Until recently, I believed practicing Self-Care was for the emotionally traumatized. Then Coronavirus came, and if you’re human, you’re emotionally traumatized. Myself, no exception.
Getting access to our doctors and treatments wasn’t easy before, but now…. There’s only so much telehealth can do. Self reliance is no longer something touted by the strong, it’s something we all need if we’re going to make it. At the core of self reliance is self-care.
WHAT IS SELF-CARE?
Self-Care is exactly what it sounds like; taking care of yourself. You take care of yourself when you do things like
- eat a balanced diet – physical
- move your body to keep it limber – physical
- get enough quality sleep – physical, emotional
- express your ideas and feelings (to yourself or to others) – emotional
- manage your stress – emotional, spiritual
- express your creativity – spiritual, emotional
- practice mindfullness – spiritual
- nurture a hobby – spiritual
- take breaks from your labors – emotional, spiritual, physical
Take a moment to reflect: how many of those things have you done in a meaningful way in the last week?
WHY IS SELF-CARE IMPORTANT?
If we get lost in our work, or power through pain or stress, we’re not acknowledging our Human complexity. If you go to the doctor and say, “I have a pain in my knee”, a good doctor won’t say “Just walk it off”, they will try to figure out why you have pain.
Our physical health is very similar to our emotional and spiritual health. When something hurts, or feels strained, or gives us more difficulty than usual, it might be because we’ve forgotten to look after ourselves. Even worse, we often don’t know something hurts or isn’t working right because we don’t pause and take the time to feel. When we do not practice self-care, we work ourselves into repeated cycles of stress or exhaustion.
Yet, self-care is not just about taking care of ourselves. Self-care is holistic, which is to say, when we practice self-care we nurture the better versions of ourselves, which in turn impacts our ability to
- be productive in a healthy way for our employer
- give the best of ourselves to our loved ones
- feel like our time with others is well spent
CAN SELF-CARE REPLACE HEALTHCARE?
No it can’t. But, self-care can help you be healthier. The stress we experience as modern Humans is unhealthy. We’re not being hunted by lions like zebras are, we’re being hunted by mortgages, parking tickets, health insurance deductibles and so on. Our crazy schedules and inability to make time to exercise and eat well are, without a doubt, harming our overall health. Insert the Coronavirus and suddenly our already-unhealthy schedules are out of whack. We are fearful of the dangers of today and the unknowns of tomorrow – our anxiety flares out of control.
What you’re feeling is valid
All of the stress, anxiety, loneliness, disconnectedness, and worry we are experiencing right now is valid. But valid or not, it’s not healthy. Self-care will not heal your ulcer, but managing your stress might keep you from getting one. While that last statement is hyperbole, not medical advice, there is plenty of evidence that unchecked stress impacts our physical health. Of particular note right now – poorly managed stress weakens your immune system.
WHY IS PRACTICING SELF-CARE SO HARD?
I know, right? We are busy people. Our society has developed an unhealthy vision of productivity and value that push us to always be working, doing, producing. When Coronavirus came, one of the hardest things to do was “nothing”.
Why are we so busy? All the things that we have convinced ourselves are vital to being a good parent, sibling, worker, spouse, neighbor keep our schedules stacked to the rafters. We’ve been trained to not-focus on our own needs (narcissists excluded); to put ourselves last, or not at all. Who has time to meditate for 30 minutes, or exercise for 20, or spend 15 minutes reading a book for pleasure, or (heaven forbid) take 5 minutes of peace in the bathroom without someone shouting for you!?
PRACTICING SELF-CARE TAKES…PRACTICE
Practicing self-care requires a commitment to ourselves. If you have trouble making a commitment to yourself, you can start by dedicating your self-care to your loved ones, who WILL benefit from the healthier you that self-care will reveal.
Starting a self-care routine is going to take more space than we have here. So keep an eye out for follow up articles. In the meantime, here are some resources I’ve found to be reliable and informative:
If you or someone you care about are at high risk for the Coronavirus, join our
Covid-19 Updates for Immunocompromised Communities Facebook Group.
Jim Sliney Jr. is a Registered Medical Assistant and a Columbia University trained Writer/Editor. He creates education and advocacy materials for patient support groups and has worked closely with several rare disease communities. Jim also coordinates the patient content for PatientsRising and loves collaborating with other writers. Jim is a native New Yorker where he lives with his wife, his niece and all their cats. Special skills: beard maintenance / pizza. Twitter Email