To say that 2020 has been, well, unusual, is an understatement. As we move into fall, the school year may look different, and time will likely start passing very quickly as we race toward the end of the year.
Now, perhaps more than ever, it’s important to carve out time for ourselves and take time to observe Self-Care Awareness Month: “a time to remind us that taking care of ourselves, first and foremost, is essential.” Additionally it’s important to remember, “True self-care is not self-centered nor selfish; it is simply keeping yourself the focus of your own life. It’s about paying attention to how you feel in each moment, communicating clearly, speaking up for yourself and saying yes or no…guilt free.”
While self-care plays a role in our personal lives, it should be a part of our professional lives as well. We’re fortunate to have Dr. Amanda Carpenter, DPT, on the NATS leadership team as our Vice President and Health and Wellness Director. We chatted with Amanda about self-care and the role it plays in arboriculture, and she shared some helpful tips to incorporate self-care into our daily lives.
First, Amanda says that one of the foundational, non-negotiables of health is proper hydration.
“Hydration is the key to everything, especially when (our trainers) are traveling and/or working. If they’re doing a lot of working (in the field) and sweating, they need to hydrate. And then when we’re traveling, lymphatic drainage is compromised and we go into a lymphatic congestion mode where everything gets stagnate,” explains Amanda.
“Whether it be traveling or working in the field, the key to hydration is water plus minerals. We can’t hold onto our water if we’re just drinking water; we need a good sodium/potassium balance. The way that we can take the first step in minerals is Himalayan salt or sea salt, unrefined salts.”
Another key factor of health is sleep, says Amanda.
“As days are getting a little bit shorter, we need to honor the fact that our bodies need more sleep,” she says. “We are designed to sleep according to daylight hours, and we need more (sleep) when there’s less daylight.
“A reason people get sick is because we don’t honor that. We’re going just as hard as we were before and we’re not getting that extra half hour, 45 minutes, hour of sleep as the daylight changes,” she continues.
A self-care break to take in the middle of the day is to stop and do two minutes of focused breathing.
“Two minutes is all it takes to reset our nervous systems,” says Amanda. “If we’re in high stress overdrive, even if it’s a busy travel day, and I just stop for two minutes and I just do focused breathing – focus on my breath for two minutes, I can totally take myself out of stress response.
“And two minutes is not very long. However, sometimes the stuff that feels the longest is the shortest amount of time,” she continues. “What I mean by that is when we’re focusing on our breathing and trying to stay conscious with our breath for two solid minutes, that feels like 15 minutes.”
Taking the time to get outside and into the sunshine if you’re working inside, or stepping away from the tree so the sun’s on your face, can also make a big difference. Similarly, as the temperatures drop this fall and into winter, don’t over-bundle every time you step outside.
“There are two things that stimulate mitochondria (considered the “power generators of the cells” ): one is sunshine and one is cold,” explains Amanda. “A lot of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is because we don’t let ourselves get cold enough. Stepping outside for a couple of minutes when you know you’re going to be safe and it’s not too cold…”
For example, says Amanda, who lives in the Northeast, “I take the dog out in the yard in the winter time in PJs and flip flops without a coat. I wouldn’t take off on a hike like that…” She adds that simple cold exposure times and taking in that refreshing colder air by stepping out in the morning or at the end of the day can be a form of self-care.
The last two of Amanda’s non-negotiables when it comes to self-care are diet – eat whole foods that are picked from the earth or from animals that roam the earth; “if it’s made in a factory then it’s a food product, it’s not food;” and social interaction – “we’re social beings and we need more social interaction.”
“Real self-care comes from self-calming of the system,” Amanda concludes. “We can be hydrated, we can be eating the perfect diet, but if our system is too ramped up, that’s going to tip the scales on everything.
“Don’t forget to stop and breathe.”
World Heart Day
In addition to Self-Care Awareness Month, Sept. 29 is World Heart Day, “a global campaign during which individuals, families, communities, and governments around the world participate in activities to take charge of their heart health and that of others.”
In an effort to take charge or our team’s heart health, earlier this year, we implemented HeartMath practices into the way NATS does business, led by Amanda and NATS CEO and President Ed Carpenter; both are HeartMath-certified trainers.
According to Amanda, HeartMath, which is based on more than 26 years of research and recommended by thousands of health professionals, is about building resilience, or the capacity to prepare for, recover from and adapt in the face of stress, challenge and adversity. We encounter these factors in our places of work and our daily lives, too, especially in light of COVID-19.
“The heart’s intuitive guidance means the heart guides the brain, not the other way around,” Amanda explains.
This all ties into self-care, too.
What NATS Can Do For You
For our clients who are interested in addressing Health & Wellness in the workplace and for the benefit of their teams, or even individually, NATS provides a variety of services, including ergonomics for arborists trainings, biomechanics assessments, heart rate variability assessments and trainings, vitality programs, resilience training and more.
To find out more about our Health & Wellness programs and how we can work with you, please contact Brian Luzier: email@example.com, or (717) 621-8603.