by Jessica Gumkowski
As massage therapists, we know the best results come when clients are educated in self-care and take an active role in their healing. We understand how much self-care will help maintain the progress made in our treatment sessions. For long-term health and healing, self-care is a necessity; we know this. So why do I find many massage therapists not caring for themselves? It’s the same excuse given by our clients: No time.
We are trained to be care providers. We are trained to be compassionate, objective and good listeners. We are skilled in catering to the needs of others, and we need to remember to care for ourselves. No matter how busy, taking care of yourself is a must. Self-care will help promote more balance in your life, and regular self-care will allow you to be a better therapist—and you’ll feel better because of it.
So how do you fit self-care into your schedule? Most of us already make time for self-care and probably don’t even know it. It doesn’t have to be an overwhelming commitment; in fact, it can be something you look forward to and enjoy. Absence of time is no excuse.
First, let’s define self-care. Self-care comes in all shapes and sizes; you may be doing the majority of these already, but the idea is to incorporate all of these into your life.
Types of self-care
- Quality rest
- Being taken care of
- Time just for you
- Healthy diet
- Taking breaks
- Saying “no”
There are plenty of opportunities every day where you can easily incorporate more self-care. Here are some of my favorites:
1) During a massage session. Take those wide stances and long strokes as an opportunity to stretch, but remember to stay present with your client
2) Between clients. Most therapists schedule a 60-minute session every 1.5 hours. In almost every case, you have at least few minutes before the next client walks in. During this time, grab a quick snack and do a set of wall angels (a postural strengthening exercise) to stay energized.
3) On the move. When you are stopped at a traffic light, give yourself a neck stretch. A road trip or plane ride is a perfect opportunity for self-massage—bring lotion and ball to work those trigger points.
4) While you are cooking. Waiting for the water to boil? Open those pectorals, neck and arms with doorway stretches.
5) At the gym. Cut your workout short by 10 minutes and get in a hot tub for a hydrotherapy treatment.
6) Watching a movie or TV. Turn this brain-melting activity into a self-care fiesta. Utilize massage tools, ice packs, hot packs and lotion.
7) Sitting at your desk. Practice good posture; allow those scapulas to slide down your back and imagine a string from your spine that spans floor to ceiling.
8) In line at the grocery store. Push that cart a little forward and stretch out your legs.
9) While walking. Use this time as an opportunity for a walking meditation, feeling your feet and your connection with the ground.
10) When going to bed. Start from your head and move all the way down to your toes, consciously relaxing each area and listening to your breath. This provides a peaceful way to end the day.
Self-care is a pursuit in the ability to give to one’s self. Fill your heart and spirit. Do something you love for 30 minutes and take advantage of those traffic jams to do something just for you. Self-care is for the mind, body and spirit. Keeping all three balanced and energized will allow us to give to others.
Jessica Gumkowski is a registered massage therapist living in Boulder, Colorado, with her husband, two dogs and cat. Gumkowski trains and competes in triathlons and completed her first Ironman in Couer d’Alene, Idaho, in 2007. As a certified orthodpedic and sports massage therapist, she works primarily with triathletes, cyclists and runners from the beginner to professional level. As a therapist and athlete, she experiences firsthand the importance of regular massage and self-care as necessities in the success of her training regime and busy private practice. Gumkowski is a graduate of Boulder College of Massage Therapy.