As massage therapists, we are excellent at helping others navigate through pain and reach optimal musculoskeletal functioning— but do we really taking care of ourselves as much as we care for our clients? Each year we take continuing education to add to our toolbox to care for others, so how about we add to our toolbox to care for self, starting today?
This article builds a toolbox for therapists to look at caring for self and maintaining routines that set up a framework for wellness—so we can successfully care for others throughout our careers.
1. Self-Assessment Tool: Start (and End) Your Day with You in Mind
Aren’t we taught to start each session with an assessment of our client? How about you start your day by assessing you? It’s a daily check-in but it’s not a to-do list. Assess how you are feeling physically and mentally, assess and set your intention for the day, and take some time to really care for you at the start of your day.
This can be as simple as 10 deep breaths to start your day, or a five-minute morning meditation. Or wake up and run, walk, or bike for 15 minutes. Self-care sets you up for controlling how your day begins, independent of anything or anybody else. If this doesn’t sound realistic, pick up your own personal self-assessment technique to begin your day with you in mind.
End each day with you in mind, just as you started. Wrap up your day by focusing on you. Maybe it’s meditating, listening to music, watching your favorite tv show, or taking that evening walk with your dog—but the way you start is how you end, by taking care of self and remembering you are the one you have been waiting for to take care of you.
2. Health-and-Wellness Tool: Establish a Therapeutic Relationship with a Primary Care Provider
Six in 10 adults in the U.S. have been diagnosed with a chronic disease, 4 in 10 adults have two or more chronic illness, such asheart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease)
Disease, for many, can be classified as preventable if we are acknowledging and managing our modifiable risk factors (activity level, nutrition intake, alcohol consumption and tobacco use).
One of the best ways to stay on top of preventing illness is to make sure you are staying on top of preventing illness. This means finding a great primary care provider(and then actually making an appointment to see them at least once a year. As consumers, we have options. You can choose to see a physician, nurse practitioner or a physician assistant, but most importantly, see someone who shows they want to keep you in health and not simply try to cure Illness.
If your provider is consistently rushed, doesn’t answer your questions completely, or, worse, is dismissive of you having concerns about your health, stop and find another provider! Your wellness is about your health, not their ego.
3. Physical Assessment Tool: Address Those Issues In Your Tissues
Many of us have professional or weekend athletes seek our expertise and care in building a better body for the achieving peak performance, but, truthfully, is your body functioning at its peak? An estimated 20.4% of adults in the US live in chronic pain with 8% living with chronic high impact pain. (Both types can affect quality of life.).
Are you waking up in pain or experiencing pain at some point in your day? I remember my massage instructor referencing “issues in the tissues.” It’s time we address our own tissue issues. We must not only provide massage but receive it as well, to keep those issues in your tissues at bay.
4. Emotional Health Tool: What’s Emotion Got To Do With It?
Mental health is as important as physical health, so what are you doing to care for your brain, mind and emotional self? Seek out whomever can help you feel at your mental best, whether psychiatrist, mental health nurse practitioner, licensed professional counselor, licensed clinical social worker or life coach, and care for your mental health as much as you care for your physical health.
5. Nutrition Tool: Fuel Your Body.
The first time I realized how physically demanding massage therapy was I was in massage school. I had donated blood and was told “no physical activity for 24 hours,” but I then had a practice session set up with my mom to get ready for class the next day. In the middle of the massage, I fainted and completely freaked my mom out, but regained consciousness before 911 (my sister who is also a nurse) arrived. I fainted because I hadn’t restored what was lost in sufficient time for any type of activity. including providing bodywork on another human.
Nutrition is fuel. What you put into your body as nutrition will affect how you feel physically and mentally; and will affect what you can do, physically and mentally.
The bottom line is, take in more good than not so good. Nutrition doesn’t have to be perfect to prevent illness or to help you feel your best each day, just make it a little better. One meal at a time. ChooseMyPlate.gov provides guidelines for nutritional intake and for a different perspective, maybe even a bit more realistic one, The Family Institute provides ways to modify your plate to reflect geographic and cultural influences.
About the Author
Lenetra L. Jefferson, PhD, RN, CNE, CNL, LMT, became a massage therapist in 2004, graduating from Delgado Community College in New Orleans, Louisiana. After having been a nurse, she found herself not feeling very therapeutic in her approach to patient care. A nursing colleague who was certified in Healing Touch suggested she try the massage therapy program. She has worked as an independent contractor and taught at both Delgado and Blue Cliff College in the massage therapy program. She is currently an assistant professor of nursing at Troy University in Troy, Alabama, and is still seeking ways to maintain therapeutic relationships with patients and clients, not simply focused on giving medication and causing unnecessary discomforts. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.