Thursday, April 6, 2017

Taking Care of the Self

by Hilda R. Garcia, MSW, LCSW
     Clinical Social Worker

What is Self-Care?

Some of us may think we know or at least have an idea of what it means, but for others it could conceivably be a brand new concept.   For those of us who have been or are clinicians and in the business of helping people recognize how to care for themselves, we may fall short of doing it for ourselves.

As a social work novice, I found early on in my career that taking care of you is an important social work and life skill.  In writing this, I couldn’t help but remember my first flight to visit my colleague and her family in Manhattan.   The flight attendant’s safety instruction began with “in case of loss in cabin pressure, masks will drop from the ceiling; don your mask first before your child or others”.  I thought: WOW, what a brilliant idea…and so “social workie” to boot.  That idea morphed into something I diligently practice...making sure I do self- care and model that for others, whether clients, family or friends.  

For some self-care can feel  innate, yet for others it can be very a difficult challenge.  Suffice it to say that there has been a perception that when taking care of yourself, that is simply “selfish”, but it’s not.   After a few decades, we are now getting to the point of realizing that self-care is a very important part of staying healthy…emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. 

So now that self-care has proven to be a positive aspect of health, you want to know all about it and read up on it.  As reflected by a client’s world, she recognized that she had been too focused on her life goals, achievements, expectations, hers and others, and decided to make a drastic change.  She quit her 50-60 hour job and started a consulting business that promised to be exciting and fun.   She began traveling quite a bit all over all the country and still managed to schedule some time alone, exercise, and train for a marathon just for fun. 
After a few months into that and during the Christmas holidays, she found herself home in bed, completely exhausted and wondering what in the world happened as she’d focused on practicing how to be good to herself.   She simply forgot to take care of herself once again and now had a terrific flu, was tired and unable to do the work she thought was going to be awesome.

So, “SWITCHING THE CULPRITS DID NOT FIX IT”.  As much thought as she put into the changes, the small things were pushed aside.   She did make an attempt to take more time alone and to herself  but maybe not enough.  The training for the marathon was not so easy but she did it.  Getting the flu is a reminder:  it’s the message that self-care is not a one-time thing but instead, it’s an ongoing awareness of how small things can soothe your body, mind and soul.  

A few small self-care ideas for the mind: 
  • Watch sunsets or lie on the grass and watch clouds float by.
  • Document great things people say about you and review them often.
  • Play around for a bit or just goof off.
  • Be “selfish”.   Do one thing that makes you happy; only you know what that one thing is.
  • Fix a small annoyance that’s getting on your nerves.   Change a light bulb that’s out.    
A few self-care ideas for the body:
  • Take a quick nap for ten or twenty minutes.
  •  Have a good laugh by reading comic strips that you enjoy
  • Get down and boogie.  Listen to a favorite record and shake your body. 
  • Take three deep breaths and exhale slowly. 
  •  Be still and just be.
A few self-care ideas for the soul:
  •  Imagine you’re your own best friend.
  • Help someone; carry a bag; open a door; wheel someone to an entrance of a store.
  • Stroke a pet.
  • Plan a get-away for the next weekend.   Tell people you will be away and turn off your phone.
  • Check in with your emotions.  Name without judgment what you are feeling.
It’s taking small yet consistent steps to attend to our own self-care that will connect us to ourselves and our worlds.   Changing a few pathways in our brains will make for big changes in our everyday lives.
Doing self-care …………………“It is an idea whose time has come”………Pierre T. de  Chardin