From the Fall 2020 Journal of the Colorado Dental Association
By Myriah Shimatsu
We have all heard the saying you cannot pour from an empty cup…yet, how many of us live by this rule? Self-care does not have to be booking an appointment at a spa or practicing meditation every day—although these are lovely options to consider. There are many forms of self-care that we may not even recognize as self-care. Choosing the right form is a personal decision and what appeals to some people, may not appeal at all to other people.
So, what exactly is self-care? Self-care is the practice of taking an active role in protecting your own wellbeing and happiness—especially during periods of stress. Simply put, self-care is remembering to make yourself a priority. This is a huge aspect of our health and wellness.
One of the simplest ways to make sure that you are prioritizing yourself is to remember to schedule it. How often do we get into a busy season and say, “I wish I had more time?” So, before these moments happen, remember to schedule time to fill your cup back up. I recommend building self-care into your daily routine. If practiced daily it only takes 5-10 minutes to obtain the benefit. This will ensure you are able to continue to give back to your career and family and be your best self.
Another aspect of self-care is to manage stress, which will downregulate the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) while stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation). Our body’s response to stress can commonly be seen in tight problematic muscles. Mindfulness practices that decrease stress, as well as modes of body therapy that relieve trigger points and increase oxygen to the muscles can help keep a dental professional’s body feeling and operating efficiently.
Self-care comes in many forms and looks different for everyone. It can include:
- Breathing exercises
- Going for a walk/hike/run
- Turning off your phone/not checking email/taking a break from electronics
- Eating lunch away from the desk/noise/etc.
- Spa treatment/massage
- Quiet time/sitting in silence
- Sleeping in
- Working out/aerobic exercise
- Watching a movie/catching up on your shows
- Calling a close friend/meeting up with a friend
- Time with family
- Vacation/weekend getaway/staycation
A few of my favorite forms of self-care for dental professionals are massage, chiropractic treatment and physical therapy. When looking for a practitioner, search for one that offers dry needling, trigger point massage or massage assisted with instrumental therapy or Kinesio Tape. These treatments are all great at releasing trigger points and musculoskeletal pain that can be associated with dental professionals. Get maximum benefit from these treatments by including a deep breathing practice right before and right after to decrease stress and increase oxygen to the treated muscles. When seeking a chiropractor, massage therapist or physical therapist, make sure you do your due diligence in finding highly trained and skilled professionals who are knowledgeable about the muscles that dental professionals use and overextend.
Some days and weeks it may seem impossible to achieve self-care, let alone everything else that needs to be done. Remember this: you are your number one priority and you deserve to take time for you! Never feel guilty for filling your cup before giving to others. Attempt different ways to incorporate self-care into your life, and see which methods end up working best for your schedule and your wellbeing! As an added bonus, by doing this, you are also serving as a role model for your staff and can encourage them to take moments to fill their cups as well. By giving them permission and motivation to take time for themselves, they will feel grateful to work in an environment where they are cared for and appreciated. Once you reach that point, possibilities for success are endless.
Myriah Shimatsu is the co-owner of Movement 1st Wellness and has been certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) for over 12 years. She holds her bachelor’s degree in adult exercise science with a minor in nutrition. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.