How important are you to yourself?
Hello readers! We trust everyone had a superb festive season. Now that the fun and frolics are over for another year, it’s back to the routine of everyday life… This may mean many of life’s stresses that disappeared temporarily during the Christmas carnage will rear their head again. This can be a bit of a shock to the system and before you know it, you’re immersed in work, family, keeping your home clean and slaving over the hob. But what about you? Where do YOU fit in to all of this? It’s easy to get caught up in life and forget about number one. Here at Physiotherapy for Women, we always ask the question ‘How important are you to yourself?’. Let’s discuss why this is important and what you can do to ensure you make 2020 more about you.
Self-care is a vital part of life. We know it’s a bit of a cliché, but if you don’t look after yourself first, how can you look after others, or work, or do anything? You’d be surprised how little time many of our patients spend looking after themselves. It often takes being in pain for someone to realise that something has to give, and change is needed. It’s also regularly the case that someone is stressed, exhausted and moving poorly (and not enough too!), which all play a role in why they have pain. And this is where we ask the questions about self-awareness and attitudes towards themselves.
Let’s give you an example… A working mum comes to us for help with neck and shoulder pain. She has two children, one at school, one at daycare, and her and her partner work a job each. The week is full of running around organising the kid’s drop-offs and pick-ups, working, cooking, cleaning and washing. Weekends are full of kids sports and visiting relatives. Sound familiar? Where is the time for anything else? For many it’s a source of stress in itself. Being time poor is a huge factor in why people fail to look after themselves and end up in pain (and stay there). For this working mum, her pain is now affecting her ability to ‘do’ life. The really hard thing is, something has to give if the cycle is to be broken and for her pain to become a thing of the past. She needs to prioritise self-care and learn that it is OK to spend time on herself. It is pivotal that she does, so she can get back on track ‘doing’ life.
As her physiotherapist, our primary goal is to get her out of pain. Our second goal is to keep her out of pain. And this is where advice on lifestyle, exercise and moving well (and often) comes into play. One of the hardest jobs we have as a physio is educating people on how to change their lives, so they can work towards preventing injury rather than waiting for it to happen and then seeking help. In the case of the working mum, it involves helping her change her attitude towards self-care to ensure she is running at 100%, so she can give everything she needs to her family and work. Some of the topics we might discuss with her and suggest changes to may include:
- Exercise — a must for all humans. Our important bodily functions rely on us moving regularly. Try taking a walk in the evening once the kids are in bed (get your partner/family member/friend to watch over them). It will allow you to unwind from the days’ events whilst giving your body some valuable movement. Alternatively, reserve one evening in the week or weekend to attend a yoga or pilates class. Or think about what you can do at home (incidental exercise while doing mundane tasks, or a nightly 20 minutes of exercise in the lounge room or on the deck!)
- Diet — a sticking point for time-poor people, but eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and other nutritious foods will keep your energy levels pumping and ready for everything. Diets high in fast or nutrient poor food will leave you sluggish and tired. Try packing your own healthy lunch and snacks, when you pack your child’s lunchbox!
- Meditation or mindfulness — a great way to have you time. It only requires 10-15 minutes a day and is a fantastic way to unwind and clear the mind. It takes practice but can be very beneficial to easing stress. We can advise on where to get started.
- Keep a gratitude diary — every morning when you wake up, immediately write down 5 things you are grateful for. While you can pop it in the ‘notes’ section on your phone, try opting for a pad and paper on your bedside table. It helps give you focus on what’s important to you. This is great motivation for keeping yourself healthy, happy and grateful.
There are many other areas we may discuss with you. We won’t pretend it’s easy to make these changes, but we are here to help guide you through all of it one bit at a time. Our main message here is that whilst we appreciate you have many responsibilities and important things in your life, we would like you to make YOU a high priority. Yes, this is us telling you to read that book, take that bath and take up that hobby you’ve always wanted to! Be important to yourself and make 2020 a year for self-care.
Think Santa this Christmas!
Let’s spell it out loud and clear: SANTA (Straighten up, Active, Neck long, Take breaks, Action)
Take the S for Straighten up:
Good posture decreases our susceptibility to back pain.
Call on the A for Active:
Eating so much over the festive period requires us to be more active. Get outdoors, go for a walk, take a beach or park run with family and friends.
Sound out the N for Neck long:
Constantly looking down at our phones puts enormous strain on our necks and spines. Create ‘no phone’ policy during the festive period, allowing festive gatherings to be true social occasions. When using your phone bring it to eye level, so your neck is long.
Sing out T for Take breaks:
Christmas is always a busy time putting up decorations, wrapping presents and cooking up Christmas feasts. Our spine often feels the constant strain that we place on our bodies. Ask for help so that you are not doing all the tasks at once or on your own. Allow yourself to take frequent breaks.
Finally move the A into place for Action:
Do some simple movements outside of your repetitive movement zone as demonstrated by Santa. The action of arms out or arms up and a knee lift to the bent elbow is so easy.
Thank you, SANTA
Your 2019 self-care bucket list
“New Year, new you” is often the slogan thrown around at this time of year, but we’re changing that. We think you’re pretty awesome, so it’s not about a new you, it’s about taking the time and becoming a better version of you.
Women, traditionally, are the care givers – the women’s role used to be looking after the house and children (and husband), while hubby made the money. Of course, over time, the world has progressed, and we do it all. And while there are absolutely amazing husbands and fathers out there that are hands on, women still tend to feel the pressure of working (however you’d like to define it), running a house and looking after children. And with everything going on around us, we put ourselves and our wellbeing at the end of the priority line. And that has to change, so for 2019 we’ve created a short self-care bucket list, for you and all the women in your life!
- Accept that self-care is not selfish
Taking time for you needs to be a priority. Whether that’s booking a hair appointment, reading a book in the bath (without interruptions), or going for a walk or swim, you need to do it – for your wellbeing, and the wellbeing of your family! When you schedule in you-time, it gives you the ability to relax, reflect and Zen-out. It gives your mind a break from the daily rigmarole of life. Don’t think of it as selfish – it’s actually the opposite. Taking self-care time makes you less stressed, more relaxed and happier – it makes you a better version of you, and therefore a better mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend.
- Practice positive posture
Think about the way you sit, stand and go about things in your daily life – even holding your baby! Correct posture not only helps with aches and pains, and reduces the risk of injury, it can also help with improving oxygen and blood flow.
Also try to avoid sitting for long periods – research shows that sitting for long periods can have a negative effect on your body and can lead to lower back pain, as well as the onset of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Avoid sitting for longer than 30 minutes at a time, and when sitting, change positions regularly.
If you sit at a desk for the majority of the day, check out our diagram and make sure you’re set up correctly. Also make sure you break every 30 minutes – this could simply be standing up and doing a simple chest stretch, walking to chat to a colleague instead of phoning, or invest in a standing desk so you can alternate between sitting and standing.
- Move more
Doing physical activity is not at the top of everyone’s priority list but staying active is so important – it is recommended that we do a minimum of 30 minutes per day. But now here’s the twist!
If the word ‘exercise’ makes you cringe, start small. Start by counting your ‘physical activity’ minutes. Vacuuming, park your car at the back of the car park to walk to the shops, do squats while you brush your teeth. If you can start including incidental activity while you’re doing your daily tasks, you’ll find it much easier to increase the amount of physical activity you undertake. You’ll start to have more energy, and then all of a sudden that 15 minute ‘me-time’ walk becomes a blissful idea, then an action. A couple of weeks later it has turned into a half-hour ‘me-time’ walk, because you simply have to finish that podcast! So, move more but start small!
- Make meditation moments
Keeping healthy isn’t limited to food and exercise – it’s also about your emotional and mental health. When you’re swept up in the craziness of school drop-offs, work, events, and children’s extra-curriculars, a great way to calm the mind is meditation. Meditation helps reduce stress, strengthen your ability to focus and can assist in getting a good night’s sleep.
You don’t have to be a yogi or hippy, nor do you have to sit cross-legged on the floor. Meditation attracts many people because it’s flexible and versatile – you can do it anywhere at any time. Try deep breathing for 10 mins before you sleep, have a relaxing bath, or even sit in your car while your child is at dance lessons or football practice, close your eyes and let your mind slow down for ten minutes – bring your mind to the present moment and just breathe.
You are important, so this year, let’s make a pact that we will put self-care as a priority. If we take better care of ourselves, we’ll be better versions of us, and a better mum, wife, sister, daughter and friend. Start small and commit to your self-care bucket list!
If you’re taking steps to implement this bucket list, we’d love to know what you’ve done, and with your permission, share it with our clients to inspire and encourage others to prioritise their self-care journey. Please send your stories and/or photos to us at email@example.com or post them on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/physiotherapyforwomen.