One of our big goals when working with clients is we want your ongoing necessary self-care – to will prevent your problem from coming back to only be five to ten minutes a day, spread throughout your day.
In today’s post, I explain how that is possible.
How can you get to the point where you only need to do five or ten minutes a day of self-care and what does that look like?
When I’m talking about self-care I’m talking about the stretches and exercises that you do to keep not having pain in your body.
At the clinic, we see all sorts, like runners, cyclists, triathletes, desk workers, office workers, electricians and dancers.
When we’re talking about fitting our self-care in very often we’re talking to people that have busy and full lives.
- They have a demanding job.
- They have hobbies they enjoy.
- They have kids.
- They have people they’re caring for.
- They have stuff to do.
It’s just not reasonable to expect them to do 20 minutes of exercises in the morning, 20 minutes in the evening, or five exercises every day.
Unfortunately, this is often what you’ll get when you go somewhere and ask for help. They give you all these exercises that you ‘need’ to do, aka that could possibly do.
One of the reasons you get these groups of exercise is because a lot of the studies that have been done regarding rehabilitation look at exercise clusters as the best way to rehabilitate people.
They do a series of exercises and find the whole combination work for people…
For example, undertaking the FIFA 11 plus (a warm-up exercise series for footballers) has been found to decrease the injuries in footballers by 30 to 50 percent – it is a really significant improvement.
A lot of times they’re working with this concept, that a series of exercises is the best form for everyone, so that’s what practitioners want you to do.
We take a different approach because
1) I’m bad at doing my own self-care, but also
2) I don’t want to spend all my time stretching.
I want to live my life.
I want time to do the stuff I enjoy, not just spend all my free time doing exercises
I’ve seen this over and over again with clients – the more time it takes to do it, the quicker people stop doing it when they stop having pain.
Some people will be really religious about their self-care until they stop feeling pain. Then they stop finding time for it because the reward of doing the exercise is lower.
They’re not in pain so doing the exercise doesn’t get them out of pain.
But for long-term success, you really need to be doing your self-care exercises regularly.
Otherwise, it starts to build up slowly over time. Then you get to a point where you’re in pain again.
Often we’re starting back over and we have to go back and undo all of the imbalances that have built up over that time of not doing the home exercises.
Okay, then – how do you get to five to ten minutes a day of self-care?
First, you need to understand which exercise does which thing for you.
I use this a lot when I’m working with people who work in front of a computer, so I’ll use this computer-related issue as the example today – but it can apply to almost everything.
For example, if you have pain on the top of your shoulder, one of the stretches that I give is the chest stretch. (It’s the first stretch that I teach in my neck and shoulder pain course, No Pain at Work.)
You might find that when you do the chest stretch it gets rid of the top of the shoulder pain but it doesn’t get rid of the discomfort at the base of the neck, for example.
If you’re only doing that one exercise for a few days, you can see what it does do and what it doesn’t do.
That starts to build a vocabulary of ‘oh when I have this problem I do this exercise’.
You start to learn what exercise helps which element of the body and what works for you.
Unlike if I gave you all five exercises to do at once. You might be doing them every day and feel better but you don’t know which exercise helped which thing.
You basically HAVE TO do all of them when you have that pain, whereas if you know that one stretch is good for one element of the neck and another stretch is good for a different problem, you can always just do one thing for one problem.
Second, you need to work to the centre of the onion when it comes to your problem.
The pain you feel is your body responding to an imbalance somewhere else.
Going back to the top of the shoulder example this usually happens because your head is forward because the front neck muscles are tight and your chest is rounded.
There are a few reasons that this creates aches or pains, and it’s not just the tension there.
For example, pain in the top of the shoulder, pain between the shoulder blades, pain at the base of the neck can basically all be fixed by opening your shoulders and having your head over your shoulders.
You could do multiple stretches for the shoulders, back and neck, or you can know one exercise or stretch that relieves all the problems that create that tension.
When you get to the ‘centre of the onion’ of why am I having these pains, you can do the one stretch or exercise that addresses the cause of all the other ones, versus having to do a different stretch or exercise for each symptom.
Finally, you learn how to assess yourself so that you know what to focus on.
When clients come to see us we’ll do that assessment in a session. We’ll identify the main problems, so these are the things that you need to work on.
If you get my course No Pain at Work, I have a formula that I created that enables you to assess yourself. The formula enables you to identify two to three things that you should be doing for the next couple of weeks to address imbalances and pain.
The other thing that’s really important for self-care is to make sure you’re actually doing it – you want to externalize your memory. I have a video on the topic of externalising memory and which goes into more detail.
If you can set things up in your environment so that you don’t have to remember, you won’t forget to do your self-care.
For a lot of people, they go ‘okay, I’ll do the stuff’ but they don’t set up reminders in their environment outside of themselves. They get to the end of the day and realize they’ve totally forgotten.
That’s why when we work with clients or in my course, No Pain at Work, for every single stretch and exercise we give you we also look at how to fit it into your life.
A lot of things can be done two minutes before you go to bed so you go to bed and do a stretch while you’re in bed.
Or it’s something that you can do for one to two minutes in the morning to wake up certain muscles that you need to support your body.
Or it’s a stretch that takes 30 seconds, that you can just do in your day. You tie it to something, either you set an alarm or you put a note up somewhere so that when you see it you can remember.
This is, very simply, how you can set up your self-care to five to ten minutes a day. It’s very, very doable and you don’t even have to worry about remembering it.
If you’d like to start with a very simple shift, I have a desk posture checklist, so any time you’re sitting at a computer this explains how you can adjust your desk posture.
It’s got a little print-out you can put up as a reminder and it’s got a seven-minute training.
Literally, if you download it, within seven minutes you can start having better posture and that goes a huge way towards helping your neck and shoulder pain.
Now that you know how to have five to ten minutes of self-care a day, are you going to be able to fit it into your life?
Are you going to start doing some of the stuff that maybe the bodyworker massage therapist that you’ve been seeing is telling you or do you have more questions?
Let me know in the comments, and if you know anybody else who struggles with fitting in their self-maintenance please send this link over to them.