Greetings and welcome to my first post for 2017! I am so excited to be writing to everyone today.
Let me start off by saying I think January can be a very overwhelming month for some people. There’s always a ton of pressure to make a new year’s resolution, and usually that resolution involves getting in shape or healthy or something along those lines.
I know I usually talk about food, nutrition, and other dietary principles, but I wanted to take a moment talk about some of the other self-care/personal care practices that I’m a big fan of. I think health isn’t just about what you weigh, how much you lift, or how much you eat, but also a overall sense of wellbeing. It’s so easy to get caught up in how many grams of carbohydrate you ate one day or how many miles you ran the next. Put simply, these are some of my favorite self-care practices that just make me feel good. If you incorporate any (or all of these practices) into your routine, I definitely think you’re going to look, and, more importantly, feel healthy.
1. Gua Sha
I learned about gua sha from my physical therapist of all people. It’s no secret that trainers get injured just like everyone else. But after a bout of bad health this year that resulted in full-body tendinitis (long story for another post), I was in a ton of pain for 2016 and was desperate for a form of pain management that didn’t involve popping pills all day.
Enter this little piece of stone that became probably my best friend of this past year. Gua sha is an ancient Chinese practice that’s kind of a cross between massage and physical therapy. Basically, you rub the stone on problem areas in various patterns. It is thought that the redness or ‘sha’ that develops on your skin helps with blood flow, circulation, breaking up collagen, and promoting recovery.
I’m actually a huge fan of gua sha on your face after taking off makeup and thoroughly cleansing your skin, and I know I’m not the first in the skincare world to do this. Check out this super cool demo of facial gua sha. The acupuncturist in this video also gives some more insights on gua sha and its health benefits.
2. Foam Rolling
Another self-practice I’m a huge fan of is foam rolling. Unlike gua sha, this is a pretty conventional recovery method that a lot of trainers and fitness enthusiasts have talked about.
The technical term for foam rolling is called self-myofascial release. Let’s take a minute to break that down:
- Self → Unlike a message therapist where you might have to drop a serious junk of change, with foam rolling you’re doing the work yourself. This can make it convenient for right after your working out, for people with budget concerns (i.e. myself) or for people who have hectic schedules and simply can’t get to the spa.
- Myofascial → This term refers to your fascia, a very thin layer of fibrous tissue that is around all muscles and organs. Basically, underneath both your epidermis and your dermis, you also have a layer of fascia that sits between the skin and the muscle. Now, there are a ton of theories out there about fascia, like how problems with your fascia can cause cellulite in your hips and thighs. I really can’t comment specifically on these methodologies, but most healthcare professionals would agree that tension in the fascia is not a good thing and often accompanies muscle tension/soreness/injuries. So for instance, if you have tight calves that feel sore when you foam roll, the calf muscles could very well be sore. But most likely your fascia is also tight, and sometimes tight fascia could be causing or contributing to your symptoms. This is one of the main premises of foam rolling; using a foam roller can help with problems associated with fascia.
- Release → Release refers to the release of fascia tension in the body. The rolling sensation helps break down scar tissue, muscle tension, and fascia tension that could be contributing to your aches and pain.
Check out this simple full body foam rolling routine. I’ll admit I don’t agree with everything this instructor is doing, but it’s a good beginner’s guide to the basics of full body foam rolling.
3. DIY Facials
One night a week, I unapologetically schedule no evening plans. I light candles or use my essential oil diffuser (which I’ll get to in a sec). I make a soothing cup of herbal tea. I put on When Harry Met Sally or some other rom com from the 80’s or 90’s, and I give myself a DIY facial. Call me silly, call me selfish, but it makes me feel good and ultimately that’s what matters.
I don’t always follow the same routine, because I like to look at my skin and see what it needs. Does it feel dry? Am I breaking out? Does my skin look/feel dull? Then based on my analysis, I’ll cleanse, exfoliate, apply a mask, etc.
Taking an hour for yourself might sound selfish or a like a huge time commitment. But it’s become something I really look forward to on Sunday nights 🙂
4. Essential Oil Diffusers
Essential oil diffusers are basically amazing, and for a lot of good reasons. A lot of us love the idea of essential oils, but might feel completely clueless when it comes to using essential oils. I’ve had clients ask me over the years how to work essential oils into their lifestyle, and I think an essential oil diffuser is basically my favorite.
Here’s how it works:
- Fill your diffuser with water using the measuring cup provided in your kit.
- Add a few drops of your favorite essential oils (or a combination of 2-4 oils).
- Secure the essential oil dome (you should hear a click).
- Make sure your diffuser is plugged into an electric outlet, then press the on button!
Depending on your diffuser, you might see large puffs of steam, lights, etc. There are a ton of different diffusers on the market. I’d shop around and see what works for you and your lifestyle.
My personal favorite is by an Asian company called MUJI. I learned about their diffusers in 2014 when I was in New York for a long weekend getaway. The small diffuser is reasonably priced and can definitely carry enough fragrance for a large room.
5. Daily Planners and Organizers
So this last one might not exactly seem like a self-care practice. But with a busy year ahead, I cannot stress to you the importance of planning and organization. Ever since I can remember, I’ve always had an academic or professional planner. I’ve played around with different varieties over the years, but this year I decided to splurge and get one from Mochithings.
Ultimately, you should get the planner that works for you (and for some of you, that might be no planner, or simply your phone). But I know myself, and know that I’m the kind of person that likes to make lists and check them twice (kinda like Santa). I know that writing things down physically helps me keep track of my work and personal commitments. Moreover, I know that when I’m organized, I’m much more likely to stick not just my health and wellness goals, but just about any goal or objective I have planned for myself. If you care about yourself, you’ll know what works for you and what doesn’t. And for me, I know having a planner like this keeps me calm and can reduce stress.
Self-care practices should be personalized to your daily needs and routine. No two people follow the same self-care practices, and the practices you follow may change seasonally. Some of the things I eat, drink, and do differ in the summer versus the winter. It’s not rocket science. But what can feel like rocket science is finding some self-care practices that are easy, fulfilling, and work for you. And that’s why I encourage you to keep experimenting until you find the self-care routine that compliments you life!