How Often Do You Need Self-Care?

Our bodies require regular care in order to thrive and heal, and one of the best ways to make sure we are on top of our self-care is to put it on our schedule instead of trying to fit it in around everything else. As a health and wellness practice, HaLe’ has experience with what kinds of schedules work best. Here are our recommendations, based on the state of your body:

Acute Pain: 3 classes/wk, bodywork or acupuncture every week

Acute pain is an active, painful flare up or injury. The body needs frequent treatment in order to release secondary tension, stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, support the lymph system, regulate the pain signals, and generally assist the healing process.

Sub-acute: 1-2 classes/wk, bodywork or acupuncture every 2 weeks

Sub-acute pain falls between acute pain (sudden and awful) and chronic pain (long term, constant/consistent pain). It means that something hurts, but it hasn’t been hurting for a very long time and it isn’t terrible. The body is not in crisis but still in need of support and healing, so regular treatment until it resolves is recommended.

Chronic: Start with 2-3 classes/wk and bodywork or acupuncture every 1-2 weeks, then taper down

Chronic pain is long term pain that is not healing or getting better, and can be anywhere on the spectrum from unbearable to really annoying. Addressing chronic pain involves a combination of treatments to reduce overall pain levels and to treat the root cause of the chronic condition. This usually means coming often at the beginning, and as treatment makes progress at interrupting the pain cycle, tapering off gradually until treatments reach a maintenance level.

Maintenance: 1-2 classes/wk, bodywork or acupuncture every 4 weeks

To maintain a level of general good health and low pain, we recommend a basic self-care schedule. This helps resolve issues before they begin to hurt, reduces baseline stress levels, hydrates the connective tissue (fascia), and promotes a general sense of well-being. People who are very active or athletic may need more frequent self-care maintenance.

 

A Note on Mental Health care:

These same protocols can also be applied to mental and emotional health. Psychotherapy sessions for high distress, medium distress, chronic distress, and mental health maintenance often follow the same frequency guidelines as the pain levels, since mental and emotional distress is a form of pain. Coming to classes provides valuable support for regulating mood, reducing the physical symptoms of mental and emotional stress, and releasing emotional energy that is stored in the body. Adding bodywork and/or acupuncture to your treatment plan can treat imbalances that may be contributing to distress and help boost a sense of overall wellbeing.

Crackle and Pop: Knees and other Joints

Our knees and other joints can pop, grind, crunch, and make other interesting sounds. This can be alarming, causing worry about the health of the joint and whether the sounds are a sign of something serious.

What makes those sounds: There are a lot of complex tissues in our joints, and most of them can make some noise. Tiny bubbles can form in the joint fluid due to changes in joint pressure, and they make a sound when they pop. Ligaments and tendons can make a click or pop sound as they move over a bony lump and snap back into place. Cartilage can develop uneven areas as we age, and a grinding or crunching sound can be from those rough surfaces gliding across each other.

When to worry: As long as there is no pain or swelling, these sounds are not a reason to worry. They can come from age, use, or healed injuries, and the noises are not part of the alarm system of your body. Our body uses pain and swelling to indicate that there is a problem, and that is how you know when the joint needs extra attention and treatment. And if you ever experience a sudden pop followed by pain, that is almost always an injury that needs treatment.

Support for Joint Health: There are a few keys to supporting joint health, whether they are just making painless sounds or are causing discomfort. Bodywork and movement classes both help restore alignment so that the right muscles and connective tissues are working together, and to relieve muscle tension that can contribute to joint pain. Hydration of the tissues is also key to keeping joints supple and healthy, which is especially supported by bodywork and therapeutic movement. Acupuncture is also very effective at treating pain and the imbalances that may be causing that pain.

Joints like knees and shoulders that make interesting sounds without pain are not a cause for alarm. They can serve as reminders to stay committed to our self care, but do not indicate serious damage or injury to the joint.

Focus on Feeling Better: Mind-Body Connection

Our minds and bodies are connected into a single whole, and emotional states express themselves physically in the body. We get butterflies in our stomach when we are nervous, or blush when we are embarrassed. These are easy, momentary examples, but the same kinds of physical reactions happen for chronic stress, depression, anxiety, and other emotions. This means that mental and emotional healthcare is a cornerstone of treating health concerns and supporting overall wellbeing.

On a biological level, there are multiple networks of communication between the mind and the body. When the brain feels an emotion, it is a signal that activates the neurological system, the endocrine system, and the immune system. The body can then move toward readiness to face a threat or relax into rest-and-digest mode. Hormone levels adjust, which can affect your ability to take quick action, to heal, to feel hungry, and to feel tired. Your immune system can also ramp up or down, depending on the situation.

Because of these deep connections, treatment for many health concerns may be most effective when it includes sessions that focus on mental and emotional states specifically. Mindfulness Counseling, Psychotherapy, and Psychosomatics can all have a deep impact on creating health. These treatments each focus on different aspects of supporting a mindfulness practice, addressing possible trauma, developing more positive behavioral health habits, and working with the emotions stored in the body, especially when things feel “stuck”.

The mind-body connection is powerful because there is no real division between the body and the mind. They are both aspects of the same whole, and effective treatment takes this into account. Whether mental and emotional healthcare is addressing a cause of distress, a reaction to distress, or some of both, it is an effective aspect of feeling better and creating health.

Focus on Feeling Better: Rebalancing the Body

Our bodies function through complex biological systems interacting with each other. Because everything is interconnected, an issue in one part of the body can have widespread consequences. Rebalancing these systems can help to find and address root causes of pain and dysfunction, and to correct small imbalances before they start to have wider effects.

Acupuncture is focused on rebalancing the body. It is a complete medical protocol traditionally used to prevent and treat disease and to promote overall health. It uses tiny, hair-thin needles to cue the body toward balance, and is both very safe and effective.

Studies have shown acupuncture to be especially effective for pain. This is true for all kinds of pain, including arthritis, fibromyalgia, dental pain, menstrual pain, back pain, knee pain, and headaches. It both addresses the underlying imbalances that are causing the pain, and helps regulate the pain signals in the nervous system, which can snowball without effective treatment.

Acupuncture also helps to rebalance and treat the many other systems of the body. This includes addressing various kinds of allergies, regulating hormonal systems, bringing balance to the heart and circulatory system, and easing digestive difficulties. Most imbalances or health concerns can be addressed and improved through acupuncture, and at Ha.Lé we welcome the opportunity to partner with your doctor in your care.

Rebalancing the body through acupuncture also has the benefit of improving overall health and addressing small problems before they become big problems. As a preventative treatment, it can keep the many complex systems of the body running more smoothly, with fewer opportunities for dysfunction.

Balancing the body and maintaining that balance is one of the foundations of health and wellbeing. Acupuncture is a safe, effective way to promote that balance, creating health deep in the interconnected systems of the body.

Focus on Feeling Better: Medical Massage

Medical massage refers to bodywork that focuses on treating specific health issues. A lot of research has been done over the last several decades, proving the benefits of medical massage and bodywork as treatments for pain, stress-related illness, injuries, and some chronic conditions. Even better, there are little to no side effects, other than an improved sense of well being.

Medical massage and bodywork is effective support for the circulatory systems of the body, including blood and lymph. This helps speed healing from injuries, surgeries, and overexertion. It brings nutrients to where they are needed most, clears out toxins and by-products created by tissue repair, and lowers blood pressure. Circulation is key to the overall health and wellbeing of all our tissues and organs, and it is a complex system that can deeply benefit from focused, professional support.

Another aspect of medical massage and bodywork is the ability to restore function and address the structures of the body. Injuries, muscular imbalances, and repetitive motion can cause structural issues, which then leads to chronic tension or recurring pain. Treatment through bodywork can relieve the pain when these issues flare up. It can also help address the root causes, ideally restoring function without surgery or medications.

There are also tremendous neurological benefits to receiving medical massage and bodywork. Nurturing physical touch cues the body to switch out of fight or flight mode and into nourish and restore mode. This begins a cascade of neurobiological effects, including lowered cortisol and other stress hormones, deepened breath, improved digestive function, and reduced strain on the heart. Bodywork also helps reduce neuropathy by restoring blood flow to starved nerves, improves nerve tone and function, and helps turn down the volume on pain signals.

Medical Massage and Bodywork is one of the most comprehensive treatments you can add to your healthcare. It can effectively address specific complaints like low back pain, knee pain, and headaches, even as it nourishes organs, regulates mood, and boosts health. By helping to correct imbalances before they become acute problems, bodywork effectively supports overall health and deep wellbeing.

Focus on Feeling Better: Therapeutic Movement

Our bodies are made to move. Deep biological processes in the organs, tissues, and nervous system are based on a foundation of physical movement and activity. This is why therapeutic movement can have such profound health and healing effects; the right kinds of movement can restore function and health at their root.

Therapeutic Movement classes like we offer at HaLé are designed to work for a wide range of bodies, ages, and experience levels. They help create health, reduce stress, and improve your overall sense of wellbeing. On a physical level, they:

  • Increase circulation
  • Increase bone density
  • Lower blood sugar
  • Release tension
  • Reduce pain
  • Increase flexibility
  • Improve balance

In addition to these physical benefits, therapeutic movement also provides significant mental health support. Classes can increase mental clarity, reduce anxiety, and stabilize mood, all through treatment of the central nervous system and lowered levels of stress hormones. By further incorporating mindfulness practice and body awareness into therapeutic movement, the mind-body connection is strengthened, boosting the stress and pain management benefits.

Practicing therapeutic movement is a wonderful way to care for yourself. Coming to class provides the additional benefits of activating mirror neurons and social wiring in the brain to deepen your practice, even as they provide a container of dedicated time for self-care.

One of the keys to feeling better in your body and mind is to incorporate nourishing movement into your routine. If you only do one thing at HaLé, we encourage you to come to class. Come every day, come once a week, come to any and every class that works for your schedule. Make a practice to come as often as you can, since the benefits layer and build over time.

Replenish Your Capacity to Give

Being generous brings joy and improves our overall health. However, our capacity to give can become depleted by stress, high expectations, and reduced feelings of empathy. In other words, we can feel so distressed that it becomes more difficult to connect with the joy of giving.

Being generous is a proven benefit to our health. It activates positive feedback loops in the brain that in turn can increase longevity, improve heart health, and release oxytocin, the happy trust hormone. However, it is not the size of the gift that brings these benefits, but our ability to connect with the people we are giving to, and to feel for ourselves the joy or support that gift brings them.

Our ability to feel that sense of connection and empathy is reduced by stress. Compassion fatigue, which happens when we care about others to the point that our ability to care becomes depleted, often contributes to a loss of empathy. Other causes include personal trauma, high anxiety or depression, and physical pain.

Reducing stress levels through self-care and pain management is an effective way to restore empathy and open-heartedness. Bodywork and acupuncture both help reset the nervous system away from fight or flight stress responses, even as they treat specific dysfunctions or imbalances. Therapeutic movement classes like HaLé Yoga and MELT help release stress that has become stuck in the body, rebalancing and resetting the nervous system. Psychotherapy and counseling help integrate body and mind, creating space for health.

Treating stress through self-care replenishes the body’s resources for connection with others. This allows us to more fully empathize with others, restoring our capacity to give and to experience the joys of generosity. At HaLé we encourage you to both take time for your own self-care, and to give that gift to others who also need a little replenishing.

Acupuncture for Depression & Anxiety

Acupuncture can be an effective treatment for stress, anxiety, and depression because it works like physical therapy for the nervous system. It trains the brain and nervous system to behave in ways that stabilize mood, decrease anxiety triggers, and bring a sense of happiness and ease.  

When we feel threatened, our body sounds the alarms and turns on the sympathetic nervous system to deal with the danger. However, most threats we face in daily life are mental and emotional stressors that can leave us feeling threatened all the time, which creates chronic stress. Emotional symptoms of chronic stress include anxiety, frustration, moodiness, overwhelm, inability to relax, and depression.

The key to treating chronic stress and its emotional symptoms lies in the central nervous system. Acupuncture is a safe and effective way to create positive changes in central nervous function, which helps to turn off the alarms of stress and bring the nervous system back into rest-and-digest mode. This more fully activates the Central Autonomic Network, which is the part of the brain that lives in the present and handles working memory and sensory input.

Scientific meta-analysis of studies done on the effectiveness of acupuncture treatments has also  shown that the “dosage” is important. In order to retrain the nervous system away from chronic stress, depression, and anxiety, patients need to receive more than 3 points per treatment, and sessions should not be spaced too far apart. Treatments at least once a week get the best results.

Acupuncture is effective for creating nervous system health and treating anxiety, depression, and stress. It can help us feel more focused, make better decisions, and be happier overall. When our nervous systems are in balance, we thrive.

Deep Harmony through Being Present

Being present allows the stress of what has happened (past) and what has not yet happened (future) to fall away from the mind. Instead we turn our attention to the present, which is where the body lives. Common, simple techniques focus on the breath or the rhythm of our heartbeat. By shifting our awareness to our physical sensations, we can begin to relax the alarm systems of stress and allow our bodies to turn on the internal systems of nourishment and healing.

There are many ways to cue the body and mind to come into the present, and one of our favorite techniques at HaLé is a gentle, supportive bodywork called Breema. Based on Nine Principles of Harmony, Breema teaches that we best support ourselves and one another by being present in the moment.

Breema combines different nurturing touches to support whole-bodied relaxation and health. This includes stretches to relieve tension along with compression and gentle touch. It also incorporates rhythmic movements and stillness as a way to keep your mind in your body and so in the present moment. Sessions are able to assist with physical flexibility, emotional balance, and mental clarity.

Breema and other forms of mindfulness practice that are based on awareness of the body help support an overall sense of vitality. Being in the present opens us to a sense of joy, connection, and gratitude. This in turn expands our understanding of self and helps us live a more meaningful life.

Open Heartedness and Compassion Fatigue

Compassion Fatigue can happen when our ability to empathize and stay open hearted takes on too much stress and trauma. Caring for and about others can deplete our mental, emotional, and physical resources, and compassion fatigue is what happens when those resources begin to bottom out. Self-care is an effective way to prevent compassion fatigue and to help come back into a place of open heartedness.

The first step to preventing compassion fatigue is an awareness of the signs and symptoms. These include deep exhaustion and reduced feelings of sympathy or empathy, as well as feeling guilty about not wanting to take care of others. Other signs are feeling irritable or anxious, headaches, trouble sleeping, and feeling less fulfilled or satisfied.

It can be useful to think about compassion fatigue on a scale of 0 – 10, especially during times when you are doing more caring work or offering yourself more generously. Checking in with yourself and how you are feeling helps you to recognize signs of emotional exhaustion before you are overly depleted.

You can prevent and treat compassion fatigue through self-care. Bodywork and massage, acupuncture, therapeutic movement classes like yoga, and psychotherapy all help you become less vulnerable to stress. By purposefully shifting your nervous system out of emergency mode and into rest and restore mode, you rebuild your capacity to care for others with generosity and compassion.

Compassion Fatigue can happen to anyone, and it can be easy to forget to care for yourself when you are focused on caring for others. Taking the time to bring awareness to how you are feeling and dedicating time to a practice of self-care can bring ease to the process of keeping an open heart.

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