What is Self Care?
When you think about the term “self-care,” what comes to your mind? What kind of self-care schedule and plan do you have in place? Do you need to revise or strengthen your plan? Recommit to it? This blog is here to help, especially if you are someone who cares for others.
If you work in the field of healthcare, you are probably very familiar with the concept of self-care. As a nurse, therapist, PA, doctor, first responder, care provider, or community services worker, you know that taking care of people can be both fulfilling and exhausting.
You’ve probably heard this piece of wisdom: “you can’t pour from an empty cup; take care of yourself first.” However, consistent self-care can be more difficult than it sounds, particularly now in the aftermath of the covid pandemic.
Covid and Mental Health
The pandemic’s toll– from the loss of loved ones and the impact of long covid on millions of people to the anxiety, depression, and economic hardships many people are continuing to experience, the pandemic has and continues to be, the cause of stress for so many individuals, families, schools, communities, and healthcare facilities. To compound matters further, there are currently just not enough therapists and healthcare workers to match people’s needs. This puts added pressure on those who are on the front lines.
This blog acknowledges the great challenges facing those in healthcare today. It celebrates those who have devoted their careers to helping others. Finally, it highlights the importance of self-care and offers the tips below to help you create your unique self-care plan.
Self Care is for Everyone
Self-care must be thoughtful and individualized in order to be successful. Everyone’s needs are different. At the same time, however, there are many common self-care themes and tips that have proven to be helpful for many healthcare professionals.
Why is Self-Care Important?
One essential theme is this: self-care is not a luxury. It cannot be put on hold for a time in the future when things are less busy. Self-care must be practiced regularly to protect your overall health, your relationships, and the important work of caring for others. It’s very easy for stress to take over your life when your focus is on providing care. Therefore, it is crucial to make your own mental and physical health a priority and make self-care part of your daily routine, something that can fit into even your busiest, most draining days.
Below are self-care tips from healthcare professionals. Reflect on the ones that resonate with you, incorporate them into a plan that work for you, and commit and recommit to your plan as often as you can to stay healthy and balanced.
Schedule your self-care. Set times for your self-care during the week and commit to those times in the same way that you commit to your work schedule. Let others know that these times for your self-care are as important as the time you commit to your paying job.
Keep moving and incorporate regular exercise in your week. Whether it’s taking consistent walks with friends, walking on your own, or dancing to music in your house, exercise can help you unwind and is good for both your physical and mental health. Getting outside and feeling the warmth of the sun, the wind on your face, and the movement of your body will improve your health and relax your mind.
Commit to good nutrition. As the saying goes, you are what you eat. Food is your fuel and what you put into your body impacts both your body and your mind. Read and learn about good eating and nutrition habits. Then step by step, improve your own habits as best you can.
Prioritize sleep and try to stay well-rested. For so many frontline workers, sleep is often hard to come by. But it is very important! A good night of sleep can make a world of difference for one’s mood, energy level, and long-term health.
Don’t be afraid to say no. If your week or month is already full, don’t be afraid to say “no” to taking on other commitments or responsibilities. Remind yourself of the importance of the time you need for your self-care and share that need with others. It’s okay to say “no” for the sake of your health.
Do say “yes” when you can to be with people who make you feel loved and happy, and make you laugh. Staying social and connected is an important form of self-care. So, say yes to friends, family, and colleagues. If you find it hard to fit in social time and exercise, try to combine them. Schedule a regular time to walk with a friend or colleague.
Use positive self-talk. Consistently engage in positive self-talk to remind yourself to think positively even in the face of worrisome and stressful events in your life and in the world. As with your body, it’s important to “feed” your mind healthy “foods for thoughts.”
Keep a gratitude journal. Some people find it very helpful to begin and end their day with a gratitude journal. Write just 2-3 things in the journal that you are grateful for; you’ll be amazed at how it impacts your thinking.
Take up a hobby. Whether it’s painting, dancing, gardening, puzzles, or adult drawing books, find something that brings you joy and take time to do it regularly.
Unplug. Control the time you spend watching news and scrolling on social media. Research indicates that doing so will help you stay more balanced in a fast-moving, stressful world.
Incorporate self-care into your work hours. Make sure your work has breaks built into your work schedule. Time to drink water. Time to focus on taking deep breaths, eating a healthy snack, or stepping outside. Taking a work break improves the care of those you care for.
Listen to music. From live music to your favorite music track or making music of your own, music is a wonderful way to de-stress. Consider playing dance music to dance around your home! Music and exercise combined is the perfect combo!
Hug someone– human or furry. Physical contact can reduce stress and release a hormone that boosts feelings of happiness and relaxation. Seek out and deliver hugs to people and/or pets frequently.
Practice self-compassion. Continually remind yourself that you are human, that all humans make mistakes, that you can only do your best. Treat yourself as you would your best friend. Be gentle, forgiving, and kind to yourself and others.
Embrace your spirituality. Whatever form you choose, you can lift your emotions by embracing a spiritual practice. Many people find that getting out in Nature as often as possible is one of the best forms of self-care.
Celebrate what is good in life! Take time to find joy everyday. Feel the sun on your skin and the wind through your hair. Think about particular people who have touched your life. Living in the moment means being observant and mindful of the small wonders life offers us all the time.
Talk with a therapist to maintain good mental health. As with our physical health, we all need check-ups and maintenance on our brain health. While friends and family are wonderful to confide in, a good therapist can be of immense value, offering objectivity and professional knowledge on how to deal with stress and life’s challenges.
Create Your Own Self-Care Journal
After reflecting on the self-care tips suggested above, consider starting your own journal about your commitment to self-care. Your journal might have a section on gratitude and another section on goal setting, for example. Perhaps you want to have a diary section to jot down beautiful reflections or quotes or a place to let go of frustrations. Make your journal uniquely yours. You can add photos or magazine images you love. Insert inspirational notes to yourself to read when you feel you are losing commitment to your self-care.
Perhaps you want to put up colorful stickies on your bedroom mirror, desk at work, or anywhere else that you frequently look to remind yourself (and others) about the importance of self-care. These colorful stickies will serve as daily reminders that you are committed to your plan each and every day.
Remember, self-care is not a luxury. It is a fundamental necessity. At Catawba Valley Healthcare, we celebrate all our healthcare workers and are big promoters of self-care. Contact one of our primary care professionals or therapists if you need help with self-care or guidance on how to create a plan that will work for you. You can call us today @ (828) 695-5900.