Okay, I admit it. I love post-call days. There’s nothing better than knowing that while everyone else is driving to work and experiencing morning struggles, I get to drive home and snuggle under my warm blankets. I get to finally shut my brain off.
It’s really tempting to enter the door of my apartment, throw my things down, run to my bed and flop, face-first into the covers. But I find that when I do that, I don’t wake up as refreshed. I actually feel even groggier sometimes.
Recently, I’ve been trying a new thing where I take 30-60 minutes to give my body a little R&R (rest and relaxation) before I shut it off completely. Kind of like a gradual entrance into the serenity of sleep. Here is my recipe, feel free to add your own ingredients and modify as you please!
- 1 scented candle
- 1 playlist
- cucumbers, raspberries, mint or clementines
- pen & paper
- yoga mat
- lacrosse ball/tennis ball
- 1 wall
RELAX (2 minutes):
First, I light a scented candle. Yeah, it sounds cheesy, but believe me – once you smell that citrusy aroma or lilac infusion, you’ll forget all about those stale hospital sheets and the scrubs you wore all night. I try to stay away from sugary scents (Bath & Body Works, I hate you) because then I’ll just abandon my routine and search my shelves for chocolate or candy and spend the next 15 minutes eating them.
After this, I also flip on my favorite playlist to set the mood. I usually try to go for some slower beats – some R&B slow jams do the job quite well.
HYDRATE (3 minutes):
This is the most important part. I grab a tall glass of cold water and drink the whole thing. Sometimes two, if I’m feeling dangerous.
Too often, we don’t drink any water while on call. Our bodies are aching to be hydrated by the time we get home.
I love slicing up some cucumbers and splashing them in the water. I also pre-make trays of ice cubes frozen with mint, raspberries or clementine slices and add them to the water. It just adds a little extra zest, and I can pretend I’m getting more vitamins.
REFLECT (5 minutes):
1) One thing that I learned from the night
2) One thing I did well
The objective is to do some reflection and identify what the previous day meant to me. Writing down things I did well, also encourages me to improve for tomorrow. If you don’t encourage yourself, who will?
STRETCH (5-15 minutes):
Okay, I lied. This is equally important. I unroll my yoga mat and do 15 minutes of easy yoga. Sure, downward dog seems impossible at first, but once I get started, I find that it’s exactly what my body needs.
A good resource is Sadie Nardini’s youtube videos. She has a bunch of yoga videos online. This 15-minute one is my favorite: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e6Wt9CFb-4s
She also has a good 5-minute morning one if I’m feeling lazy and I just want to stretch:
RELEASE (15-30 minutes):
Now I grab my lacrosse ball and find a wall. A friend recently gifted a lacrosse ball to me, but you can also use a tennis ball. This thing is glorious. It’s an easy do-it-yourself myofascial release and releases your trigger points.
Start with your upper traps.
After spending a night slouched over hospital charts and patient’s bedsides, it is impossible not to have tight shoulders. This routine can help you prevent upper-crossed syndrome. Put the lacrosse ball between upper back and the wall. Work the ball up and down your back. Keep your arms folded in front of you, moving your shoulder blades out of the way. Here is where the R&B slow jams really start to make sense – yep, you’re grinding with the wall, but hey, no one’s watching and it feels great.
When you find a point in your back that is more sensitive or painful – stay there. Don’t move and add some more pressure against the wall. This is a trigger point. Breathe into it for several seconds. Even though it hurts at first, you’ll find that after some time, you relax into it. Do this for any points you find throughout the routine.
Now finish your entire back.
I probably don’t need to tell you to do this because you will naturally want to. Roll the lacrosse ball all the way down your back on one side of the spine. Repeat on the other side. This releases all your spinal muscles and your lats.
The idea is to work the lacrosse ball where your lats insert and improve lymphatic drainage. Place it under your armpits, and with the same arm behind your head, roll the ball up and down against the wall.
Release your IT band.
Lie on your side on your yoga mat and place the lacrosse ball between your hips and the mat. Now roll so that the ball slides down the side of your thigh. Tight IT bands can cause a lot of injury and knee pain. So keep it nice and loose by doing this.
Staying on your side, work the lacrosse ball in circular motions around your hip joint. Your glutes insert here, so you want to get them good.
Release your lower extremities.
After standing all day and night, you want to release the main muscle groups of your legs and your feet.
Now move the ball down the back of your thigh to get your hamstrings. Work it down to your calves.
To get your hip flexors, sit in kneeling position and roll the lacrosse ball across the front of your thighs. It’s easier than trying to lie prone in plank position (nobody needs abb work at a time like this!)
In standing, put the ball under one of your feet and move it up and down. It feels amazing, trust me. Your clogs are no match for this.
Finally, it’s time to hit the sheets! My body feels like jello, but the best kind.
See you on the other side!