Welcome to our ever evolving list of our favourite wellness tips. It comes from our drive to be as good as we can be at helping people feel less pain. Why would a Sports Therapist and a Physiotherapist be so interested in wellbeing? Simply put the more balanced our nervous system, the less pain we feel. The items here are our current favourite ways of achieving that in ourselves and in our clients.
Whilst this wellbeing article isn’t the answer to every injury. It can help every injury. Especially those that have been around a long time. In some cases a combination of the points below will be enough for you to ‘cure’ your current mystery pains or keep future ones from developing.It’s a long list that follows.
Don’t be overwhelmed. Just implement what you can. Doing all of these would be a fulltime job. Try the ones that perk your interest or you’ve had success with in the past. If you do just one new thing from this list then that is progress.
They are simply ideas that have worked for many people in helping them reduce pain and improve quality of life. What works for some people won’t work for others. Dedicate as much or as little time as you have. Simply do what you can, which segways nicely into our first item:
1. The Art Of Showing Up
This link takes you to an excellent article by the guys at the growth equation. As a short summary when we expect too much of ourselves we soon become overwhelmed, lose interest and fail, repeatedly. Simply because it is not possible to be perfect. Constant failure is not motivational and we rebel and slip back to our old behavioural patterns. Make what you aim for sustainable so you can be consistent. Results will flow naturally as a result of this more enjoyable, less pressured process.
2. About Perfection
It’s worth us all remembering that in most instances good is good enough. Sometimes it’s not easy to spot the things we are doing out of perfectionism. We do them out of habit or because we feel we should. An excellent exercise from Non-Violent Communication is to write down a list of all the things you feel you should do. When the list is complete change the first part of the sentence to ‘I choose to’ and then fill in the end of the sentence with ‘because…’ If the reason is money you then quantify what you need the money for. It can be quite amazing, and liberating, what this exercise brings up!
3. Peak Performance
The excellent book of this name is crammed full of ideas to make our self-development sustainable. Here’s our 15 minute version of the book to save you some time. If you have more time and enjoy my synopsis I encourage you to read the whole book. It’s very rich and everyone seems to take different learnings from it.
The point of this article is to help us all let pain go. Pain really is a complex beast that is entirely unique for all of us. Our current favourite resources to help explain pain and make it less threatening, to help reduce its intensity are:
- Why Things Hurt – From Pain Scientist Professor Lorimer Moseley
- How To Deal With Chronic Pain – from the Dr Rangan Chaterjee podcast
- Our favourite pain recovery programme and the book on which it is based – The MindBody Prescription
A better understanding of pain may not be the whole answer for everyone but it has definitely helped us to help many of our clients
Everything we’re reading recommends between 7 and 9 hours a night. Sleep is so important for maintaining a healthy nervous system and in so doing reducing sensitivity to pain. However, it’s equally important not to put yourself under too much pressure to achieve the holy 7-9 hours per night. The odd hour lost here or there doesn’t affect us too badly so don’t sweat it.
6. Bedtime Routine
Check out our article on improving your sleep hygiene. In short avoid screen time at least 1 hr before bed, no caffeine after 2pm, try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, finish eating at least 3 hrs before you go to bed, try 15-20 mins of something you find very relaxing (no screens!) just before bed.
7. Morning Routine
Try 5 mins of breathing, 5 mins of slow deep gentle stretching or yin yoga, 5 mins of speaking or writing about you fears worries anxieties for the day and a 5 minute meditation. 20 minutes of wellbeing joy to set you up for your day ahead. The timings here are random. Feel free to do more of what you enjoy and less or none of what you don’t. If you don’t like any of these choose your own. Anything you feel relaxes you and gets you in a good head space. Having a soak in the bath for example. It’s more about prioritising your needs and focusing on yourself to be better able to deal with the world around us. And yes, I know this is challenging with children. Personally my morning routine is to get myself the kids dressed, fed and out of the door in a vaguely timely manner to keep my nervous system as calm as possible!
8. Are We All Just A Little Bit Traumatised?
Reading The Body Keeps The Score I certainly feel aspects of my life were a bit more traumatic than I realised. It’s a useful read for anyone to help understand why change is difficult. In the same breath it’s inspirational as it shows how change is possible. Many of the ideas from this book have influenced this list.
Aim for a minimum of 2 litres per day is what we’re reading. It’s what we’re made up of after all. As such it’s vital to give us any kind of chance of a balanced nervous system as so many of our bodily functions depend on it.
There’s lots of options in this email. Anything (well almost) can be done in a mindful relaxing way. He’s a link to our mindfulness article with lots more ideas. You could go for walks in nature, take hot baths, longer showers, listen to music that you love, simply take some time out and speak nicely to yourself. If you really can’t be without a screen watching comedy or nature programmes will be the most uplifting. Crime, psychological thrillers, horror, documentaries about serial killers – less so!
11. Enjoy Moving
In whichever way you enjoy most. As most of you probably know we’re big advocates of yoga. Our favourite free online providers are DoYogaWithMe, Kassandra and of course Adrienne. But it really doesn’t matter what you do. Qi Gong, martial arts or just a nice walk. Walking is our go to for anyone suffering with long term pain or severe pain. It’s simply what we’re designed to do. The action of walking is thought to massage our internal organs in all kinds of good ways to help them do their thing too.
12. Be Sociable
Our nervous system is way more complicated than just fight or flight and rest and repair. Social engagement is a huge part of keeping yourself balanced emotionally and physically. Make sure you are prioritising time to be sociable with other human beings! It’s too easy in the modern world to get obsessed with where we’re trying to get to, rather than focusing on enjoying how we’re getting there.
13. Avoid Processed Foods
You know it, we know it. Just do your best.
14. Spend Time In Nature
More and more high quality research is confirming what we’ve always suspected that it makes us feel good to be surrounded by green stuff! There’s a reason all cities have parks. Nature helps balance our logical mind and our creative / social engagement part of our mind. The latter being commonly underused in times of prolonged stress.
During your day, every now and then, focus on a longer out breath. It’s the out breath that calms us. Even just noticing what your breath is up to can be useful. We have more detailed information in our breathing article here. If you want even more there’s an excellent book simply called Breath with all the latest research and thoughts on how and why. There are a variety of apps to help you with relaxation breathing too. The best one we’ve used so far is called Breath Guru.
16. Check-In With Yourself
Simply just checking in with ourselves during our busy lives to see how we’re doing. Physically, emotionally, ideally both. How are we holding ourselves? Are we slumped off to one side? Are we tense? Are we breathing relaxed or short shallow breaths? Is there anything we can do right now to improve how we are feeling? For example, taking a deep breath, going for a little wander around the house to move the body or just lie on your back for a couple of minutes and focus on breathing. It might be useful to tie these check-ins into things you already do in your day. For example toilet breaks, making a cup of tea or brushing your teeth.
Wim-Hof (aka The Ice Man) gets all the press for this and his work is very good. You can find details on his app here. Lots of our clients report feeling calmer in themselves using the cold shower technique. Don’t worry, it doesn’t need to be ice cold. Just a little bit colder at the end of a shower starts to build resilience and enables our nervous system to deal with greater highs and lows. Personally I find sea swimming, especially in the winter months, more fun and more profound in terms of effect on my being. Weirdly I also find it easier than cooling the shower off at the end. If you do choose to sea swim please take appropriate safety steps and build up to it gradually.
18. Posture and Desk Set Up
If you put a muscle in a certain position it adapts to being there. We need to do our best to make sure that doesn’t negatively affect how we function and increase our likelihood of getting injured. Here’s our article on our thoughts on how best to set your desk up.
A Doctor from Stanford University in The States who translates some very heavy science into useful practical tips. Follow this link to a video which explains why you should make sure you get some natural day light in your eyes within 1 hour of waking (especially in winter), why you should delay any caffeine intake until 60-90 minutes after waking, and why we sleep better in a cooler room at night. Lots of fascinating stuff on his channel.
20. Stay Intellectually Engaged
Purpose is important. Without getting overly philosophical stay inquisitive, continue to learn, read books, learn new skills and have decent conversations rather than talking about the weather. If you start a conversation about the weather at the clinic we’ll quickly move things along to something more profound!
Meditation is a great way to balance our nervous systems. Great for slowing our brains down from dealing with this crazy high paced world in which we live. We like this specific Meditation for Pain and also many of our clients enjoy this body scan meditation to help identify tight bits that they didn’t realise they were holding tight.
We get very excited about the mind body connection. We’ve seen emotional release so many times when doing our physical release work. But only if it’s ready to come out. It’s useful to explore our own baggage at the pace that we’re ready for. Sometimes we’ll feel the need to explore deep. Sometimes we’d really rather not. If you have a history of trauma then this is best done with the guidance of a counsellor. Journalling can be an excellent way of getting those emotions out of our heads and into the world. Writing down our fears, worries, stresses and anxieties can be a great way to process current emotions to help to move through them. Rather than get stuck. It’s these stuck emotions we often find lead to the development of physical pain for no obvious reason.
23. Non Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR)
Another useful alternative for balancing the nervous system. It’s not meditation, it’s not sleep, it’s different. Particularly nice to do just before bed to sleep easier and deeper. Here’s our favourite.
Try to have a vision of how you want to be and set time aside to lie down and allow yourself to feel the way you would feel if you were pain free, flexible and able to use your body as you liked. Try to reinforce this by doing 5 minutes of this every day. The more accurate you can be as you are visualising the better. Feel the emotions! This works just as well for general life goals as it does for the goal of getting out of pain.
If you’ve got this far well done. Enlightenment is clearly not far away for you! Just to reinforce what we said at the beginning, don’t be overwhelmed by the amount here. They’re all just ideas of things that people find useful. Choose the ones you like the sound of or have enjoyed in the past and put it into a sustainable plan for yourself. Wellbeing needn’t be a chore. In fact, it shouldn’t be.
If you have any thoughts on any of the above we’d love to hear from you. If you’ve found any of the above useful or otherwise in the past. Or if you have other ideas that you’ve found beneficial that we didn’t get to here. Please drop us an email to info@BrightonSportsTherapy.co.uk with any thoughts you have.