By Brian Clyne
Although self-care sounds familiar and self-explanatory, International Self-Care Day is a reminder to discuss what Self-Care really means, how it improves your everyday life, and how you can practice self-care each day.
The World Health Organization defines self-care as “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.” That is a great way to say that self-care is looking after yourself with or without others support.
Who should be doing self-care then? YOU! However, there are many misconceptions about who should be doing self-care, such as the following:
- It is only for people with problems: Nope! Anyone can and should do it. We see self-care in our lives every day, such as getting a coffee when we feel like it. It helps to make us stronger even if we are already strong.
- It is a sign of weakness: Not true. Practicing self-care is a great way to better yourself. People who are strong can experience burn out and emotional fatigue sooner if they do not practice self-care. Men often neglect their health to support their families, but sometimes it backfires when major health problems arise. Focusing on your health early and frequently can keep you going for a long while and allow you to be stronger while doing so.
- To do self-care, you have to earn it: Everyone should practice self-care. You do not need to work to earn it. Self-care can be as simple as being aware of your feelings and working to find balance. It can also help you to be more successful in your life, such as practicing better hygiene like brushing your teeth more often so you don’t have cavities and can eat treats to reward yourself with (on occasion, eating too many sweets is another story).
- Self-care is optional: Why would you want to make it an option to take care of yourself? You wouldn’t run your outboard motor at max throttle all day long every day without doing some maintenance and changing the oil would you? Self-Care is part of that maintenance for your motor, it runs better when you take care of it.
- Self-care is selfish: Self-care doesn’t have to be selfish, there are many things you can do with self-care that can help others such as volunteering, supporting, or even just talking with others. It is also okay to do self-care by yourself. Remember the first rule of first aid: “you have to look after yourself before looking after others.” Self-care is something that helps you, so you can help others. Think of it as bettering yourself so you can be better for your loved ones.
Self-Care should be practiced all the time: At home, at work, with friends, in a field, on the ice, etc. July 24th is International Self-care Day, but in reality, every day is Self-care Day. You have the opportunity to make self-care part of your regular life and develop ways to better yourself. Even trying out new things or ways of self-care can help you.
Self-care can take place wherever you want, but sometimes doing things in the right spot helps (E.G. meditating on the highway is strongly not recommended, but meditating somewhere quiet and peaceful like a nice meadow is). You know yourself best. There are a number of self-care practices you can do in a variety of locations (because nice peaceful meadows are awfully chilly in January). Choose your favourite places based on your own preferences and experiences.
Self-care is one of the many ways to keep you healthy, but it can also help to keep your family, and your community healthy. Through supporting yourself to better your own health, you can, in turn, help all those around you.
There are many ways you can practice self-care, and they are completely up to you! There are thousands of ways to practice self-care, however they all center around some common themes:
- Eat healthy: this includes eating more veggies and fruit (local huckleberries count!) and backing away from the sugar (try adding less in your coffee and changing what you get while grocery shopping).
- Get enough sleep: this is a hard one as we are all busy, but try to plan going to bed earlier to get more sleep if needed. It might take a couple of days to get used to your new routine.
- Be proactive about your health: have you been to the health clinic, dentist or doctor recently? Have you noticed any changes or issues? These are all things that you should routinely be getting checked out for, so make that appointment and get checked!
- Avoid unnecessary risks: we all take risks in our lives, but sometimes we can better manage those risks. Stressed at work? Maybe put away the cigarette and go for a five minute walk instead. Manage the risks you take and even slowly work them down. Future you will be thankful.
- Physical activity: this is a prescription to go have fun! Go play some games like baseball, or go exploring. Physical activity doesn’t need to be a chore, and if it is, change it up! Find something active that interests you.
- Hygiene: up your standards! Clean up a bit, dress up a bit nicer. These can help improve your mental health too.
- Self-awareness: understand what you are feeling and how to manage your emotions. Would you do the same thing to manage anger as you would frustration? Being aware of yourself and how you feel is important for self-care because it helps you find solutions to your issues and make you happier and healthier.
Take a moment and think about what you can do to include some self-care into your life, and not just once, but every day!