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Massage Today
December, 2011, Vol. 11, Issue 12

From Stressed Out to Self Care

By Debbie Roberts, LMT

What does climbing a rock wall have to do with self-care? It's all about reaching new heights of self-awareness by renewing, revitalizing and jump-starting your spirit. Do you have to climb a rock wall to achieve this? Certainly not.

The point is to do something outside the box, something that stretches you beyond your comfort zone and challenges you to focus on yourself.

As massage therapists we spend hours taking care of other people's needs. Yet many therapists shy away from spending time and money on their own needs. If this rings true for you, join me as I share my experience of climbing out of my box and into a new awareness of myself. I hope my story will inspire you reach new heights of consciousness.

Climbing Out of the Box

Self-care begins with how we spend our time. This concept became clear to me when my best friend and I recently celebrated our birthdays at Canyon Ranch Spa Miami. In the middle of this get-away I turned to my friend and said, "Wow, how different would all of our decisions about life be if we could make them in the absence of stress?" Under stress we see time as the enemy. When we are fighting the clock, we fail to see the possibilities available to us. Instead of enjoying our time and making empowered decisions, we react to situations and put off the "good stuff."

By taking a few days to care for my body and spirit, I felt the pressure of time slip away. For three days I did exactly what I wanted. I ate when I was hungry, worked out, rested and had an absolute blast laughing at myself doing Zumba. Then, I made the stretch... although I'm terrified of heights, I decided to move way out of my comfort zone by challenging myself to climb a rock wall. Getting up the wall was tough. I can tell you it took six attempts, each time getting a little higher than before. But with the support and encouragement of my best friend and my instructor, Wally, I made it.

Then it was time to come down, which meant I had to actually let go of the wall. Much like life, letting go can be scary. It requires us to release our sense of control. Even with the harnesses securely in place, I felt my heart race with the fear of falling. At points I wasn't sure I was going to make it. The only thing I could do was to feel the fear and do it anyway. That sense of overcoming my fears and succeeding at something was so motivating. Yet it also made me realize how much time we all spend inside our comfortable box, fighting the clock, ignoring our needs. When we are slaves to our routines and we view time as the enemy, there's no space to grow, to rest and renew our spirits. There is no time to actually enjoy our lives.

How Are You Spending Your Time Currency?

There's a quote by Carl Sandburg, "Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you." So, if time is the currency of life, how are you spending yours? Many of us live our lives for the illusive "someday." To me, this word "someday" is the scariest word in the English language. "Someday I will... get in shape... slow down... learn how to play guitar... go back to college... have enough money to retire... begin to eat right... stop waiting and start living." That someday is your life. That someday is TODAY!

Create Your Own Self-Care Plan

When you go to the doctor's office, he or she will assess your symptoms, make a diagnosis and create a plan of care based on your needs. If you were to assess your symptoms right now, what would you discover? Are you stressed out, overwhelmed and stretched too thin? What is the diagnosis and plan of care based on your spiritual, emotional and physical needs right now? Here are some guidelines to help you come up with a self-care plan. But remember, only you can follow through and make your someday now.

Tip #1: Save for Your Own Spa-Cation
Each week save $10 from your tips for your own "spa-cation." By the end of the year you will have $520 to spend on just you.

Tip #2: Let Nature Recharge Your Spirit
Nature is a remedy for many things. Take time at least once a week to walk outside or enjoy another outdoor activity.

Tip #3: Engage Your Passion
I LOVE cooking, so I recently took a cooking class to learn how to host a high tea. I had fun, met new people and learned something new.

Tip #4: Let Music Move You
Dancing is both a physical and a spiritual expression. It's not structured like a workout and it feels really good. Take time every week to dance, even if it is in your own living room. Put on some music and just let yourself go.

Tip #5: Scare Yourself a Little
Each year for your birthday do something that scares the pants off of you. Over the years, I've celebrated my birthday by zip-lining through the Costa Rican forests, challenging myself in the Boston to New York AIDS Bike Ride, playing my guitar and singing in front of a live audience and, this year, climbing a rock wall.

Tip #6: Invest In Yourself
Don't be afraid to spend money on self-care. As massage therapists, we sometime engage in trades, but occasionally it's nice to find a local spa and treat yourself to a massage that doesn't require a pay back.

Tip #7: Connect with the Divine Every Day
No matter what your belief system, take a few minutes every day to connect with your divine guidance. There's a quote by Ram Das that always makes me think, "What a different world we would live in if we took every 5-year-old in the world and taught them to spend one hour a day praying on the word compassion."

I could go on and on with ideas about how to honor your needs and care for yourself. But the bottom line is, you have to make the commitment to care for yourself with loving compassion.

Climbing Your Own Wall

Thomas Edison perceived that, "Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up." And from the Scriptures, "Let us not get tired of doing what is right, for after a while we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't get discouraged and give up." (Gal 6:9 TLB). We often apply these principles to our work, but what would our lives look like if we also applied them to our self-care needs? How would your "someday" look then? Don't settle for a mediocre life, my friend. Spend your coins wisely.

Click here for more information about Debbie Roberts, LMT.


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