Care is a vital part in health ‘care’. But what does this even mean?
Does it mean that we feel sorry for other people and are motivated to do good things for them from that sadness and sorrow?
Does it mean that unless we feel emotions for their experiences that we do not care?
Does it mean showing emotions and reactions to the experience of another?
Does it mean that we are not caring if we don’t react or display any emotions to what a person is experiencing?
Or is there something more to care?
We know that people who indulge in behaviours like smoking, drinking alcohol, eating too much and taking recreational drugs, going out late and not sleeping enough and not eating nutritious food are not ‘taking care’ of themselves. Repeated behaviours like this lead to an accumulated toll on the body.
But I question where do these behaviours come from? We would call these ultimately behaviours of self abuse, but what motivates a person to make these choices? In the case of excessive eating, perhaps a person may feel that they are taking care of themselves, using food as a place of care. When they feel down or sad, using food to make themselves feel better, to feel comforted. People who go and smoke may also feel as though they are taking care of themselves in some way, taking the time to smoke to help them to cope with life. Feeling comforted by the burning of the smoke filling their lungs.
But is comfort really the same as care? Now there’s food for thought!
What if the things that we have been thinking of as care, are actually forms of comfort?
And what if comfort is more about numbing what the body is feeling rather than deeply taking care of the body, providing the body with what it truly needs to heal?
What if instead, care is about providing the body what it truly needs to heal, to feel healthy and truly well and vital? Rather than give us something that makes us temporarily feel ‘better’?
If we approached care from that, we would not consider drinking wine or having a smoke or a late night as forms of care, we would consider that those things would be putting a strain on the body. After all, we know that we need to ‘recover’ from a late night, or from drinking, or from eating too much, and everyone knows the impact of smoking on the body!
True care is about providing the body what it needs to feel healthy and well, of acting with the body in a caring way. Care is a quality that we all know and can sense, it is not just something that is done, it is the way that something is done.
Thus in that sense taking care of ourselves is about listening to the needs of our body at all times.
It is about being attentive.
It is about connecting with that quality of care, and then from that, an attention to every little detail emerges.
It then extends that it is important that we care for our financial health and well-being, it extends that it is important that we care for our body in terms of how much rest it needs, we start to take care of ourselves in relationships, learning how to stay true to ourselves, we take care of ourselves in terms of what our body needs in terms of food and drink in order to stay healthy and well, not just what we want to eat because it tastes good or feels good!
Taking care of ourselves is not something that can be defined by one aspect of life. It is not something that is static. It is something that is always ever growing and ever expanding and ever deepening. As we start to connect with the importance of care, we start to learn more and more and more about how our bodies need to be taken care of to stay healthy and well.
We can learn how to be more gentle in the office, how to be more ordered in the office, how to create spaces that are more supportive of our bodies, how to develop more loving relationships with people, how to address regulatory issues, how to address matters of bullying and intimidation, even how we move and how we dress ourselves can be part of our care.
Care is something that we can have fun with, it is not onerous at all.
Everyone is deserving of care, even us doctors!
The more we learn to take care of ourselves, the more our patients will feel that quality of care in everything that we do, without even us ‘trying’ to be caring.