Updated: Jan 23, 2022
“The practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health” -World Health Organization
This is a hot topic, being inspired by the month of love in February, why not show love to yourself? There are millions of articles and books written to teach and inspire you to take care of yourself. Honestly, so much easier read/said than done! Knowing in theory what to do is one thing, but doing it is quite another.
Why? I ask myself… Why is it so hard to practice self-care? So, I change the question, how do you make yourself want to practice self-care? That changes everything. You need to want to care for yourself, make yourself a priority. That is the hard part. In my work I often find myself in a position working with someone who, for some reason, struggles to prioritize themselves in recovery of injuries or pain. Sounds crazy right? Why would we delay or avoid our own health? There are many reasons, I have come to learn. Sometimes the most important thing I can do as a therapist is figure this out, and then change the narrative. Most people don’t even realise they doing it. I think sometimes we struggle to prioritize ourselves – our health/ happiness. If we honestly believe in our worth, taking care of ourselves becomes easy, just as we would never neglect the health/wellness of our families/loved ones.
How can you do this? Strategies I have used to motivate people to work on recovery include reminding them of how important they are in their world, remind them why prioritizing themselves will in turn make things better. This is only one solution, a start. We need to find our worth, and in that process, learn not to attach our worth to belongings or others – I believe this is what leads to real inner happiness and peace.
I know this is probably a little deep and intense. In a time when we are dealing with all these heavy emotions that come with the life changing events we are living through - I think it’s best to cut through the superficial layers of our lives. I have read enough articles on how you can take better care of yourself, or at least pretend to. I believe in truth, and I believe the greatest truth we can uncover is about ourselves. In that self-discovery, we can truly practice self-care.
Education Focus: Understanding Health
“A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”
If we are to ever practice self-care, we need to understand the goal of self-care, health and well-being. In the introduction I touched on the social and emotional aspects of health. That, in my opinion, is one of the most important parts of health, but also the hardest part. Here you need to do lots of introflection, sometimes best under the guidance of professionals in this field. Instead, for now, I want to touch on physical well-being.
In past blogs I have covered injuries, anxiety, inflammation, and pain. These are consequences of poor health conditions. We have strategies to overcome these, and I have covered the basics. Health itself is fickle, it is something that we take for granted - and shouldn't. Our body is in a continuous state of adaptation and evolution to the environment we create inside and around us. What we put in it through diet and what we do with it, through exercise/movement and lack thereof. We may not be able to control all the variables in where we live, how we eat and what we do but we do have control over some. I believe in times of crisis and strife, sometimes the best thing we can do is control the things we can.
We start by understanding and accepting what we cannot control. Got to love the serenity prayer.
What can we not control?
Our genetics. We are what we were born. A big part of our health is predetermined in genetic code. Science is evolving on this, whether we agree with it or not I am afraid. Many illnesses and lying in wait for a trigger.
Our anatomy. Linked to genetics (as are most things), but sometimes trauma / surgery will change it too. It may be out of our control, but we need to accept our bodies, the good, bad, and ugly.
Our circumstances. We are born into an environment, financial/geographical, but it is not stagnant, it is evolving. We choose to stay in it or move to a different one (physical and emotional) as well as work towards a different financial one (work for more or work for better).
Now for the part that we can control.
Our environment. Choosing to organise it in a safe, clean, and practical way such to prevent injuries - through ergonomics, prevent accidents – through clear paths and to be practical – through organisation and decreased clutter. I know the last is a little odd to add but I do feel it helps me manage emotional clutter and may be helpful to you.
Our diet. We may not have complete control here, but we always have some. This may be on our choices and on our portions. You really are what you eat – in this I am completely convinced. We need to find balance in what we love – which may or may not be healthy – and what we need.
Our activity/exercise. We have no excuses here. Your body will adapt – good or bad – to what we do with it.
I would like to end off with an incredible, current, inspiring, and relevant quote:
“There is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.”