Mental Health Awareness Week Pt. 4: Treat Yo Self

If we’re going to talk about pain, we have to talk about the better side of things. Self-care, recovery, loving kindness, whatever you want to call it. I prefer treat yo self.

This isn’t the first time I’ve talked about recovery and generally treating yourself well. I talk about about yoga, stretching, foam rolling, getting a massage, and, hell, I even talk about reading.

But why? Why is this so important?

Because I don’t want to throw a brick at someone’s head.

You think I’m kidding, but I’m basically a walking, talking rage monster.

And if you’ve been following along this week, I also deal with chronic pain and self-inflicted pain of workouts to help out my mental health (the workouts, not the chronic pain).

If I didn’t do what I could to take care of myself, something would fall off.

Some of the treat yo self is pretty easy to see why it’s important (or at least valuable). I get a massage every month to help loosen up tight muscles (and even if the evidence isn’t 100% there to support this claim, it feels good, and that’s a good enough reason for me). I bought a new bed because I was having trouble sleeping in my old one. I bought refreezable compresses so I could ice achy muscles and joints when I need to (I don’t have an ice machine or trays). I currently have one sitting on my shoulder as I type.

This category is easy though. Something is wrong, and you need to do something nice for yourself to help make it better. Easy peasy.

But even in this easy category, sometimes we forget. My foam roller goes unused too often. We get too busy or money is too tight to go get a massage (I lucked out that I can walk from my office to the MT in a few minutes). And beds are expensive. Even cheap ones, and you probably don’t want the cheap ones.

And then there are the treats that don’t have as much of a one-to-one connection. Sometimes you deserve a piece a cake. You can’t live off salads forever. Well, you probably could, but what would be the point?

How do you justify treating yourself to something that doesn’t show an immediate return on investment? I think sometimes you just have to be nice to yourself. I’m not advocating eating the whole damned cake, I’m talking about a slice. Preferably a small slice.

It’s not sustainable to just deprive yourself, even if you’re depriving yourself of things that aren’t quite good for you.

Caveat: We’re not talking about meth or anything like that. Feel free to just cut yourself off completely from meth. I’m 100% for that.

What I’m talking about is basically cake. Or the occasional Coke. Or a two-hour Sunday nap.

We know these things aren’t necessary, but sometimes the bad thing is what you need in the moment. So enjoy the bad thing when you indulge occasionally (I said occasionally). Go into a mindful moment and slowly eat the cake, drink the Coke, etc. Enjoy it but know it’s temporary and you have to get back to work soon.

And sometimes treat yo self is a prize, a treat, a gift. A happy if you’re from the mid-South.

There are some things that just feel difficult to purchase. I’m cheap and I’d like to think I’m enough of an environmentalist to not want to throw things out before the well and done, but some things don’t work out that way.

I bought a new guitar after the old one just hit a point where wear and tear made it unfun to play. I broke enough pizza cutters over the years that I bought a nice one. Hell, I bought a pizza stone because I kept rusting through pizza pans. I only eat frozen pizzas, and I still have a pizza stone, but it’s made life much easier.

And sometimes that’s what you have to do. Again, I’m cheap and not a fan of buying unnecessary things, but sometimes a purchase is worth it. If you work with tools a lot, a nice toolset is worth it. I don’t. I’m remarkably lazy and have zero interest in fixing and building actual things. A good toolset would make for a nice decoration in my garage.

But I do play guitar more days than not. So having a nice (but not like price of a car nice) guitar makes sense. Something that’s more fun to play because of the craftsmanship that went into it. Man, I wish I had a car-priced guitar. Seriously, how to people afford these things?

So if you have a hobby you’ve engaged in for a long time that you know you’re not quitting or there’s something else that just gets a lot of wear and tear, buy the good stuff. It’s worth it. But don’t buy the Sham Wow or the Nutribullet. Stick to real things, not made for TV things.

It’s ok to treat yourself to these things if they give you true joy. If they make you happy or give you satisfaction, that’s good enough if you can afford it.

And the treat yo self philosophy just comes down to treating yourself well. But this was a bit rambling. Here’s your cliffnotes version:

  • Take care of your body. It’s your first and last weapon against the world.
  • Indulge occasionally. But only occasionally.
  • It’s ok to buy nice things if you’ll actually use them and they’ll bring you joy.

That’s all I have for you today. Tomorrow should see the last post of the Mental Health Awareness Week series, and then I’ll return to my usual schedule of not posting very often.

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Let’s Talk About Recovery

As I slowly return to the world of the normal, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to maintenance. I try to do a lot for maintenance. Take away my knee, and I’m trying to do even more.

Why do we do recovery? 1) It feels good. 2) It (might) help. I say might because some of these aren’t necessarily proven to work so much as make you feel better, which then might help. The science of recovery is weird.

This episode of The Runner’s World Show actually delves into a business in Chicago (The Edge Athlete Lounge) that focuses on recovery. It’s like a regular gym, but they add in a heavy emphasis on recovery at $125 a month lowest cost (we won’t go into how this inherently caters to the wealthy who already have more access to recovery sources than middle-to-low-income folks).

But me? I can’t afford that. Ok, I might be able to afford that, but I’m not paying and I don’t live in Chicago.

I have to make other arrangements.

So I foam roll – This takes an astonishingly short amount of time, it’s the only thing that lets me function the day after a hard workout, and I just don’t do it often enough. But when I do? Oof. It’s magic.

I stretch – This may be the most consistent thing I keep getting recommended. In a bygone age, I could stand on 45-pound bumper plates and touch the ground. Now, I can barely touch my toes, and that’s an improvement. Between my back, knee, and chest, I’m supposed to stretch out pretty everything from head to toe. I need to start getting compulsive about stretching. As it is, my muscles, especially my legs, are loaded springs.

I yoga (uncomfortable stretching plus some strength) – This doesn’t have the same magic for recovery as a foam roller, but it’s the most important thing I do to remain functional long-term. You can only imagine the betrayal I felt when not only was my knee keeping me away from yoga but there’s a chance that yoga did me in. I couldn’t stay away. For my day-to-day life, this is the best thing I can do, so even if I’m limited, I’m going to find a way.

And I sleep – This one’s my favorite. I like my 8 hours at night. I’d like 9 even better. I like my naps. I like to eat breakfast, and then go right back to sleep for another hour or so. I like to curl up in my blankets in the winter in a quilted cocoon. I like to throw an exercise mat on the ground and get my afternoon nap. And why do I like sleep? Because my body craves it. That’s when I recover. No stress, no activity. Just sleep. Just rest. And you know what? I think I’ll sleep again tonight. I’ll probably sleep again tomorrow. Something to look forward to.

What do you do for recovery?