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Self Care: Practice What You Promote

“you cannot give what you do not have.” – milton trager

This is the second in a 2-part series by Leslie Byrd, LMT, CHAI graduate & contributing author to the CHAI Massage Blog. Part 1 focuses on self-care for the massage client.

Practice what you promote.
When you look at self-care as a licensed massage therapist (or as a massage therapy student), do you think only of your clients’ self-care, or do you actively consider your own self-care habits?

We know and understand the role self-care can play upon benefiting the client and enhancing or prolonging session results. We recommend various forms of self-care to our clients. But it is easy to get so busy and so caught up with providing sessions and recommending these practices to others, that we may tend to overlook our own self-care.

Why is self-care for the massage therapist important?
Self-care is important for everybody, and the massage therapist is no exception. For many LMTs their practice falls under the same “strenuous occupation” category as athletes, dancers and martial arts instructors, which makes it vital that the massage therapist takes some time every day to care for their own health & wellness. The massage therapist can enhance their well being, increase their endurance, and prevent injury on the job through the incorporation of regular self-care methods. This, in turn, can assist the massage therapist with potentially enhancing and prolonging their career and preventing burnout. The massage therapist can better treat their clients and provide suggestions for self-care when they are taking care of themselves. Additionally, clients are more likely to incorporate self-care recommendations and feel confident about their treatment plan, when they know that their massage therapist makes self-care a main priority and utilizes the same self-care suggestions in their own lives that they, themselves, recommend.

Self-care tips for the massage therapist
While this is in no way an extensive list of self-care suggestions, it is a starting-off point for the massage therapist or massage therapy student to evaluate (or re-evaluate) the things that they are already doing.
• Body mechanics – being aware of proper body mechanics before, during, and after a massage can go a long way in preventing injury. The position of your body during a session can mean the difference between retaining some level of energy throughout the session, versus feeling fatigue and achy after. Proper body mechanics can assist in preventing or decreasing the occurrence of low back pain and neck pain and can prevent strain on the wrists. Body mechanics can also assist you in working smarter, not harder, which is key to maintaining endurance throughout your daily sessions and providing quality care to your clients without needing to seek your own treatment after.
• Stretching & strengthening – along with proper body mechanics, consistent stretching and strengthening exercises can aid in maintaining endurance and in preventing injury. Massage therapy is often a very physically demanding career that also may include repetitive movements. By keeping muscles strengthened and properly stretched, the risk of bodily injury and fatigue decreases.
• Adequate sleep – sufficient amounts of restful and refreshing sleep is vital to our health. It is during sleep that our muscles have recovery time and that our bodies can rejuvenate and heal itself. If we aren’t getting enough sleep, or if the sleep we are getting is not suitable, especially if on a consistent basis, then we find we are more prone to acquiring illness or injury. Getting the amount of sleep our body needs, and sleeping well, aids in us feeling our best and giving our best.
• Nutrition – what we allow to go into our bodies can play a huge role in how we are able to perform throughout the day. Optimal nutrition and hydration aids our bodies in functioning at its best. The better we can feel and function, the more we are able to give of ourselves to others.
• Massage therapy – we provide and suggest massage therapy to (existing and potential) clients; it only makes sense that we would take the time to receive massage therapy ourselves. Along with other forms of self-care, receiving massage can aid us in feeling our best and giving of our best selves.

It is so much easier to help and treat others with their needs when we are first helping ourselves and meeting our own needs. Self-care is how we do that.

The students at Cohutta Healing Arts Institute participate in several discussions and lectures regarding self-care for both themselves and their clients. An attitude of self-care is encouraged and promoted by all CHAI instructors.

For more information about the benefits of massage, becoming a massage therapist, or receiving massage and bodywork, visit: www.CohuttaHealingArts.com or call 855-515-2424.