NOURISHING SELF CARE FOR THERAPISTS AND TEACHERS
by Christina Pandolfo, MS, OTR/L (School-Based Occupational Therapist, Ascend Rehab Services, Inc.)
Part 3: Healing Chronic Stress Through Nourishing Self-Care: 7 Healing Habits
Establishing a nourishing self-care program is vital when working to heal and reverse the effects of chronic stress. The goal is to regain a sense of calm and balance in life, while repairing the detrimental effects of stress that compromise the body. Below are some guidelines for establishing your own self-care program.
1. Exercise: Exercise as tolerated and start slowly. You don’t need any fancy equipment to begin exercising. A doctor recently reminded me that exercise can also be ‘functional’ – meaning park your car a bit further away so you can walk for a longer period; take the stairs instead of an elevator…functional exercise builds up throughout the day. Walking is gentle on the body, can be very relaxing, and give our heads some space from our overwhelming to-do lists. Besides walking, yoga can be a calming exercise to try, depending on the type of yoga. You do not need to belong to a gym or studio – YouTube has an abundance of yoga videos, and you can find the style of yoga that suits you best. Restorative yoga (my favorite!) is relaxing and allows both your mind and body to rest.
2. Hydrate: Current water intake recommendations reported by the Mayo Clinic state 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids a day for men, and 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women. Yes, that is a lot! This is an area that is challenging for me, so I just carry my water bottle everywhere to help me drink water throughout the day.
3. Nourish through nutrition and supplementation: In addition to a mostly whole foods eating plan, be sure you are including plenty of foods that contain vitamin B5, vitamin C, and the minerals potassium and magnesium (mentioned above). All these nutrients help to support adrenal balance and health. As much as possible try to eat whole & unrefined foods (preferably organic) to ensure you are receiving as much nutrient density from your foods as possible.
4. Nervines are gentle herbs that help calm and strengthen the nerves and help to relax the body. Examples of nervine herbs include chamomile, skullcap, passion -flower, oats, lemon balm, and lavender. Many of these herbs can be found in tea formulations and may be taken before bedtime to aid in calming the body. (Talk with your doctor before starting any herbal supplementation to your diet).
5. Sleep: The Mayo Clinic reports that adults regularly getting less than 7 hours of sleep is linked to poor health. Restorative sleep is important for overall health. Some strategies that can help with restorative sleep include:
- A sleep schedule
- A ‘no electronics rule’ of computer & cell phones off by 9:00 or 9:30 pm
- Evening Rituals such as stretching, meditation, Epsom salt bath, or herbal tea
6. Practice relaxation and stress-reduction techniques: such as meditation, visualization, guided imagery, or Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). Explore and find a technique that resonates with you and practice it on a regular basis.
Breathe: Deep breathing and controlled breathing can help lower high blood pressure, promote feelings of calm and relaxation (through calming the nervous system), and help decrease stress and anxiety. There are different types of breathing exercises that you can try!
Experiment to see what feels best for you and your body. Examples of breathing exercises include:
- Equal Breathing: To start, inhale for a count of 4 (through the nose), and exhale (through the nose) for a count of 4.
- Abdominal Breathing: To start, put one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. Take a deep breath in through the nose (while expanding your belly); then exhale while bringing your belly in.
- The 4-7-8 Breath: Popularized by Dr. Weil. Dr. Weil recommends this breath up to twice a day or as needed to help with mild to moderate anxiety, to fall asleep, or whenever you are experiencing tension. To start, inhale for a count of 4 breaths. Hold for a count of 7; then exhale for a count of 8.
7. Acknowledge and reframe stressors: Remove any stressors that you can – and reframe or plan for balancing the stressors that can’t be removed. A great quote by Wayne Dyer is: “change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change!”
Questions about this blog series? Contact Christina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy Self Care!!
- Bauman, Ed. Ph.D. (2011). Foundations of Nutrition. Bauman College.
- Bauman, Ed. Ph.D. (2013). Therapeutic Nutrition Part I. Bauman College.
- Murray, M (2005). The Encyclopedia of Healing Food. New York: Atria Books.
- Ortner, Alex (2013). The Tapping Solution. New York: Hay House Books.
- The Therapeutic Foodie Workbook: Nourishing Self-Care for Caregivers: An Interactive Workshop. (2016).