The importance of self care

As follow-up to my last post, which you can read here, I thought I’d talk about some ideas to to help keep ourselves mentally well.  Again, this post isn’t just for First Responders…these are things anyone can (& should do).

We all lead busy lives…and it’s easy to put taking care of ourselves at the bottom of our to-do list.  But there’s only so long that your body will allow this kind of abuse before your physical and mental health start to take a toll

Self care is one of the most important things we need to focus on for both our physical and mental health, and most self care activities have a positive impact on both at the same time.  I’m just going to provide a list of simple things you can do to take care of yourself.  Some require very little time or effort.

  1. Unplug for 5 min, 30 min, 60 min…whatever time you’re able to.  Turn off your phone, TV, computer, everything electronic and just enjoy the break from social media for awhile.
  2. Further to the social media discussion…take out any negative people you “follow” or are “friends” with.  You don’t have to delete them if that’s too harsh, but you can “unfollow” or “mute” them.  There’s enough negativity in our lives without these negative people on social media.
  3. Pause….and take a minute to deep breath.  Yes, a full minute (or more).  It’s amazing how relaxing this is.  I recommend you do this anytime you get that feeling of anxiousness or something overwhelming you.
  4. Walk or run.  I’m not a runner…but people tell me it relaxes them!  For me there’s nothing more relaxing for me than walking my dog at the dog park.  Something about watching the pure joy she has running free there!  The fresh air does me good too!
  5. Laugh!  At anything…a funny comic book, tv show, youtube video, etc.  It’s amazing how good laughter makes you feel.
  6. Perform a random act of kindness.  It doesn’t have to be something huge.  Help someone carry groceries to their car, hold the door for someone, buy someone coffee, the possibilities are endless.
  7. Exercise.  This one is pretty obvious, but much harder to schedule time for.  But it can be anything.  I already mentioned running/walking.  Other ideas…yoga, fitness classes, weightlifting, etc.
  8. Hobbies.  Read a book, play an instrument, knit, paint, etc.  These are great to relax you.

What are some of your go to self care tips?  Please share some of your favourites.

 

 

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Using Apps to improve health and fitness

It’s amazing how many apps there are for anything and everything you can think of!  It can be a little overwhelming trying to decide which one to try and also time consuming trying out a few different apps before you find the one that works for you.

I’ve tried a few apps for both nutrition and fitness, and I thought I’d share the ones that have worked well for me.  Most of them are free.  Please comment and share any apps that you have found that work for you!

Lose It!  Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 10.05.10 (Free)

This is a great food tracking app no matter what you are tracking…strictly counting your macros, wanting to watch your calories, lose weight, etc.  I found that this app easier to use than a couple other food tracking apps.  They have a good pre-made list of foods and common foods from restaurants.  You can also add your own recipes and it will calculate the nutrition information from that (for example, I’ve added the Meatza recipe that I shared with you awhile back).   It saves the foods you eat often (i.e. coffee with cream, or 6″ portion of cucumbers on a Subway sub) so they are easy for you to add.  I didn’t use the app for this, but you can also include your exercise which would probably be helpful if you were trying to lose weight.

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 10.20.58

Map My Run (Free)  

I like this app for tracking distance.  I was recently involved in a challenge where we had to track our kilometres (can also track distance in miles) and this app worked fantastic.  You can pick your exercise…running inside/outside, biking, walking, stairs, etc.  It will show a map of your route, monitor total kms, show your pace.  You can also connect this app to tracking devices such as a FitBit.  This developer has other apps (I haven’t tried them) such as ‘Map My Fitness’ and ‘Map My Hike’.  I would assume they would be similar to this app.

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 10.33.22

Bit Timer (Free)

This timer is very versatile but very simple to use.  There are 3 options…1) Choose your work time 2) Choose your rest time 3) Choose how many rounds.  The numbers are nice and big on your phone screen for easy viewing.  This app works best for interval training.  The ‘work time’ only goes up to 4min, but you can do up to 20 rounds.

Pinterest (Free)Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 10.45.33

I’m not sure if there’s anyone out there who hasn’t heard of, or used, Pinterest…but this app is great for everything!  You can search for specific recipes (i.e. gluten free meals, sugar free muffins, pork dishes, etc).  You can also search for workouts (i.e. Crossfit, yoga, leg workouts, etc).  The possibilities are endless…inspirational quotes, meal plans, meals that fit into your macro plans, on and on.

InstagramScreen Shot 2016-08-16 at 10.52.18

You can follow inspirational people on Instagram, also follow nutritionists who post recipes for food, fitness enthusiasts who post workouts, etc.

 

 

FacebookScreen Shot 2016-08-16 at 10.51.51

Facebook is similar to Instagram as far as how to use the app for health and fitness.  There are millions of people to follow and pages to like with so much fitness and nutrition information.  You can find lots of local fitness opportunities (most fitness pages where you live will advertise events on Facebook).

 

Again, please share some of your favourite apps…I’d like to find some new ones that can help keep me on track as well!

Pre-shift Stretching

Would you workout at the gym without doing a proper warmup?  If you don’t want to injure yourself, I’d bet you answered “yes”.  Do you start your shift as a Paramedic without doing a proper warmup?  Based on my personal experiences I can say with certainty that the majority of us do not warmup or stretch prior to, or during our shift.  This is a mindset we need to change to avoid injury and prolong our careers.  There are some simple stretches you can do at the start, and throughout, your shift to keep your muscles warm and ready to go at any time.
All of the following stretches are easy to do in uniform and do not require any special equipment.  They can, and should, be done regularly throughout your shift.
photo 1-2
Chest Stretch:
Preparation
 • Place your hand against the door frame at shoulder height.
Movement
 • Brace your abdominals, retract the cervical spine. (Neutral Spine Position) 
• Slowly turn your body away from the door until you feel a stretch across the chest as well as the shoulder and bicep.
Tips• To increase the stretch raise the sternum and/or increase your rotation. 
• Avoid twisting the spine.

photo 1-3

 

Core Twists:

Preparation
• Stand upright with arms bent at 90 degrees.
Movement• Slowly rotate at the waist from side to side.
Tips • Keep your head in neutral position. As you rotate you can lift the opposite heel off the floor to get more of a stretch.

 

photo 1
Hip Flexor:
Preparation
• Place your foot on the edge of a table, countertop, desk or car hood.
• Stand tall with your balance leg slightly in front of you.
Movement
• Without leaning or arching your back, slowly bend the balance leg knee until a stretch is felt in front of the opposite leg.
Tips • The deeper you bend your balance leg, the greater the stretch.

photo 4
Upper Back/Shoulders:

Preparation 
• Grab onto the handles of the ambulance door with both hands.
Movement
 • Keeping legs slightly bent, bend at the hips and feel the stretch into your shoulders and upper back.  Hold for 45 – 60 seconds and repeat.
Tips • Be sure not to round your back when leaning forward.  During stretch you can straighten your legs to also get a stretch into the hamstrings.

photo 3

 

Calf Stretch:
Preparation
 • Stand on the back step of the ambulance.
Movement
 • Slide your feet off the edge so only the balls of your feet are on the step.  Let gravity pull your heels down off the step.  Hold for 45 – 60 seconds.
Tips• Be sure to hold the grab bars on the ambulance for balance.  Keep balls of your feet firmly on the step.

 

photo 2Hamstring:
Preparation
• Stand with one foot on a raised surface.
Movement• Brace your abdominals, slowly lean forward from the hip until your feel a strong stretch in the hamstring area. 
• Hold for 45 – 60 seconds. 
• Repeat on the opposite side.
Tips• Be sure not to round your back when leaning forward.• A chair, a step, or the ‘Truck’ can all be used.

As you can see these are not new stretches and all can easily be done in uniform (and I was also wearing a ballistic vest for all stretches) using your ambulance or a chair or wall.  Please consider including these stretches in your pre-shift preparation!