I bet that a good majority of us can relate to having aches and pains, stiffness, post workout soreness, tiredness, trouble sleeping, stomach trouble, and so on. The other piece of this is that many of us know exactly what we need to do in order to maintain good health mentally, physically, and emotionally. I wonder then why we don’t do it…or do it enough? If you are anything like me, I can start off with the best of intentions! But as the days, weeks, and months go by, I I fall off the wagon.
For example, it may be no problem for you to get to the gym and jump on a treadmill. Maybe even an hour goes by and you feel like you killing it. But, why don’t many of us not take an extra 5-10 minutes to stretch after our workout to help ease upcoming muscle soreness??? (Or is this just me??!)
I have several self-care tools that I know make me feel better, decrease pain, encourage better sleep, provide mental peace, and aid in digestion. When I think about all of the things I have been told to do for self-care, I quickly become overwhelmed. (Who’s got time for all of that??!) That is why I have decided to come up with an efficient self-care toolbox for common issues. Please feel free to make any adjustments to tailor these ideas to you and your routines specifically!
From the top!
Neck self-care with range of motion exercises:
1. Bring chin down toward chest, and bring chin back up toward ceiling. (As if shaking your head yes.) Go slow and hold at the top and bottom for 5 seconds.
2. Tilt head toward one shoulder and then the other. (Think ear toward shoulder, without over stretching or going to a painful place.)
3. Turn head to face left. Return to a neutral position. Then turn head to face right. (As if shaking your head no.)
I like to carve out a few extra minutes in the shower to do these stretches while the hot water runs down my neck and back.
The Sternocleidomastoid Muscle:
Our lives are full, and many of us carry stress in the neck and shoulders. Our muscles can become overly stressed, frozen, and shortened if we are not actively letting go! With prolonged head forward posture, your SCM will become shortened & tight. Eventually, your SCM will actually pull your head forward making it difficult for you to bring your head back into correct posture.
1. Lay your head on the pillow and turn it to one side.
2. Lift your head off the pillow and your SCM will be obviously standing out.
3. Grasp the muscle then rest your head back on the pillow.
4. Self-massage, gently pinching up and down the length of the muscle.
5. Do this each night when you first get into bed for both sides.
Show off your beautiful upper back with great posture!
Each night after brushing your teeth, look into the mirror and,
1. Tuck in your chin. Make sure your shoulders are back & down.
2. Squeeze your shoulder blades together – repeat 20 times.
3. Try not to involve your arms – only your shoulder blades.
4. Watch your shoulders in the mirror to ensure they stay down.
5. If you allow your shoulders to ride up, you’re actually using your Mid & Upper Trapezius instead of your Rhomboids, thus exacerbating the problem.
Oh my achin back!
Let’s be more intentional to perform a posture check ensuring we are not arching or flattening the spine. This can be done on any wall at any time throughout your day.
1. Reach the top of your head upward while looking straight ahead.
2. Keep your shoulders back, relaxed and level-not rounded forward.
3. Hold chest slightly up and forward.
4. Pull belly button into spine, but breathe normally.
5. Knees straight, but not locked.
6. Feel your body weight over the middle of your feet. Not your toes or your heels.
7. Keep your correct standing posture as you walk away from the wall.
(My cue for making sure my pelvis is aligned properly and my posture is good is, “get your butt under ya!”) (rather than sticking it out when you are trying to stand up straight!)
How is your IT band?
This can feel a lot like knee pain. Many cyclist and runners will struggle with this issue.
First, what is the Iliotibial band and is it angry?
Stretching and strengthening the IT band:
1. Foam roll the entire band for 5- 10 minutes. Do not forget the glutes and piriformis! Check out the Habitude Fitness Foam Roller Post!
2. Four points seated stretch. Lean into this.
Deep breathing has been proven to provide many benefits. We can feel calmer and ward off feelings of stress, anxiety or fear. These deep breaths have been noted to be a natural painkiller by producing endorphins. The upward and downward motion of the diaphragm helps rid waste and toxins from the bloodstream and provides better blood flow.
This type of breathing needs to be practiced. I like to take time at red lights to perform these belly breaths, or attempt to focus on this technique while I am lying in bed at night preparing for sleep.
Especially this chilly time of year I tend to take a lot of baths. Not only do they warm me up and keep me warm, they help ease muscle soreness and tension. The best way to experience a detox tub is by using simple Epsom’s salt that you can find at any local store or pharmacy!
Ease stress and improves sleep and concentration
Help muscles and nerves function properly
Regulate activity of 325+ enzymes
Help prevent artery hardening and blood clots
Make insulin more effective
Reduce inflammation to relieve pain and muscle cramps
Improve oxygen use
Improve absorption of nutrients
Help form joint proteins, brain tissue and mucin proteins
Help prevent or ease migraine headaches –healhtylivinghowto.com
My last self-care goal is to drink more tea. I enjoy tea, and the benefits it provides. Often if I sip some peppermint tea or a wellness tea after my evening meal, my stomach relaxes and feels soothed; as well as my muscles and mind!
Chamomile is one of the most popular herbs in the world, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, despite the lack of studies on humans for its medicinal benefits. It works to soothe an upset stomach by relaxing muscle contractions in the smooth muscle of the digestive tract. Chamomile has been used traditionally to treat a variety of digestive issues, including stomach cramps, irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion and gas. Peppermint works by both calming the muscles of the stomach and improving the flow of bile. Bile comes from the gallbladder and helps to digest fats, which means peppermint tea may help if you have an upset stomach due to overeating fatty foods. –livestrong.com
There are quite a few things to do in this self-care list. However, many of them can be done in the shower, in the car, lying in bed, at the office, or while watching T.V. I encourage you to work these care techniques into your week for 21 days. This is the length it takes to develop a new habit. Let’s see if our workouts improve and/or our aches decrease. Schedule these thing into your calendar just like you would a meeting or coffee with a friend. When your smart phone reminds you, do it! Note any changes and let’s make a goal to be active until we are old and wrinkly!
If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got…and feel like you’ve always felt!