When I first heard about Self Care, I didn’t really know what it meant. In my mind it meant dressing well, making sure your hair was tidy, making your bed, keeping your room clean, so everything looked good. I have since found out that there is a whole lot more to those two little words.
I’ve learned that it is not just about activities to create an image, it’s a whole way of living that puts yourself first, before anyone else. ‘But that’s being selfish!’ you might cry, and that’s what I thought – at first. But I’ve since learned that if we look after ourselves first, then we (a) set a good example for others, especially our children, and (b) we are less exhausted and can then have more energy to support everyone else. Self Care is about a quality of living that keeps us in touch with our bodies and learns from the messages our bodies are constantly giving us.
For example, if we have a backache, it could be from the way we are sitting or standing at work. We may need to check our posture, our seat shape, the hours we are in just one position, the way we move, bend and stretch. Have we exercised enough to build up our supporting muscles?
We all have a responsibility to make sure that we are fit for work, and that leads to the question, Are we fit for life? How can we ensure that we have optimum physical and mental health so that we can move with confidence in every situation, have great relationships with family, friends and work colleagues, and find joy in everything we do? Sounds idealistic? Yes, but not impossible because we can make many choices in the way we live that can bring about positive changes in all aspects of our lives.
Different types of self care can include how we Eat, Sleep, Exercise, Talk, and Think.
One great stress in the workplace is suffering at the hands of what we see as poor management decisions, that perhaps did not take into account the needs of each employee, for example, hospitals making doctors work long shifts without proper sleep. We can get steamed up about it, we can accept it, or we can do something about it.
If we can do something about it, then it needs to be done in a matter of fact way. One of the things that exhausts us is getting emotional about issues we feel we have no control over. We talk to all our friends and colleagues in a moaning type of voice, they agree with us and we all disappear in a downward spiral of negativity. That serves no-one. Being practical like finding a way to reflect our awareness back to management, offering statistics that show the consequences of their decision, presenting facts in a non-emotional way, without judgment, gives them more of an opportunity to listen. It doesn’t always work and we can present the facts and they will still be ignored, but at least we tried, and can look for other ways of getting the message across.
In situations where we have no choice but to do what is asked, we might feel irritated or annoyed, but one of the phrases that I’ve found helps me is to say ‘That’s just the way it is.’ It hurts to bat your head against a brick wall. We do need to express what we feel, but indulging in emotional reactions just wears everybody down. A colleague once asked me how I responded when someone was rude to me. This can be a typical customer service situation in any industry. For me I have learned not to take things personally, and I try to understand that perhaps they are having a bad day, or something is really wrong, but it’s not actually my fault, I am not wrong, but they are having an emotional reaction to something and directing it at me. It feels awful, but if I don’t react, if I calmly ask for more information and develop my understanding of the situation, they may also calm down, especially as someone is truly listening to them.
So for me one example of self care is learning to respond and not react in difficult situations.
If you would like to read more on Self Care, the Unimed Living Self Care web pages have articles that may be of interest, there are audios and self care quotes for you to enjoy.