Updated: May 18, 2021
Are you trying to heal from something? Birth? Injury? Persistent pain? Or are you just curious about simple steps you can take to foster better overall health in your body? I'm so happy you found me and that I have the chance to help you with that. Even if you just take the time to read/listen and make ONE shift in your health, or just gain some increased awareness of your own habits, it is a step down a path where you may find yourself feeling better, moving more freely, and being more vibrant. There is a special kind of power that comes from knowledge and the understanding that YOU have some control in the direction of YOUR health.
Healing Tip #1 - Breathe Intentionally with Nourishment in Mind!
We're starting with the breath. Mindful, deep breathing is so important for many things - pain control, healing, relaxation, digestion, core function, happy brain hormones, immune response, to name a few. Yes I know......we breathe everyday to survive, so how hard can it be?
If you start to pay attention and increase your body awareness, you might notice that you have a habit of breathing more shallowly into your upper lungs, or that you hold your breath when you are under stress or doing a concentrated activity. This restricts your body into not using it's full lung capacity, not using the mobility in the ribs and mid-back, and not getting full amounts of healing oxygen.
After birth, we often have a habit of this shallow breathing because that's what we had to do when baby was inside and we were running out of room. When we are experiencing an injury or pain, we also often start breathing with a shallow breath due to the body's pain response. And if we are under stress, the natural response is also a shallow breath. There are many reasons why this style of breathing may be a habit that you are not even aware of!
Deep, diaphragmatic breathing can help re-pattern your body into a "rest and restore" mode. It stimulates a cascade of hormones that are different from the cortisol (stress hormone) that circles around in "fight or flight" mode. This switch helps with the positive changes mentioned above - all beginning with a few purposeful and mindful breaths! Try to close your eyes and JUST BREATHE for 5 minutes. Nothing fancy, it doesn't have to be a formal meditation, just put your focus on the air going in and out of your body. It can be challenging for sure, but give it a whirl.
Healing Tip #2 - Protect your Sleep!
Healthy sleep is powerful in our bodies. It is important for good mental and physical health, well-being, and vitality. And it is also when our body shuts down the "go-go-go" systems and takes the time to rest, restore, and HEAL. During sleep, we balance our hormones (including taking care of any excess in cortisol, the stress hormone), get a boost to our immune system, and create the building blocks for cellular health and healing. So whether you are recovering from birth, injury, or pain, or just looking for overall better health, this is an important area to focus on!
The characteristics of healthy sleep:
-- 7-9 hours of good quality, restful sleep
-- falling asleep relatively easily
-- waking up feeling rested
It's not about being perfect so don't get frustrated with yourself if you aren't accomplishing all of these things....it's about shifting and maybe making changes to move TOWARD a more healthy sleep pattern. Little steps make big differences!
Check out this video for some tips to move you in the right direction.
Of course, there are MANY factors that go into healthy sleep, along with a variety of solutions - it is beyond the scope of this email to go into all of them. All I want to put out there is the notion of acknowledging and paying attention to your habits and patterns, and making sure your are honoring and respecting your body's need to rest and sleep. This will promote more optimal healing and overall health in your body!
Healing Tip #3 - Nourish yourself!
Having some understanding about how nutrition affects healing can be a powerful tool to enhance any recovery in your body!
After birth, there are many structures trying to heal, such as the muscles of the abdominal wall and pelvic floor, the uterus and uterine ligaments, the connective tissue surrounding the organs and throughout the abdominal wall, etc. Research shows that active healing takes place for at least a year, and often for up to 2 years.
Whether you are recovering from birth or any other injury, illness, or pain, awareness of your nutrition plays an important role!
The way we eat:
Allows the body to create the building blocks to heal and re-build tissue.
Either gives us energy or zaps it away.
Can affect the actual absorption of the good parts of food depending on the balance in our gut and digestion
The BASICS of good quality nutrition include:
Nutrient-dense WHOLE foods. Stay away from processed and packaged food if possible
Good quality meats and lots of protein
Healthy fats: avocado, olive oil, nuts, seeds, coconut oil
Fresh fruits and vegetables for vitamins and fiber - eat the rainbow
LOTS of water! You should be drinking at least half of your body weight in ounces of water each day. Even more if you are a nursing momma.
Some supplements that encourage healing of collagen and cell membranes: omega-3, vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc.
Some foods can create inflammation in the body so it's good to get to know your body and observe how you feel when you eat. The most common offenders are sugar, dairy, and/or gluten so just pay attention to intake and monitor how you feel.
It’s the real world and it's sometimes difficult to prioritize nutrition. It's easy to "grab and go" and rush through eating during busy schedules. So just start noticing how you feel and being aware of what you put in your body. Do your best to make good choices, but also cut yourself some slack :) It's not about being perfect, just making shifts here and there.
(Disclaimer: Nutrition is very individualized. These tips are generalized so it is important to know that every BODY is unique and different, and they may not be appropriate for your individual needs. This is not a substitution for professional diagnosis, treatment, or advice.)
Healing Tip #4 - Restorative Movement!
Make sure you move! When you are fatigued from having a newborn, in pain, feeling crummy, recovering from an injury, or working a lot at the same time that your body is going through something, it's easy to feel like you don't want to move much, and don't want to exercise. During healing, it's usually not the time to smash your body and deplete energy with intense exercise, but making sure you get some good, nourishing, movement that supports your body during the day is so important! And, although being counter-intuitive sometimes, movement actually provides more energy while also releasing endorphins and dulling pain signals - all good for healing! So get moving!
So, what type of exercise should you be doing? I absolutely love helping my clients work through this and find things that they love, that fit into their day, and that support their body into more strength and stability based on their individual starting points. So if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me and just have a conversation!
Being a women's health and orthopedic physical therapist has me supporting a lot of new moms, as well as active women throughout the journey of motherhood, who are trying to juggle a lot of things and balance their world to include their health on the to-do list! Some of my favorite restorative exercises for the early postpartum period (which also apply to anytime you are healing from pain, injury, or surgery) involve:
awareness of posture and alignment
walking, especially outside in nature, getting fresh air and sunshine
core and pelvic floor re-connection activities to build a strong central foundation to do any strengthening from
moving with the breath - yoga or meditative stretching
Here is a video of an overall mobility flow. It's long because I hit most of the muscles in our bodies, but you will find your favorites.
Bonus! -- Taking time to restore helps with fat loss because it helps to balance our hormone levels! Cortisol is our stress hormone, and has very important jobs, however, many times when we have pain, injury, illness, or life changes, there is too much running around in our body, leading to fat storage. So giving your body a break and balance helps with that too!
The return to activity following childbirth, or in any other healing period, should be a slow and gentle process that helps foster the repair, recovery, and integrity of of our bodies. It's important to learn how to meet your body where it's at!
Healing Tip #5 - Self-Care!
Here we are with my last healing tip, and one of my favorites to talk about! Self-care sometimes sounds like a luxury but it’s NOT!! In our bodies, the hormones that help with healing are only produced in the proper amounts when we are sufficiently resting, getting proper nourishment/hydration, taking care of ourselves, and feeling loved and supported. Taking time to give ourselves what we need can be the difference between thriving and just surviving. Being healthy and well yourself will help you be able to give more to all of your other roles!
Here is a video for some easy self-care tips.
Nourish your body through your nutrition, your movement, your sleep, and your joy.
An important first step is to learn to check in with yourself with a few questions that greatly impact your healing and your progress....knowing that your answers will vary day by day, but that you are honoring yourself by making a note of your answers.....
Are you getting enough sleep? (I know, I know that's a funny question to ask a mom but sleep is important to prioritize to the best of your ability)
Are you staying hydrated? You need to drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water, more if you are nursing
Are you eating enough nourishing food? Get your building blocks
How are your relationships and your support system? Do you give yourself permission to ask for and accept help?
How is your mental state? Anxiety, depression, and feelings of trauma can hinder healing. There is help.
How does your body feel when you exercise, whether it be a little or a lot? Are you struggling with pain, leaking, heaviness, discomfort, tension, or instability? Are you getting restorative movement into your day?
If any of your answers surprise you, please consider what that means and how it will show up in your body and overall health. Talk to me, or a trusted health professional, about it so we can strategize!
I hope this blog has helped you understand ways you can take control and promote more complete healing in your body. Don't settle for anything feeling "off" - there are solutions and support out there! And we often have a lot more power than we think we do.
Heal well, move well, and be well,
~ Dr. Brenda
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