Maintaining your physical fitness is really important for self care. Whether that means going to fitness classes, the gym, gentle exercise at home, or going for walks, it all counts. It’s not just exercise that can be beneficial for your physical fitness – massages and baths can also help through helping your blood vessels work more efficiently and also by relieving stress and muscle tension.
But what if you have people telling you your aches and pains are down to getting older? Would that stop you from trying to improve your physical fitness, putting it down to wear and tear of your body? Let’s explore why this shouldn’t be the case for many…
Physical Self Care Tips and Strategies
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I have a number of chronic health conditions. Alongside my mental health issues, the condition affecting me the most, on a daily basis, is Fibromyalgia. I’ve been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia for over 11 years now, and despite being able to work full time, it can be limiting for me in other ways.
For years, the pain and discomfort that I suffered with the condition was blamed on ‘growing pains’, and after speaking to many ‘older’ sufferers of the condition, theirs were put down to ‘getting older’. However, as people started to see specialists, such as rheumatologists and physical therapists, these theories were continually debunked.
The thing is, the age theory is much more common than you realise, even for those who do not suffer with chronic pain or mobility issues. Many sports therapists are keen on dispelling the myth that all aches, pains and pops are down to your body getting older. There are lots of reasons, other than age, why we can feel tense. And guess what? Anxiety (alongside poor posture, inactivity, and compensatory movement patterns) is one of the reasons.
When we’re anxious, our bodies seem to tense up. But did you know that anxiety can also decrease our tolerance of pain, making us feel it more? I know that when my anxiety increases that my fingers and hands tense up, but I also get headaches, migraines, stomach pains, and the pain and clicking in my back increases. This is where self care comes in.
Looking after yourself after a particularly anxious event or period is incredibly important for your mental health, but it’s also great for your physical health, since anxiety can pay a toll on it.
But what can you do to look after your physical and mental health with the aim of decreasing pain?
I’ve already mentioned a few self care tips in my first self care post, plus given some tips on treating yourself. However, these tips are more physical, and can help you to slow down the anxiety-pain-anxiety cycle.
Make sure to put some time aside to stretch – it doesn’t have to be a daily thing, but frequent stretching can release tension, and why not get yourself into a routine of it? I really like stretching along to YouTube videos rather than trying to figure out what is being done in a photo, and I find that these stretches by Fitness Blender are pretty simple but also really effective. Yoga, pilates and tai chi are great practices to take up if you enjoy stretching.
If you are able to work out, then make sure that you try and fit this in regularly. Can’t find an activity you enjoy? Speak to someone you know who has a similar physical ability and interests to you and see what they do to exercise – you might find something really fun! If you’re looking for a gym to attend, why not check out my Fitness First review?
Take a Warm Bath or Shower
Have a Massage
There’s a reason why massage therapy is so called! Like bathing, massage promotes healthy blood flow and relieves muscle strain and pain. Whether it’s from a partner, friend, massage practitioner or even yourself, massage offers relaxation and relief, on top of multiple other benefits.
Breathing exercises can be really beneficial in fight or flight situations, but it’s also important to use the practice of controlled breathing to promote feeling relaxed and calm, to lower blood pressure, and of course to de-stress. There are lots of different types of breathing technique – from the most basic to quite advanced, and I recommend having a go at a few different types to see which best fits you (as remember, we are all different!).
I love to dance! Whether it’s on a Saturday morning to a fun Spotify playlist or in my zumba class, dancing is really enjoyable for me. You don’t have to attend a dance class, or go out to a nightclub to dance, just stick on your favourite songs to dance to, and let your body take over!
Do you do anything physical for part of your self care routine? Let me know what you do in the comments below!
Please remember that I am not a qualified health professional and there a number of reasons why you may struggle with self care practices. If you do struggle, please remember that this is not a ‘failure’ and should not be seen as one. It’s just a bump in the road, and you may have to speak to your healthcare team (such as your GP, counsellor, key worker, carers and such) to see if there’s anything that they recommend that you can do.