The phrase and what it means is second nature to me. Rewind to a year and a half ago, maybe two and I couldn’t put my finger how to describe what I needed to do for myself. I almost felt guilty, or undeserving for the past 20 some odd years, for stretching, taking a nap, getting a massage, scrubbing down my body, eliminating sugar, eating clean. I am not even joking. I would hide the things that are written about on every blog and in every health article. I was a walking, not talking, case for preventative medicine. Yet I didn’t realize it and it made me feel guilty for thinking this self-care minded way. At times that guilt perpetuated my habits into the unhealthy, as hiding can psychologically trigger a response that the activity is negative.
Take for example that I am a Pastry Chef by trade. I understood the cause and effect very early on with sugar and my emotional and physical health. Like anything that you are more immersed in than the average person you gain a greater understanding of how something affects you. In my case it was sugar and I felt so guilty for realizing that abstaining on the regular made me so much happier. Can you imagine? I judged myself and sometimes others judged me as unauthentic at times, a statement that couldn’t be further from the truth. I love sugar. I honor it. I also honor my body. I have been able to get to a place where I truly embrace the middle. I am fortunate to have a pretty good gut (I take great self-care of it) and have no wheat or dairy allergies. When I want to appreciate and savor a treat, I seek out, or make, the best of class versions of the things I love or would like to try. Liquirzia gelato? I’ll be there. My dear friend’s irresistible Gateau Basque recipe? I’m totally making it. Now as a full-fledged adult with a continued deepened understanding of myself and my habits, I am able to fully embrace the things that I do for myself as essential for me to honor my worth, increase my self-esteem (or maintain it) and keep my package wrapped up (in the most gorgeous silk ribbon) so that I am a better employee, a better friend, a better sister and a better partner. My conversations to myself are even nicer.
Positive nutrition is of course self-care but I would like to honor the other practices that are either ignored, overlooked or subject to judgement. Let’s take for instance budgeting. Whether you are saving for something specific or a personal financial crisis hits, automatically you have to scale back to varying to degrees. Did you know that one of the first things to go is massage? Forget the dinners out with friends (which are important too as friendships feed you, just the quantity could be adjusted at times) massage gets put in the excess bucket. Let's shine some light on the subject of massage today.
Massage helps release stress, which definitely sticks its neck out when fear and finances come out to play. Massage keeps the lymphatic system moving, which means that toxins cannot nest in your body causing pain and disease. Massage breaks up your fascia allowing you to move more fluidly and focus on showing up for your day, getting that new opportunity to say, increase your financial horizons. Massage involves touch and we all need touch. Whether it is a hug from a loved one or a massage, touch keeps your heart healthy. Massage can and should change your life and for many it is reserved for the realm of fluffy spa bathrobes (which I love at times too). My attitude towards massage changed at multiple moments over the past 8 years. The first time was when I was in Los Angeles and I had a getting-real-with-myself-moment when I decided that it wasn’t so funny that I would tell my dear friend Katherine that “sometimes I go for a walk” as my answer to what kind of physical activity that I do. Look at me now and you would think I have been an athlete my entire life.
Not true. The lack of positive physical activity was a direct reflection of my emotional state and flow. Anyways, I got moving. I reconnected with my love of tennis and it changed my life. I had something else to talk about, my body was moving and tennis gave me immense emotional release as well as the best high someone could ask for. Tennis also got me to tune into my body again and begin to honor it. I started stopping by the massage chair that they had parked at Wholefoods in West Hollywood to treat myself to ten minutes for ten dollars by one of the resident massage therapists. Money was not something I had a lot of as I was so young working in restaurants, but I definitely still fed myself well and was on the crest of the wave with Kombucha craze and other offerings that had yet to reach the East Coast. The massage therapists educated me over the coming months about my alignment, teaching me that it was not necessarily something I was stuck with. They helped me understand how to use massage to release tension so that other areas would not take on more pain. They also introduced me to understanding a habit that correlated to my mental state which was the tight shoulder syndrome paired with a jello-like floppy neck. My shoulders were so tight and my neck was not strong, a terrible combination from stress. I appreciate that time in my life when I started to realize that feeling good was about taking care of you. I will fast forward six or so years from that point when I met someone that was so into taking care of and understanding their body that it truly inspired me. He made a comment once saying that “my massage therapist has changed the shape of my legs because of his work”. This got me intrigued. Change the shape of my body with massage? No way! I now know that there can be tremendous junk also known as scar tissue, built up on around your muscles and this can affect your overall definition. I was warned that this was not some fluffy bathrobe massage therapist, that this was someone that he saw very regularly to maintain his health. What a great concept: real massage in real time with someone gaining understanding of how your body is doing as they get to know your aches and pains and in turn help you work out issues. I loved going into the basic massage studio as it did not feel excessive, rather it felt like I was doing the right thing for myself. Nowadays I go to a Chiropractor and Physical Therapist weekly, where I have realized the slight adjustments help keep me in line and their work on my back and my hips help me to be able to continue to exercise and deal with my stress. They also helped me realize that the knots forming on the tops of my shoulders were not New York City bag syndrome, rather they were due to improper breathing while stressed out. Not breathing properly during a very tough year mentally at work had built up knots on the top of the shoulder that were so substantial they exhausted me. This was all due to breathing! What an eye opening experience. Massage does not have to break the bank. There are so many massage studios that offer discount packages, some take health insurance, and some are willing to work with you. Be honest with yourself about what you can afford as massage is about maintenance, not a one off treat (which is definitely A. O.K. in fluffy bathrobe land) and find a therapist that matches your needs. Your whole -self with thank you for it. And hey, massage therapists need massages too.