When I spoke with a group of medical students recently, I asked them what their understanding of self-care is and what it is in their lives. Their responses were as follows:
After a long period of consideration….
‘umm…..knowing when to take a break?’
‘….making sure you notice when your mental health is getting worse?’
‘…making sure you have hobbies outside of medicine to balance the stress so you don’t get too stressed?’
And their answers were phrased as questions more than direct confirmed answers. Like so many of us, they had no true concept of what it is to take care of ourselves.
Yet, looking after ourselves is a foundation in life. If we are not taking care of ourselves then how are we treating ourselves and why?
If we had a beautiful car, lets say a Lamborghini, or, a Maserati, we would treat it with care and pride.
We would make sure that we got it serviced frequently.
We would make sure it was cleaned and polished, and sparkling, regularly.
We would drive it with care, and enjoy the power in its manner of driving.
We would put the correct fuel in it, and regularly so.
We would make sure we didn’t do anything to injure it, a. because we loved it and b. because it would cost a lot to fix it if anything did happen to it!
But why don’t we have the same approach to our bodies?
How we treat our bodies has a big impact on the health and well-being of our bodies.
I find it interesting that in the health care profession in particular, that we are even less likely to take care of our bodies than in other professions.
In Medicine the culture is around studying until you drop, sleep deprivation as a sign of dedication to your studies and determination, and having food only on the go and only when you have to, or as a relief from the stress and tension of it all.
But in Medicine in particular we are here to be the leaders in health care, and health and well-being.
Being a leader in health and well-being requires us to be well.
Being and feeling well is not a random state of luck, it comes from the way that we live.
Many of us live daily in high levels of stress and tension without even questioning it.
Many of us have come to accept that it is normal that we live life feeling stressed, tense and uncomfortable, doing our best to survive the stresses and tensions of life. We accept that we are not going to feel well, and more than accepting feeling stressed and tense as a ‘normal’ way of life we have even come to celebrate this as a sign that we are committing to life, committing to doing ‘the hard work’ to be successful in life!
But if we were to take care of ourselves would we need to live life in the huge stresses and tensions that we currently do?
In my experience the answer is no.
Self-care is not about surviving life. Self-care is about taking care of ourselves in all areas of our lives such that we feel truly well and amazing.
When we take the time to take care of ourselves, the benefits are incredible and wide reaching. Taking care of ourselves feeds all areas of our life.
We are not here to survive life, we are here to thrive in life.
We are here to have amazing lives.
Having an amazing life and feeling truly well begins with self-care. And that is something we all can do.