Self-Care before the crisis
What do you think of when you hear the term “self-care”? Do you roll your eyes and think of manicures,
chocolate, and fantasies of a month off from work? We tend to confuse self-care with self-indulgence.
Or, maybe you draw a blank when someone asks you about self-care. If you’re like most people, the
term “self-care” has become a catch phrase we don’t think about until we are desperately in need of it.
What is self-care?
Self-care is the regular practice of managing your stressors and nourishing all aspects of wellness –
physical, emotional, social, and spiritual. The practice of self-care supports a homeostasis in our lives
and recognizes that our energy is finite. We each have unique temperaments and abilities that
influence how much we can produce and contribute. It’s a simple equation of energy in versus energy
out. The more we replenish our energy the better we function.
Some have compared the self-care practice to keeping a full tank of gas. We go, go, go until the empty warning sign flashes. In most cases, that is when we fill up. We go to a yoga class, take a nap,
remember to eat, or whatever else it is that refuels us. But we aren’t like cars. Cars can maintain the
same speed whether the tank is full or half full. People, on the other hand, function best when we keep a relatively full tank versus constantly running near empty.
Our energy is limited and it is important to develop a habit of routinely filling up; stopping at the gas
station daily if not several times a day. We are constantly contributing – working, caregiving, creating. Thus, we should be regularly refilling ourselves to meet the demands of daily life.
Developing a self-care practice
Identify your stressors. What are the challenges in your life right now? Naming these is the first step.
The next step is developing and practicing the daily skills to meet these challenges without creating
more stress for yourself.
Physical care. Don’t put off your own healthcare. Schedule in advance to prevent running out of time or
pushing off your health. Good self-care is making sure you get to the dentist and any other routine
Spiritual care. What inspires you? This may be religion or it could be nature, animals, a mindfulness
practice. Find what feeds your soul and incorporate it into your daily life in some way.
Community. Identify community in your life. This could be professional or personal. Either way,
spending time with people who support you and lift you up will build resiliency.
Rest. We all have different needs for sleep and rest. Whatever your optimal level of rest is, be sure you
are getting it. It could be a few minutes to breathe throughout the day.
Nourishment. Feed yourself – physically and psychologically. Eat healthy foods that promote energy. Take in healthy sources of information and entertainment. Things like gossip, negative talk, and anxiety- provoking news are like eating high fats and sugars. Feed yourself positively.
Reflection. Life changes quickly. Spending a few moments daily to reflect on what your current
demands are and how you are currently practicing self-care will help to ground your practice. This could
be taking a few quiet moments in the morning to check in with yourself, journaling, or reading an poem
or passage that inspires you.
Monitor burnout. Be on the watch for signs of burnout. If you find yourself becoming more negative,
not caring as much, getting sick frequently, or feeling depleted it is time to re-assess. Check out Radical
Self-care for a quick reset.
Self-care is not filling up when we are puttering into the gas station on empty. You can still eat that
chocolate or schedule a manicure, but remember self-care is most effective when it is an ongoing