If I spent all my time taking care of myself, following all the doctors’ directions, therapists’ advice, self-help manuals, I wouldn’t have time to actually DO anything! And I am a retired person and my children are adults who are living on their own. If I had a full-time job and young children, it would be nearly impossible.
Since last May I have been dealing with chronic hoarseness. After a number of exams and scoping of my vocal cords, I was referred for speech therapy. Fortunately, that testing didn’t find any growths, but noted a combination of the effects of reflux and muscle compression. The speech therapist did a thorough evaluation and recommended vocal exercises. She also gave me papers with foods to avoid (two pages worth) and foods that are encouraged (a small list). I also received some stretches to focus on loosening the neck muscles. I am supposed to do the stretching and vocal exercises 3 to 5 times per day. The protocol takes about 5 to 7 minutes. So far, I have been managing to do it twice a day and feel pretty damn proud of myself.
Another part of the routine recommended by the ENT, to help with congestion, is to use a netti pot and saline spray. I do the nasal rinse once a day and the spray twice. These take another 5 minutes. I’m also supposed to use a humidifier. Setting that up and taking it apart each day is another 5 minutes.
All of the stuff to try and deal with these throat and ear difficulties add up to at about 45 minutes each day.
In theory, these are the other parts of my self-care routine:
- Waking up – brush teeth, take daily pills, wash face, comb hair – 10 minutes
- Make the bed – several advice gurus stress the importance of starting the day by making the bed – I subscribe to that idea – 3 minutes
- Exercise (at least 20 minutes but I actually do 35 either walking outside or on the treadmill) – if it is vigorous enough, it requires showering after, so add another 20 minutes. I am quick in the shower, so 25 minutes allows for getting dressed, too. I also play tennis once or twice every other week, each time 90 minutes (add another hour for driving to and from the courts).
- Meditation – 10 minutes
- Shower or bath – if I haven’t exercised and showered, then I will do that and take more time with it – more like a half hour
- Moisturizing – face, skin, nails – 10 minutes
- Journaling/affirmations/gratitude journal – 15 minutes (at least)
- Eating healthy meals (with preparation) – I don’t know how long, but way longer than grabbing fast food. For three meals, it has to be at least 2 hours each day, including the time to eat and clean up.
- Getting enough sleep – 8 hours
Some of the things on the list above are aspirational.
I can’t accurately add up the time for those activities because it is so variable, but it is a large chunk of the 24 hours. And, again, that is as a retired person who only takes 10 minutes to get ready in the morning! Most people take longer. I wear no make-up. I don’t do anything special with my hair. I spend next to no time picking out clothing. All of those things could be part of a person’s self-care regime, requiring more time and attention.
My exercise routine is minimalist – better than nothing, but not the amount of time a truly fit person devotes to working out. For someone like, let’s say Jennifer Aniston, it is a full-time job to look like she does. Not that I would choose her as a role model. I don’t make a living on my looks and never did. Unfortunately, though, we live in a world where we set up unreasonable expectations of what we should look like, but the vast majority of us can’t take that much time to nurture ourselves.
Many people face other types of health challenges that require more daily attention. I’m very lucky. Other than this annoying thing with my voice, and the usual minor aches and pains that come with age, I am healthy. In the past I have had occasion to go for physical therapy (for a frozen shoulder or a tweaked back) and there were stretching exercises prescribed. Those kinds of regimens can be hard to stay faithful to.
So, what is my point? First, that doctors and therapists of all sorts need to be realistic and work with folks to figure out a program that can be followed. Second, we need to be honest with ourselves – what are we willing to do? What do we have time to do? Do we believe in the regime that is being prescribed? Lastly, let’s not expect perfection. There’s nothing good about beating ourselves up over falling short of our goals – that can lead us to spiraling into negativity and being more self-destructive.
I want to be able to sing to my grandchildren – that is my main motivation for working on my voice. That and I don’t want to annoy people with my constant rasp. My throat doesn’t hurt, my voice just sounds bad. In a more general way, I want to be proactive about my chronic congestion to help lessen the number of sinus/ear infections I get and preserve my hearing. I will try to stick to the program, but I will also try to follow my own advice. I beat myself up enough about all kinds of things. I don’t need to add this to the list.