Recently, there has been an article about self-care circulating around Facebook via several ladies I know. The tag, if you look closely is Self Care: How to Take Care of Yourself When You Have Depression. I am not a person who suffers from depression unless you count a few relatively short bouts of sadness, but this article really got me thinking about how one does and should take care of one's self.
What does Self-Care Even Mean?
Social media leads me to believe that self care is motivational quotes served over a Sex And The City style boozy brunch, blowing off impending deadlines in favor of some fabulous time with my ladies and/or a credit card, eating decadent meals and treats, buying expensive things, wearing incredible 'impromptu' outfits and taking beautiful Instagram photos (And yes, it is true that there is something totally cathartic about these things). OR a hike in the woods, with a spur of the moment pretzel-twist yoga pose with perfect lighting and a "You are Enough" tagline. Don't get me wrong - that's the kind of Self-Care I yearn for but is not necessarily practical in the day to day marathon of my Life.
The Atlantic wrote a really lovely piece on Self-Care, and how it fits with the rest of the internet (click here to read it)
According to dictionary.com Self-Care is
noun 1. care of the self without medical or other professional consultation.
The term self-care describes the actions that an individual might take in order to reach optimal physical and mental health. Mental health professionals often use the term self-care to refer to one's ability to take care of the activities of daily living, or ADLs, such as feeding oneself, showering, brushing one's teeth, wearing clean clothes, and attending to medical concerns. Physical self-care, such as sleep and exercise, is also an ADL.
Self-care can also refer to activities that an individual engages in to relax or attain emotional well-being, such as meditating, journaling, or visiting a counselor. Because an extended failure to care for one’s self can result in illness or hospitalization, individuals who find themselves unable to take care of their own needs may find it helpful to speak to a therapist.
In fact, I think Self-care is really what you need it to be. It can be anything from wearing clean clothes and feeding yourself to indulging in recreational activities. The University of Kentucky has a nice little hand out on the subject that covers the generals quite nicely (click here) I don't necessarily think this solves any of the things that need self care solving.
Anyways, my brain started churning and I started evaluating my habits and habit goals to figure out where I hide some self-care and what it looks like.
I broke my self-care goals and habits into daily practices and long term habits to see what I do to LITERALLY take care of myself. Some of these things are really unfun and were covered in the aforementioned articles (e.g. paying bills, eating food, wearing clean clothes, brushing teeth etc.) and some are the "does that really count as self-care?" kind of way.
Behold! A list of what I do (and try to do) in order to maintain some sort of control over life on the musical run.
Read a Book
Every night. Before Bed. Fiction if possible. Obviously not a whole book all at once. A couple pages will do. This will make you a more empathetic person. I'm not lying! The research is in and you can read it here
If you need a musical reason - look what the Kronos Quartet tweeted a few days ago... (click here to read the full Washington Post article)
This is scary guys! Don't let books die! Research says we need them! They make us human, they help us communicate! We need that, dare I say more than ever these days.
Magnesium. Not really something we think about very often. I will be the first to say that I didn't even know it was a thing we really needed until a few years ago and now I firmly believe that every performer needs to be hooked on this like drugs (or sugar). Our poor little adrenal glands are just pumping away and we drown them in coffee and stimulants making us more haggard, grumpy, groggy, anxious, nervous, etc. I started 'using' during my Masters Degree. Almost immediately I felt the effects. I was calm in the face of snarky professors, I didn't take things super personally, I felt rested in the morning , less jittery at performances and all around more clear headed (don't even get me started on bowel movements).
According to the makers of Natural Calm, magnesium deficiency can result in symptoms such as: stress, low energy, muscle tension, muscle spasms and cramps, headaches, insomnia, fatigue and weakness, abnormal heart rhythms, hormonal imbalances, weakening bones, constipation, anxiety, and irritability.
~Hello everyday anxiety! I know I'm not the only one who complains about these things at rehearsals~
About Natural Calm
Natural Calm comes in powder form and should be dissolved into hot water. You will see the powder react to the water forming a fizzy solution.
According to Natural Vitality, Natural Calm is an ionic form of magnesium, which increases its bioavailability. As their brochure explains, "An ionic mineral is an element that has a charge, either positive or negative. On the molecular level, that means the element has either one too many one too few electrons. This unstable ionic state allows the element to bond readily with water, making it possible for the body to absorb it.” Natural Calm is easier to absorb into the body because of its liquid form and therefore more advantageous than taking magnesium by pill or capsule. In addition, Natural Calm is designed to have low acidity to allow it to both dissolve properly in water and not affect the pH-balance of your body.
For a good time add some Melatonin to the mix. I recommend writing your dreams down if you do this.
You don't have to go to a fancy yoga studio to stretch your body. You don't always have to do 'Power Yoga'. You don't have to lose albs of sweat to have a yoga practice.
In fact, just buy a book, or google a yoga class, or move your body in a way that makes you groan and moan (in a PG kind of way). I've been doing this long enough to know there are some pretty tight and 'juicy' spots in my body that need attention everyday. If I don't do this I literally feel like my body has been shrink wrapped in super tight plastic wrap. Do you know what that does to your psyche!? TERRIBLE, STIFF THINGS! The yoga teachers of the world know a thing or two about this and have written books galore on the topic. If you're new to my blog you might not know how cool I think B.K.S. Iyengar is and I really encourage you to skim some of his writings on the topic of yoga, pranayama, asanas, the sutras of Patanjali.
I do this for a minimum of 30 minutes a day. Two words - HIPS and SHOULDERS. If you hit these bad boys with some yoga you will breathe deeper and feel calmer. I guarantee it. Sometimes I like to challenge myself and work on the 'fancy' stuff that you see all over Instagram, sometimes I like to hang out in poses for several minutes at a time, sometimes I do both.
Move your body
I consider exercise a daily necessity. I need to burn off some of the stress. I need to make my heart pump, my muscles sore, and my body sweat. I don't consider my physical maintenance a luxury, I consider it a necessity. A requirement for high caliber violin playing and teaching and inter-personal skill(ing).
Doesn't this count as work? Yes, I guess? But I'm not talking about prepping for the weekend concert, I'm talking about technical maintenance and improvement. I spend 30-60mins per day doing technical warm ups and drills. My dog and boyfriend hate me (and Carl Flesch) but again, this is not a luxury it is a requirement filed under Self-care.
A constant struggle. I can typically be seen clutching an over-sized water bottle. No matter what this is difficult for me. One day my body will just give in and be hydrated. Until then I will neurotically keep my Hyro Flask close by at all times. Drinking enough water everyday flushes out all that yuck from your body, and helps you feel more energetic
A Day Off!
This one is hard won. I am always so tempted to over schedule myself. MUST TAKE ALL WORK OFFERED is the general mindset of freelance musicians. This year, I have fought hard to keep one day obligation free. Don't get me wrong - I still 'work' I just don't get out of my pajamas, I don't teach a single lesson, and I certainly don't go anywhere work related.
This is tough.
When rescheduling lessons I'm often tempted to use this day to work with students or help out in the music library. Then my nagging internal voice says "NO! BE SELFISH!" And so far I don't regret it.
Sarah Paulson recently kind of spoke about this in an interview for GQ. She talks about finding success later in life, taking naps and reading books on a day off, and not feeling the need to work constantly. I used to think naps were for the weak! Now I applaud the confident napper. Your brain thanks you for those minutes (or hours) of snooze. Also, her interview is pretty great if you, like me, are not a child prodigy and didn't become wildly successful in your career early on in life.
This mythical, mystical day off is also the day I go to my happy place - the horse barn - for a riding lesson and a few hours away from emails, phone calls, metronome speeds, bills, auditions, and dissertation writing. I always return home rejuvenated. Something about horses, man......more on that some other time.
This is borderline Social Media Luxury. Honestly, I intend to do this once a week but it happens more like once a month.
Run a hot bath,
add Epson Salts,
toss a few drops of Essential Oil in there.
apply a face mask,
light some candles,
turn on some music,
or a podcast, or book on tape (cramming empathy into every corner of my life!)
Just chill out.
Do NOT make To-Do lists, text, email, worry, stress, or let what is outside of the bathtub get you down.
After your bath go straight to bed. You will sleep like a baby and wake the next morning feeling refreshed and revived.
Pay bills/clean the house/file all of the receipts/stare blankly at personal accounting software.
You get the picture. Some of this tuff should probably go on my weekly self-care list but honestly this is just a pile of 'care' that I do because I know it needs to be done.
I mean come on, a foot rub and some toe nail TLC never hurt anyone. Reflexology is a thing! Don't deny those pressure points! When was the last time you gave yourself a foot massage?...Exactly!
Plus this is pretty much the only time I ever open a magazine. It feels good to catch up on the gossip and fashion while my feet are being made fancy.
I wish this happened more often than it does. I know I sound like such a broken record over here whining about the aches and pains of string players but I genuinely believe the human body was not created with the intent of holding a string instrument for 3+ hours per day. A good body worker/massage therapist pretty much takes a rolling pin to the kinks (not really, obviously) and puts everything pretty much back in place. Plus it helps prevent and ease depression. So find yourself a good one and never let them go!
as read on www.MassageEnvy.com
Massage Therapy Helps Lift Depression
Taking time for massage is as important for people dealing with depression as it is for people dealing with arthritis, sports injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome. WebMD reviewed more than a dozen studies that revealed how massage can fight depression by lowering cortisol levels.
Cortisol is the body's response to stress, and massage therapy lowers it by as much as 50%. At the same time, massage provides many benefits and can also increase the levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are both neurotransmitters that help stabilize your mood.
Results of Massage
The International Journal of Neuroscience studied a group of people with spinal cord injuries who were also suffering from depression. Twice a week for five weeks, half the patients received two 40-minute sessions of motion exercises while the other half received two 40-minute massages.
Both groups improved their physical abilities during that time, but the people who received massage therapy also became less depressed. So even while exercise has long been accepted as a means of combating depression, massage not only provides additional benefits but can also relieve stiffness and soreness resulting from physical exercise.
What do you do to take care of yourself? Any seemingly boring tips? What about the fun and glamorous things? Leave a comment below and share your Self-Care!