come as you are
start small: simple body movements, ideas and ways to help you feel better on the regular
I was interested to see yesterday’s NPR article "The Millennial Obsession With Self-Care." I’m in the health & wellness field after all. The term self-care has become a trendy term, yet there is a reason for it - it is an important piece of every day life that we often ignore until we're whipped out and exhausted. According to the article, the new generation is focusing a lot of their time and resources on self-care.
Millennials aren’t the only generation to do self-care, though this article suggests they’re making it more of a priority than past generations. In fact, most of my massage clients are Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers. All the while, many of my yoga students are Millennials. Millennials approach self-care (as the article mentions) in a bit of a different way than generations past - it’s more phone and internet induced. While there are cool apps and internet self-care techniques that I know very little about, I still think I’m a bit old school in my self-care approach. It could be the Gen X’er in me but rather I think it is because of what I do. I teach yoga and give therapeutic massages for a living. Both of which are phone-free (with the exception of the music coming out of my phone during those sessions).
“In 2015, according to the Pew Research Center, more millennials reported making personal improvement commitments than any generation before them. They spend twice as much as boomers on self-care essentials such as workout regimens, diet plans, life coaching, therapy and apps to improve their personal well-being. They've even created self-care Twitter bots.”
Taking time out for yourself is super important now more than ever. Our phones, social media, the internet, the news, our President/gov’t are huge stressors these days. You don’t want to burn out from social activism, your job, relationships, or even from your friend’s constant social media updates. A break from these things can help energize and re-focus on yourself. My suggestion is to go beyond a break. Be active in your self-care. Do something specific, thoughtful and intentional for you and your wellbeing.
Self-care looks different to different people. I wrote about one of my favorite self-care techniques (under the guise of mindfulness) last year here. My favorite well-being plan is a free one too! I bike to a park, take a walk and read a book, or set up a picnic with friends. There is no wrong way to do self-care. But what I will say before you suggest to yourself 2 bottles of wine while binge watching a TV show alone for 8 hours (I've done it many a time) as your self-care technique, make sure you’ll feel good about your idea/plan in the long run.
So, how do you find out what kind of self-care idea will work for you? Ask yourself a few questions before you decide what wellbeing activity might be the best:
Will I feel:
"I really need a massage" is a phrase I hear at least once a week from someone. And I have definitely heard that phrase uttered even more lately as we experience a huge uptick in stress and anxiety due to this year's election. Yet many do not actively seek out a massage, unless gifted one or when desperately seeking bodywork if they can't move their neck. From my conversations with people who have or have not gotten a massage, including clients, I've found that people believe they:
Little To-No-Time for Self-Care
Self-care is a hard thing to do. Especially as Americans. We are always in a hurry and always busy. We glorify working more than 40 hours a week while shamming those who take time out for themselves. However, running on steam can't last. As the saying goes "You can't pour from an empty cup." In other words, how you can continue to work, be productive and creative, help your friends, and connect with your family, etc if you're running on low? You can't; eventually you'll burn out, walk around in pain, get sick, etc. Take time for yourself for self-care - a massage, a walk in the park, alone time with a book, no phone, etc. If you have time for an hour of TV or an hour of FB, you have time for a massage.
Why A Massage Can Help
Last year, the Huffington Post published an article entitled, Touch As Nutrition. The first line of the article reads: "Touch could properly be regarded as a form of nutrition." Safe, human touch and contact is a necessary part of being happy and healthy. Without it, children's brains don't develop and "solitary elderly people are almost 50 percent more likely to die early than those who have family, friends or community."
For many of us adults, human contact "soon becomes rationed out, reserved for appropriate moments with appropriate people." So often that leaves us little to no touch from another human. Depression can set in and the immune system weakens. Massage does the opposite: boosts the immune system, helps with depression, anxiety, insomnia, and relieves muscles tension, along with much more positive outcomes. I get bodywork 1-2 times/month. I have for years. If I miss a month, my body is pretty much screaming at me and my anxiety is up.
Human connection in a comfortable and safe way simply feels good. I have had clients over the years simply come to me not to just get the "knots out," but because they want physical human contact. That's more than enough reason to get some sort of bodywork.
Affording a Massage
Fact: you do not have to pay $150 to get a really good massage. Below are ways to find a really good massage therapist (LMT) for way under $100 :
Hopefully these suggestions help inspire you to find an affordable therapist that works well with your needs. Let me know if you have any other ideas.
Photo by Maria Kogan from Radically Restorative Yoga - a restorative class with 4 dedicated bodyworkers assisting the class
Desk sitting, driving & phone use often rounds the shoulders forward. This can cause pain in the upper back. When this happens, we often think we need to stretch between the shoulder blades. In actuality, those upper back muscles are OVER stretched and our chest muscles (the pecs) are crunched and shortened.
Below is a simple body position I do 1-2 times a day to help open up the chest, and alleviate some discomfort in the upper back, shoulders and in between the shoulder blades. Not only do I start most of my yoga classes in this position, but I also often do this myself in the morning and at the end of the day when I feel all crunched and caved inward. I like to think of this pose as one of my favorite casual hangs where I can relax into it, close my eyes and breath for 1-10 minutes.
The first three pictures are all pretty much the same move but with variations and different props - depending on what you have available. Go for the bodywork position that is most comfortable and pain-free. In the first three positions listed below stay for 1-7 minutes. Take slow deep breaths in & out through your nose. For the last doorway pec stretch, stay for at least 30 seconds to 2 minutes. You can also get wild, and go for this version of supported fish pose if those below don't suit you.
This is the same position as the one above, except my
cousin Joy is using a foam roller. With this version:
Joy is modeling the same supportive fish pose using cork yoga blocks. The main point here is her arm placement which can be used in any of the above. Try this method: