Self-care is not selfish or self-indulgent, it is critical for overall wellbeing. How can we possibly meet the demands of everyday life if we, ourselves, are not fully charged to do so? The amount of pressures and commitments that we find ourselves dealing with are never ending and if we don’t care of ourselves the distress and burnout we feel can overwhelm us and essentially make us completely ineffective to perform any task well.
Distress is defined as “the subjective emotional response an individual experiences in response to any of a number of challenges, demands, and stresses in one’s life” (Barnett, Johnston, & Hillard, 2006)
Burnout as described by Freudenberger (1984) “a depletion or exhaustion of a person’s mental and physical resources attributed to his or her prolonged, yet unsuccessful striving toward unrealistic expectations, internally or externally derived” (p. 223).
There are many ways negative aspects chronic stress and feeling overwhelmed can appear such as irritability, anxiety, depression, headaches, insomnia, high blood pressure, increased risk of stroke or heart attack, digestive distress, body aches, decreased sexual desire and a comprised immune system – just to name a few. These should be enough for us to take a stand to see that our own needs require attention.
It is necessary that we take self-care seriously and not view it as a passing trend. There are many ways in which to attend to self-care but one thing that’s consistent is that it’s highly individualized. What one person sees as soothing would not be for another. That being said one of the first steps towards better self-care is awareness.
“Awareness alone, to paraphrase Freud, is like providing a starving person with only a dinner menu.” (Norcross et al. 2008).
You should identify your own patterns, where you’re vulnerable or where you may sabotage yourself. Keeping track in a journal or a running log can help you view the overall picture of how you function. Making the commitment to better self-care and identifying it as a priority will help you make the changes needed in order to be successful.
Take the Self Care Assessment to see where your stand.
To think about practising self-care and actually doing it are two different things. Schedule it in to your day. Make it possible. Make it reasonable. It does not require a vast amount of time but it does require a commitment. ACTION!
There are many great and wonderful ways to practise self-care. Once you have identified the areas of need for you, you can explore which techniques you would benefit the most from.
Listed below are a few popular self-care tips that may work for you.
- Go outside – being in nature and seeking out an area with green space is associated with greater life satisfaction and less mental distress
- Workout – better yet, workout outside. Working out decreases tension, anger and depression.
- Help others – volunteering positively affects self-confidence, self-esteem and general wellbeing
- Breathe – deep breathing and concentrating on our breath can calm the mind and decrease stress
Assistant Wellbeing Coordinator, WRAP