When we hear the word prescription we tend to think of a slip of paper from a GP with an order for medicines. Actually, a prescription is the advice or recommendation of something beneficial. Osteopaths cannot prescribe medicines or drugs, but we do prescribe things like exercises. I had a woman in my clinic recently who is exhausted and emotional. She is trying to balance life with a new-born, fussy baby and a severely ill family member who she is responsible for. I offered tissues and reassurance that she is indeed doing a good enough job despite her feelings, but I know she desperately needs to take some time to gain some headspace. So, I issued a verbal prescription of twenty minutes to do something genuinely unrelated to her to-do list or to do nothing at all. Rather than feel guilty about it, she is to view it as medicinal.
Really, I’m not sure if she’ll manage to carve out that twenty minutes right now but it made me realise how many of us need to be disciplined about this when we do have the ability. One of the most common symptoms I see, aside from aches and pains, is just this chronic state of stress and burnout. I hold my hands up as somebody who also gets stuck on the treadmill of doing and never gets off. Everybody, we need to learn how to hit the stop button!
Now, it is usually a terrible idea to prescribe anything without a consultation and examination, but this is one I am confident you will need, regardless of who you are and what you do. So, consider yourself prescribed with the following;
What? You have been prescribed Twenty Minutes. This is time when you either do something for pure enjoyment or relaxation or you simply do nothing at all. Suggestions include; drink a cup of tea without reading work emails at the same time, take a short walk for the enjoyment of it rather than “to get some exercise”, doodle a picture on an envelope, snuggle on the couch with a child or pet, meditate, pray, flick through a magazine, read a chapter of a good book, stare into space, daydream, breathe.
When? You choose. Some people like to take Twenty Minutes first thing and other people like to take it just before bed. Others manage to take it through the day, in a lunch break, between shifts, just before the school run, while kids are at swimming lessons, during a coffee break. It’s up to you.
How often should I take it? At least once a day. During acute phases of stress, dosage could be increased to several times a day or doubled. Even a half dose of Twenty Minutes is beneficial if you are finding it difficult to take any at all. If it has been been several days or weeks since you have managed to take Twenty Minutes at all, then give some serious thought to dropping something from your activity list or asking somebody to help you.
What if I miss a dose? If you miss a dose, just try to take it again as soon as possible.
What if I take too much? There is no harm in taking too much but if you are prone to losing track of time, you may want to set an alarm so that you remember to return to work or pick up the kids!
Are there any side effects? Some people report a feeling of guilt and worry about all the things they should be doing. Try changing the word should to could, keep taking your Twenty Minutes and this will improve. Some people feel a sense of hostility and complain that they “just don’t have the time.” Another sun will rise, and the world has a tendency to keep turning even when we don’t get every little thing done in our day.
Are there any contra-indications? Common sense is desirable when taking Twenty Minutes. It is best avoided in the middle of an important conference call, when a child is in discomfort or danger, if the building is on fire or if an emergency is arising. Please note that dishes in the sink, a few crumbs on the floor or socks needing paired does not constitute an emergency.
How long for? It is important to keep taking your Twenty Minutes regularly even after you start to feel better.
Obviously, this is all a little tongue in cheek but on a serious note, we need to learn how to stop or we will burn out. You cannot pour from an empty cup and living in a constant state of doing will lead to exhaustion. Some people will find this difficult and uncomfortable both practically and emotionally. If you are really struggling to find your off switch come and talk to us. You may be surprised at how we can help with that as well as your aches and pains.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, it is my day off and I am going to ignore the laundry that needs put away and go drink tea with a friend. I might even double dose!