worried it might be a problem for you, consult your health care professional for stretches that are appropriate for your mindbody’s abilities.

Legs up the wall is an old favorite...

... although only the most laid back of workplace-appropriate! Just lay down with your booty scooted up near the wall and put your legs up, so the backs of your legs are resting against the wall.  Now just relax and hang out.  If you want to deepen the experience just add the mindful breathing exercise from above!

legs up wall.jpg

Give your feet a break, self-massage is a blessing and tennis balls aren’t just for tennis.

This is a great way to help meet self-care goals on those days that feel like you don’t even have 5 minutes to go to the bathroom.  I know you’re out there people…Mom, I’m looking at you!

Keep a tennis ball in your desk drawer or bag that you carry each day.  When you are sitting at the computer or on a call or nursing the baby, plop that ball on the floor and rub your bare/socked foot around on top of it for a little foot massage.  If you can do this mindfully on a break, even better! If you have a little break in the day, stand up and try putting that ball between your shoulders/back/arm/wherever and the wall and leaning into it to aid in release of those sore spots.  Again, use your best judgement and listen to your body.

Lie on a ball and drool a little. 

Ok, the drool is optional, but it is a good sign if you do! I recommend everyone have one of these in their self-care pocket.  These balls have just enough give to them so that you are less likely to injure yourself (the fad of rolling around on lacrosse balls is a little too intense) and allow for a true myofascial release because you can tolerate lying on it for 5 minutes or longer.  Pick a place on your body and this ball is probably good for it. As with myofascial release on the treatment table, remember, you need to lay on a specific area for at least 5 minutes to even begin to get a true release.

The First Step

These are just a few ideas to help get the daily self-care habit well founded.  The cool thing is, once you start you will only want more.  Because your mindbody is desperate for some attention from you!  And like anything, the more you practice the better you get.  So, over time, you will be able to better determine what self-care treatments you need most on any particular day. Once you start tuning into and taking care of yourself every day, you will begin to prioritize it more and gain even more benefits. It is the first step in preventative care and to a loving relationship with yourself that will take you far in life.