Several years ago, I started this blog, and the whole reason was to be of service to my community of like-minded Massage Therapists while trying to educate and lift up the profession.
Well, the last year has been really tough to do that, and I feel like I’ve kind of let you down as a reader of this blog.
So, I thought I would share why.
Like it has been for most of us, this pandemic over the past couple of years hit hard, but I truly didn’t understand how hard it hit me and ended up going through some health issues if any of you were going through something similar, I’d love to hear back from you.
There were a few big things I dealt with and what I learned about them along the way.
I was dealing with major bouts of insomnia, and several things contributed to it; and fortunately for me, I live in a part of the world where I could get referred by a doctor and get help with this as part of our medical system. So I was referred to a psychologist who helped me start sleeping again.
I didn’t know this, but there are two types of insomnia, one where you have a hard time getting to sleep and one where you have no problem getting to sleep; staying asleep is the issue (this is what I had).
During our sessions, the doctor had me make a sleep log, and we determined that, on average, I was getting about five and a half hours of sleep a night. I’d go to bed around 9:30 and usually try to get up between six and seven in the morning. When I made my sleep logs, there were big gaps throughout the night where I was awake. So, the strategy we used was to “condense” my sleep.
We picked a time I would like to get up in the morning, so I chose 6:30 am. The doctor counted back 5.5 hours and said okay, then I want you to start going to bed between 12-12:30 pm. Basically, getting myself to the point that I’m so tired around midnight would make sleeping easier to stay asleep.
We continued to fill out the sleep log, and as the sleep became more condensed, we would start adding 15 minutes to my go-to bedtime. So instead of 12 pm, I’d go at 11:45 pm, and as that sleep got better, then 11.30 pm and so on, until I was going to bed around 10 pm and sleeping much better.
He also recommended that when getting up in the morning, I immediately expose myself to light as this helps reset the circadian rhythm, which made going to bed that night more inducive to sleep.
Interestingly he also told me that all the things we are told in the media etc about “sleep hygiene” doesn’t really matter. If you wanna watch TV right until bed, go ahead, and many of the other things we are taught don’t really matter either…except one.
Alcohol. I enjoy my wine, and I know over the pandemic, probably enjoyed it a bit too much. Now, I was told there’s nothing wrong with having a glass of wine at night, just don’t have any alcohol three hours before bed because while we quite often think it helps our sleep, it actually messes it up pretty good. So avoiding it three hours before bed is a good rule if you’re trying to sleep better.
I know I’m not alone on this one.
But over the past year, burnout has played a big role in my life, and my mental health has taken a beating for it. I’m sure it contributed to insomnia as well.
However, there were a few things to learn with this as well.
Figuring out the things that are important to you and focusing on those things.
For me, I know exercise does a lot to help my mental health. Especially if it’s sports like hockey, or golf where I get to hang out with the boys and enjoy camaraderie in conjunction with an activity. Going to the gym was helpful as well, but getting that social aspect helps a lot as well.
It’s also really important to give yourself a break and be kind to yourself.
If you’ve been dealing with the same and are wanting to become more productive, one thing that’s helped me is just setting small daily goals of accomplishment. Everything seems so overwhelming most of the time but it has helped to just break things up into small chunks and try to accomplish a little each day, even if it’s just a half hour to an hour of work, at least I’m getting something done.
While the outside pressure of careers etc will never go away, sometimes we just have to accept that we can’t do it all, all of the time. It’s okay to take a break, it’s okay to have downtime, and it’s okay to step away from some things if you don’t have the capacity to do it all without beating yourself up about it.
A Break-Up and Mental Health In General
As I know probably happened to many, I also had a good relationship come to an end.
So taking into account insomnia, burnout, and, more recently, the end of a relationship, my mental health over the past year, as I said, has taken a bit of a beating.
BUT, I came to learn that it’s okay to ask for help.
I think all too often in our career we don’t ask for help. We are considered the ones people come to for help, but how often are we asking for help ourselves?
Yeah, we see posts online about “self-care” which is usually followed by suggestions for yoga or some other thing (not that there’s anything wrong with these suggestions), but how often do we really ask for help regarding our mental health?
We have people come in every day, lay on the table and vent about what’s going on in life (yet it’s suggested we don’t influence mental health at all), and quite often, we take some of that on ourselves. But how often are we talking about it?
I’d venture to guess not nearly as much as we should be.
So I’ve started having regular counselling appointments so that while the gym and sports for me is beneficial, especially for my physical health, it’s time to really start making mental health just as much of a priority.
Now, I didn’t write this article to gain sympathy or anything like that, I don’t want that.
I did it to highlight the need that we as healthcare professionals need to recognize our health is just as important as the people we are helping. To show that it’s okay to talk about it and that yes, sometimes WE need help, and it’s okay to ask for it.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I started this blog to be of service to my community, so if you’ve been dealing with anything similar, I hope you know you’re not alone, there are probably more of us dealing with this than we care to admit.
And if there’s some way I can help you, please email me and know there’s someone on the other end who’s going through the same but still pushing forward.
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