Ah, self-care. That good old buzzword. What do you think of when you hear it? Chocolate? Bingeing a full season of your favorite show? Drowning yourself in kale and green smoothies? Bathing in arnica and lavender? Spa day?
It seems like there are so many different ideas about what it means to care for oneself. It's a fraught concept. In fact, "self-care" can sometimes become an excuse to continue habits that might not be so healthy for us. It can also become an excuse to shame ourselves over and over because we didn't drink celery juice every morning this week and we're really bad at meal prepping. Sometimes, eating chocolate in a bubble bath or taking an absurdly long nap is the medicine we need. Binge watching your favorite show isn't going to kill you. Self-care shouldn’t be about perfectionism. I think of it as being about discipline. Taking things in moderation and listening to your body when it asks for rest, movement, nourishing food, or something else.
Sometimes, self-care doesn’t feel great, and pampering, and easy. It’s different for everyone. Maybe your self-care includes a regular workout or meditation routine. Maybe your self-care involves being a little more organized about your grocery shopping, so you won’t be as tempted to turn to something processed or sugary when you run out of food. Maybe your self-care means socking away the money you planned to spend on a new shirt. Maybe it means designating a short quiet time for you and your kids. The possibilities are endless; what matters is that you’re listening to yourself, and trying to choose what honors you and gives life, more than what temporarily satisfies but doesn’t nourish or help.
So how does massage therapy fit into the actual definition of self-care? A lot of people think of massage as one of those things that falls under the trendy definition of self-care: pampering oneself, an occasional splurge. The internet is full of stock photos of beautiful women smiling peacefully on a massage table in a tropical place. This sends a subtle message that massage is indulgent and out of reach for most people.
The reality is, massage therapy can help a lot. It can both treat and prevent certain symptoms and issues. For example, research shows regular massage therapy can create significant reductions in symptoms of anxiety and depression. Research also shows regular massage can reduce pain levels in people with all kinds of conditions, from cancer to fibromyalgia to arthritis. Massage therapy can help correct posture and reduce muscle tension. It can reduce or eliminate low back pain. It can improve insomnia.
Think about all the doctor’s visits and prescriptions caused by the things I just listed above. Is the cost and time commitment of receiving regular massage therapy comparable to that? Is the cost and commitment worth the value it may add to your life? Just like everything else, it depends on you.
Massage therapy is an important part of my own self-care. I walk the talk and get massages regularly. It helps me reduce stress, and function in my life and work without pain. If you feel you could use some support in reducing anxiety, depression, pain, insomnia, or other stress-related symptoms or conditions, why not give regular massage therapy a try?
What are some of the things you do to care for yourself? Would you like to do them more often? I'd love to hear your responses in the comments.