Alright, alright… Parks and Recreation aside, never underestimate the power of self care! Which was (conveniently enough) the topic of our symposium last week. Although our discussion of self-care didn’t exactly include cupcakes and new clothes, we did discuss some very practical and helpful tips on taking care of your body for the long-run.
Whether it be exercising 3 times a week, taking a full day to relax and do no work, or catching a sunset at the beach, everybody has their own routine for decompressing and maintaining some balance (and sanity!) in their lives. As music therapists, it is so important for us to take care of our bodies in order to be at our best with our clients every day, as well as preserve our health and well-being so we will still be as able at 50 (and up) as we were at 25.
In Kate Montgomery’s book, “End your Carpal Tunnel Pain without Surgery” she has coined a 12 step method of stretches and self-care exercises to maintain healthy joints and muscles.
Here are a few tips from her method to maintain health and function in important areas like the wrists, back, and fingers!
- Posture – It’s all about those 90 degree angles when it comes to posture. Bad habits in posture can cause recurrent minor injuries to the neck joints, so it’s so important to be aware of how you carry yourself throughout the day, whether it’s working at a desk or bending down to be on a client’s level, be mindful of keeping 90 degree angles in your back, neck, and legs.
- Wrists – There are 3 exercises for the muscles, tendons and joints in the wrist. Wrist presses, wrist pulls, and wrist squeezes. Practicing these daily will help keep your wrists in alignment and free of pain.
- Fingers – What an important part of the body for music therapists! Finger exercises are done one at a time, practicing dexterity and isolation of each finger. Finger pulls, circles, bends (at each of the three joints) are a few ways to help open and restore energy within the finger joints as well as maintain strength in each individual finger (which can be really helpful for guitar).
You can practice these exercises on your lunch break, at a stop light, or any time between clients in the office. Make them a part of your self-care practices after exercising or while relaxing in order to maintain dexterity and full function of these important parts of our bodies!
“Hide not your talents. They for use were made. What’s a sundial in the shade?”
— Benjamin Franklin
If someone asked you ‘What are your top strengths are how do you take advantage of them regularly?’ would you be able to give them a confident answer? For many of us, it can be difficult to identify our areas of talent and even more difficult to make the most of them on a daily basis. The MTCCA team uses a tool called StrengthsFinder 2.0 to categorize different strengths and better understand how to interact with others and become our best selves.
StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath is a small but mighty book!
After purchasing, you’ll receive an access code in order to complete an online assessment and discover your top 5 strength themes. The book includes 34 strength themes such as Empathy, Achiever, Communication and Maximizer. A list of the themes along with a short description can be found here. StrengthsFinder 2.0 gives full descriptions of each strength theme, personal accounts from others who posses that strength, as well as some tips for communicating with others who may or may not have that same strength. This aspect is especially helpful when working with a team of individuals.
During symposium, each of our staff members shared their top 5 strengths and how they play out most into our lives. Seeing someone else’s talents categorized can you help you understand so much more about a person! What I found to be most helpful about seeing everyone’s strengths was learning about what that person needs and how to best communicate with them. I often find myself communicating with others in the way I would like or need for them to communicate with me, but many times this is not the most effective way for their learning style or personality. For example, I have Input as a strength and enjoy knowing many details and lots of information about the task or situation at hand. Being educated on the topic helps me feel like I am completing my job to the best of my ability. However, someone who has Achiever as a strength would much rather get it done quickly and efficiently instead of spending time mulling over the details. Understanding these differences in others can drastically improve communication, relationships, and outcomes in the workplace. StrengthsFinder 2.0 is unique because it encourages individuals to take advantage of their strengths consistently instead of spending time trying to improve their weaknesses. By focusing on our natural gifts and inclinations, we maximize our potential.
I encourage you to evaluate your own top strengths and determine at least one thing you do every day that takes advantage of your unique capabilities and qualities! Find out the strengths of the people with which you spend time and talk about how you can improve your communication based on each other’s needs. I hope that what you discover will increase your self-awareness and improve the quality of your communication and relationships. Here’s to becoming our best selves!