What is self-care?
Do you care about self-care?
Should you care more about self-care?
The World Health Organization’s latest definition of self-care” is:
Self-Care is what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health, and to prevent and deal with illness. It is a broad concept encompassing hygiene (general and personal), nutrition (type and quality of food eaten), lifestyle (sporting activities, leisure etc), environmental factors (living conditions, social habits, etc.) socio-economic factors (income level, cultural beliefs, etc.) and self-medication. (1998 )
Self-care can be physical in nature, going to the dentist on time, taking our prescriptions, brushing our teeth, exercising regularly or even going for our annual physical.
But it can and should really also include strategies aimed at improving and sustaining our emotional mental health as well — we can do this in many ways — through active self-awareness, mindfulness, performing stress reducing activities like meditating or other engaging and therapeutic activities, learning how to manage our emotions and feelings, going to therapy or using self-help books or online tools.
That is a mouthful to say, let alone to do, and of course, no one is perfect — no one has a handle on everything in their emotional life — and sometimes, for many people, the expectations from others and even from ourselves to be emotionally healthy all the time, can be overwhelming.
But really… maybe it’s not about being perfect right now? Maybe it’s just about trying?
Maybe it’s really more about realizing that something important and human — something deep inside ourselves actually grows from making the effort to care for ourselves and by authentically caring for others? If we really try to be mentally healthy we are also then pointed in the direction of learning and growing and improving in so many other ways.
Another perspective is to see that we can maintain our mental health much akin to sharpening a saw as Stephen Covey put it in the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Suppose you came upon someone in the woods working to saw down a tree. They are exhausted from working for hours. You suggest they take a break to sharpen the saw. They might reply, ” I didn’t have time to sharpen the saw, I’m busy sawing!”
Habit 7 is taking the time to sharpen the saw. By renewing the four dimensions of your nature – physical, spiritual, mental and social/emotional, you can work more quickly and effortlessly. To do this, we must be proactive.
So from the Covey perspective, sharpening our saw is necessary to be able to perform well and to “feel good”.