Health and Wellness

Sucking at Self Care: Why it’s sometimes hard to take care of ourselves and why we should

When the check engine light in your car comes on, do you bring the car in, or do you continue to drive until something catastrophic happens?

Full disclosure – I highlight the importance of self-care when I teach Mental Health First Aid, but am often really bad at actually doing it.

“Suck-It-Up” Era

As a child of the “suck-it-up” era of living, I often have a hard time working through some of my thoughts and behaviours that reinforce working myself into the ground. That’s not okay. When the check engine light in your car comes on, do you bring the car in, or do you continue to drive until something catastrophic happens?

Our mind and body have warnings that we may ignore.

I know, because sometimes I do it. I would like for that to change and to consistently prioritize the taking care of me, which is why in 2019 (the year that I turn 49…before the big you-know) I am looking to set an intention: a practice.

The idea of daily practice shifted in my mind when speaking with a friend this past year as he shared with me his struggles with a PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) diagnosis and a substance problem. He sought out help and now realizes that his life is a day-to-day practice.

Daily Practice

The idea of daily practice shifted in my mind when speaking with a friend this past year as he shared with me his struggles with a PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) diagnosis and a substance problem.
He sought out help and now realizes that his life is a day-to-day practice.

His practice focuses on making choices that supports the life he wants to lead, which he said is often very hard, and sometimes comes with mistakes and what feels like failures. I call these mishaps being human, or as another friend I have would say, “Pobody’s Nerfect.” We do need to try and find what works for us and how to support and sustain the caring of ourselves even before the engine light comes on.

So, what is self-care? In general, self-care is a set of behaviours and attitudes that contribute to your well-being and happiness.

What is Self-Care

So, what is self-care? In general, self-care is a set of behaviours and attitudes that contribute to your well-being and happiness. When the term “self-care” was first mentioned to me years ago, the immediate thought was, hmmm, isn’t that selfish. So why would I prioritize taking care of myself when I see it in a negative light?

How would I respect others who do things to support themselves if I thought the activities were self-centered? Time for a perspective shift, because who wouldn’t highlight or include themselves on a list of priorities? I didn’t.

Today, any list that I write down must consist of at least one thing to help me take care of me…then I strive to do it. Even the simple act of including myself in a list is important.

Today, any list that I write down must consist of at least one thing to help me take care of me…then I strive to do it. Even the simple act of including myself in a list is important.

Support Your Self-Care

The activities to support self-care are different for everyone, and they can be zero cost or expensive, feature low time commitment at home or days of travel. A recent post that I saw on Facebook was how simple self-care can be.

It can include saying “no” to additional work, an outing or even a friendship. It can be about getting enough rest on a daily basis, even an extra 20 minutes. Taking on a new practice like mindfulness, working out, or art.

How about using any medical benefits that you have?

With the Public Service Health Care Plan, my family and I have access to massage, chiropractor, naturopath and more, reimbursed to 80 per cent (up to a maximum dollar amount), which are other ways to care for yourself outside of the traditional 15 minutes’ doctor appointment. Using them, if you have them, is a good indication you are looking after yourself.

Back to the car analogy and taking it one step further, go ahead and continue to gas up your vehicle and change the oil, but now include a rustproofing, filter and fluid changes, and a car wash as well. Please take care of yourself and support others as they take care of themselves. Getting rid of the notion that self-care is selfish is a vital next step in allowing others and ourselves to live a life of happiness and well-being.

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Sherry Lachine

Sherry Lachine owns Broadmind (broadmind.ca), a social enterprise focussing on strategies for mental health. She brings Mental Health First Aid to the veteran’s community across the country and advises on the standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the workplace. Sherry is a veteran helping other veterans and community members

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