As I am writing this, the 4th Nor’easter of the month is swirling outside, forcing me to take the day off. So while I am not seeing the children that I typically treat today, I am also missing my first personal training session. Even writing that makes me sound more fancy than I actually am. A personal trainer? Who has the luxury of having one of those? Those are reserved for celebrities, right? Wrong! I recently decided to invest in having a personal trainer after suffering through repetitive back spasms that would leave me either canceling therapy or hobbling in and out of client’s homes. A couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with “gluteal amnesia” or “dead butt syndrome.” Sounds made up, right? I only wish I was joking. Gluteal amnesia is when your glutes literally forget how to fire properly and thus other muscles end up having to take over the workload the glutes were supposed to be doing. It is often triggered by the sedentary lifestyle we live which forces us to be seated for too many hours a day. The result is lower back pain and when you are hauling your office in and out of people’s houses, the good times are not rolling. I have been in physical therapy for this, I have tried increasing my workouts, but just when I would think I had the magic combination figured out, my back would lock up again and I would be in tears. After this last lockup, about two weeks before I was set to run a half marathon, I decided that enough was enough and I needed a professional. As a speech pathologist, I am the professional that parents reach out to for speech and language concerns, yet somehow it escaped me to reach out to someone trained in exercise physiology for my concerns. Luckily for me, a client’s mother happens to own a gym, is in amazing shape and who I happen to have a #wcw on every week. Thus, a quick phone call got me all set up. So where I am going with this long-winded story that has nothing to do with speech therapy? The importance of self-love. And more importantly, self-love is not being self-ish.
Self-love, self-care, “me time,” whatever you want to call it, is something that is sadly pushed to the side and neglected in professions that help others. And from my vantage point, as a speech pathologist working in homes, it is also something that many parents of children with disabilities push to the side. (I could probably broaden that statement to parents in general!) However, there is so much research that says that this time is healthy, warranted and NEEDED! It really is true; how can you help someone if you don’t help yourself first?! If you keep giving and giving and giving, but never stop to refill, eventually you run out and can give no more. This is commonly referred to in the working environment as “burn out.” And I would venture to say that the majority of speech pathologists and parents have experienced it at some point. So instead of waiting to “refill” your cup before it is completely depleted, strive to add a little bit to the cup every day. I know that there are much more eloquently written articles about this on the internet, written by people with a degree in the field but this is what I have found works for me in my little corner of the speech world.
1. Workout. Regularly. I know that I am a much more sane, calm, human being when I run regularly. My husband has even mentioned to me in the past, when I am all riled up about something, that perhaps I could use a run, as he slid me a chocolate bar. While I try not to get to the point that I need this reminder, I am grateful that I have found an exercise that I enjoy and does a body good. However, I feel the key to actually working out is being realistic about what you will actually do. I, for example, hate gyms. I see friends go to them and love them, but the second I walk through the door, I am already in a bad mood. I would take running outside in 20 degrees over a treadmill any day. I have about 3 failed gym memberships to prove this point.
2. Make time for friends. Can’t stress this one enough! Every month I see my best friend who lives about a 2-hour drive away. We plan our monthly get togethers a year in advance and unless something crazy comes up, we don’t cancel. This is “food for the soul” time and I leave our day together feeling motivated, confident, and content. My cup is full. I have another friend who I have known since I was 4 and we have monthly cupcake dates where we go to Georgetown Cupcakes in Georgetown, get a couple of cupcakes, a coffee, and then we go down to the waterfront and catch up. We do this year round, regardless of how cold it is outside. Again, good for the soul.
3. Start to notice what you actually like versus what you somehow fell into a habit of. I noticed this with TV. I would get home from work and after dinner, just mindlessly watch TV, sometimes staying up later than I wanted. When I actually became conscious of this habit I had fallen into, I realized that how I actually wanted to spend my down time wasn’t watching some home improvement show but reading, whether that be a book or a magazine. Now, I watch the shows I actually am interested in or I read. I end up feeling that I didn’t waste my precious, limited downtime on something I didn’t care about.
4. Eat healthy-ish. I add the “ish” because while I do notice a difference in my energy if I eat lean, clean, and green, I also notice when I take the time to enjoy my nightly dessert. That’s right. I eat dessert every day. It ranges from Java Chip ice cream, to Girl Scout cookies, to dark chocolate, but I have a sweet treat every night. And when I take the time to pay attention to what I am eating, that moment of appreciation is noticed and that much sweeter.
5. Don’t do things that are “good” for you but feel like a chore. I bought a 5 minute journal a while ago. The idea behind it is to take a couple of minutes in the morning and a couple of minutes at night to reflect on your day ahead and notice the wonderful things in your life and the things that you can do to improve. A fantastic idea and for some people, I know a great tool to decompress and be more present. I thought maybe I would stick with it because my attempts at journaling always went nowhere. Well, sadly this fell into the same category. Even though it only took a short amount of time, it felt like another to-do item on my list and thus caused me more stress than it helped alleviate. It had to go.
So while I am no expert, I do know that for the amount that I give my clients every day, I have to make sure that I give to myself first. And that doesn’t make me selfish. It just means I am giving myself some much needed self-love.