Active Lifestyle - Occupational Therapy

What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational Therapy is a healthcare profession used to help people recover from mental and physical illness by encouraging participation in meaningful activities, however the ideas can be transferred into everyone’s everyday lives. The importance of doing things that you enjoy and making time for yourself, not only through challenging times like the one we find ourselves in now, but in your everyday life is invaluable.

'Therapy through activities is the focus of Active Therapy'

We asked a yoga teacher and trained occupational therapist to gain a deeper understanding of the principles.

Q How would you describe Occupational Therapy?

A question I get asked regularly. In short, Occupational Therapists treat injured, ill and/or disabled people through the therapeutic use of meaningful activities. We help people develop, improve and maintain the skills needed to live independent and meaningful lives. Now this might be helping someone develop the skills needed for successful community living (interview skills, home management and adapted washing and dressing skills), this may be helping someone develop the skills needed to participate in leisure activities or to reach specific goals (working on anxiety management and graded exposure to the community to get a hair cut or play crazy golf!) or this may be helping someone to develop a structured routine filled with meaningful activities to help improve their mental health.

I currently work in a community mental health team in the Forensic Healthcare Sector. Most of my client group have experienced childhood abuse and other traumas through their lives, which has resulted in disordered personalities, bipolar disorders and schizophrenia diagnosis. My job is largely focused on helping these patients develop and maintain the skills needed to live a meaningful and enjoyable life outside of a secure hospital. It is an amazing profession and a hugely rewarding job to have.

What I love most about Occupational Therapy is the concept that anyone can recover through the use of activity. And this activity can be anything that is meaningful to you.

Q How can it be applied to your own life?

To me, one of these meaningful activities is Yoga. When I moved to New Zealand, I was overwhelmed by my new environment and way of life. I was struggling with the lack of structure and routine to my days and needed some enjoyable activity to help me navigate through this huge life change. This is when I found Yoga. I went and brought my first Yoga mat and attended a lunch time 'Power Yoga' class. This experience was the start of an incredible adventure for me, and truly helped me to ground myself throughout my time in New Zealand. My regular Yoga practice has helped me to manage my own mental health through many challenging points of my life, and I often share this example with my patients when I am explaining how powerful participation in meaningful activities is. This is not to say that your meaningful activities have to be yoga or any sort of exercise for that matter. Your meaningful activities are anything that bring you joy. For example, rock climbing, painting, cooking or listening to music. 

Q Can yoga be therapeutic in lockdown?

I have also found my Yoga practice essential throughout this ‘lockdown’ period. Participating in meaningful and enjoyable activities is proven to lift mood and improve mental health, which is why I am a advocate for developing a lockdown routine. Exercise and Yoga are helping me to feel productive throughout this strange time, and both are helping me to focus on something positive. Setting goals and taking small steps to achieve them is another great way of staying positive and productive throughout not only lockdown, but life in general. 

Interview with Nicole from @breathewyoga

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