I say this because as I move through life and watch my kids grow, I realize how often I use the tools I’ve learned through my studies in occupational therapy (OT) and how lucky I feel to have these tools to utilize to begin with. Some readers may be wondering, what is occupational therapy anyway? Well, let me give you a brief overview as I start this blog.
Occupational therapy focuses on our everyday activities with the word “occupation” meaning not just a job, but every meaningful activity we need or want to do on any given day. Occupational therapists help individuals increase independence and promote success in all aspects of daily life, from the basics of self-care to succeeding in the work place and everything in-between.
The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) has identified eight categories of our major life occupations:
Activities of daily living (ADLs) such as basic self care (Bathing, dressing, eating, etc)
Instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) which include more advanced self care-type activities (Meal preparation, home maintenance, caregiving, etc.)
Rest and sleep, including sleep preparatory activities
Education– both formal and informal.
Work– paid and non paid
Play– one of my favorites and the major occupation for kids (which I plan to touch on A LOT in blog posts to come)
Leisure– non-oligagory fun stuff
Social participation– including in the community, with family, and peers/friends
You can find Occupational Therapists in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, schools, outpatient clinics, and rehab centers to name just a few. OTs directly address a multitude of health conditions across all age ranges as well as contribute to wellness based programs and preventative care. AOTA has a TON of wonderful information about OT and the many realms of practice that OTs do, so for more information, please check out their website here.
So now that you have the very basics of what OT is, why do I say that Occupational Therapy is for everyone? Well, OT can help you “recognize the importance of habits and routines that promote the adoption and maintenance of healthy behaviors” (AOTA, 2015). We all have goals and aspirations and want to live happy, healthy, fulfilled lives whether we are struggling with an illness or injury or not. Personally, I’ve found myself utilizing a lot the knowledge I have gained professionally as an OT to work towards my own overall wellness for myself and my family. For example, I have two young children, ages one and three, and I frequently pull out sensory strategies to help our day go just a bit smoother. I’m not saying everyone needs their own skilled therapist, but that many of the philosophies and information that is based in OT may be beneficial to a wide range of people.
For another example, my biggest New Year’s resolution this year was to get more sleep. Many of us are familiar with the cognitive lag we feel when we are sleep deprived and over the past year I have been struggling to feel clear headed and well rested. Even more concerning is the impacts on your health in which sleep deprivation can contribute. According to the CDC, insufficient sleep is linked to such things as an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression.
Recognizing that this was an area of concern for myself was the first step to improving this area of my life. While I don’t always have control over this (it seems that some nights my kids love to take turns waking me up), I have been able to make some adjustments in this area.
So from an OT perspective, a good place to start in efforts to improve your overall health and wellness is to really look at your routine. By analyzing what you do on a daily basis you may find out what is and what is not working for you or promoting the best success and outcomes. As a quick exercise, you can start by asking yourself a few of questions:
Do you get enough sleep?
Do you feel well rested?
Do you have a balance between work and obligations, rest, and leisure?
Do you feel well connected to others in a positive way?
If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, you may want to explore that area a little further. To use my own example of insufficient sleep, once I really realized I needed to make a change, I was able to work out a couple strategies that seem to be helping:
I often go to bed (a bit) earlier now. This was a hard adjustment to make, because once my kids are finally tucked in, it’s so nice having some time to myself and with my husband. However, I’ve found that just an extra 30 minutes of sleep has made me feel a little more rested in the morning.
I fall back to sleep easier. My kids wake me up at night sometimes and it’s just one of those things out of my control. Now, to fall back asleep I try to have a moment of mindfulness and be aware of how comfortable my bed is. I listen to my breath and think about the softness of the pillow. I’m not saying this will work for everyone, but it sure does work for me. The American Sleep Association has more tips for good sleep hygiene, check them out.
I occasionally nap. I’m terrible at napping, but sometimes I try. I let the dishes sit in the sink and if it’s one of the wonderful occasions when both of my children are napping, I get back into bed. People who know me personally know this is not something I often do, as I have a hard time slowing down and relaxing. However, since I’ve made it a goal to get more rest, if I’m feeling tired and have the opportunity, I sometimes attempt a quick nap.
I could go on all day expanding upon this topic, but I think I will end it here and save more thoughts for another day. As my first blog post, I wanted to give just a general overview of OT and why I’m writing. I’m planning to share some more of what I have learned (and am still learning) in my blog posts to come and while not all posts will be bursting with OT philosophy, most will have at least just a touch of OTism, simply because being an OT is part of who I am. Enjoy!
American Occupational Therapy Association (2014). Occupational therapy practice framework: domain and precess (3rd edition), American Journal of Occupational Therapy 2014; 68 [supplement 1], 19-20. doi: 10.5014/ajot.2014.682006
American Occupational Therapy Association (2015). The role of occupational therapy with health promotion [Fact sheet]. Bethesta, MD: Author. Retrieved from http://www.aota.org/~/media/Corporate/Files/AboutOT/Professionals/WhatIsOT/HW/Facts/FactSheet_HealthPromotion.pdf
Sleep Hygiene Tips. (n.d.) Retrieved February 10, 2017 from https://www.sleepassociation.org/patients-general-public/insomnia/sleep-hygiene-tips/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2013, July 1). Sleep and chronic disease. Retrieved February 10, 2017 from https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/chronic_disease.html
*Disclaimer: The information presented in the blog is intended for information and entertainment purposes only. Please consult your physician with any medical concerns and/or for medical advice. The information presented is not intended to be used in place of individualized therapy services, please contact your health care team for skilled therapy if you think it is necessary. Please supervise your children (or friends, spouses, etc) if you decide to try any of the activities or ideas presented as the author or this blog does not claim liability for possible injury or negative consequences related to the activities and ideas presented here.