The process of healing in Physical Therapy is not a passive act. It's a team effort; the therapist provides support, guidance, and skilled intervention, and it is equally important for the client to actively participate in his/her own care. I know how difficult this can be, especially when we're not feeling well. There may be a hope and need inside of us for someone else to fix us, so we may go on doing the same things, just like we did before the injury or pain. Sometimes however, it is precisely how we were living before that made us ill or physically hurt. Please take this as your formal invitation to be held and supported, while you learn and practice the nurturing benefits of self-care. No experience necessary.
Here are my basic guidelines to for healing self-care:
- Allow for sufficient sleep
- Move your body (do some moderate physical activity 30 min day, 5x/week)
- Keep hydrated (urine color is transparent or pale yellow)
- Get adequate nutrition to provide the body's building blocks for healing
* While expert opinions may differ, the basic principle remains...
* Eat fresh whole foods with plenty of fiber
* Eliminate junk food and processed foods (if it has a long shelf life, it probably means most other species don't recognize it as food).
- Take some time to relax (and if you're not quite sure how, keep reading...)
Ninety-five percent of all illness is caused or worsened by stress
As an intern, I was working with a client who had a fairly simply injury that was just not healing. She was a kind person, usually busy doing things for others, making sure those around her were being taken care of. Her muscles were always tight and guarded holding tension. I kept encouraging her to relax, and breathe. When trying to promote her to remember this mindset, I inquired what kind of things she did to relax. Her response was: I don't know...I don't relax, don't they make a pill for that? I will never forget the moment when I realized that she was not able to relax, because she did not know how. While there are pills galore to artificially shut down the mind, and concurrently, check-out of our body, relaxation that happens from within the body, is a practice we should all learn for optimal health.
The number one goal I hear from people coming into physical therapy is I need to get stronger. And overwhelmingly, the first thing I tend to teach people is not how to flex a muscle, but how to relax it. Relaxation is so important for healing, because when the nervous system perceives stress, it shifts into defensive fight/flight mode, whether this stressor is perceived/imagined or real. Physiologically the body does not build roads and heal, when it's defending for attack. It is in a state of relaxation that healing takes place in the body. For some, relaxation may be achieved through a practice of breathing, yoga, tai chi or meditation. Whether formal of informal, for most of us, it still takes a little (or a lot of) dedication to practice self-care. For those who prefer not to be bound by rules, just keep it simple and take a hot bath, receive a healing touch or a massage, make love, watch the sunset, or go for a walk in nature. Live a life with meaningful connection and ask for support, and above all maintain a sense of self-efficacy. This means believe in your own ability to succeed, and in your ability to create a desired change. This is essential for health, because while we are here to support you in your healing, it is ultimately you who has the greatest power to heal yourself!