Self-Care. Step 2.

Red Rose Bush adj

Step 1 in self-care is knowing that self-care is about taking care of yourself in all areas of life so that you can feel amazing and lead an amazing life.

Step 1 a in self-care is knowing that caring for ourselves begins with a certain quality. It is not just about function it is about the way that we care for ourselves.

Step 2 in Self-Care is knowing that each thing that you do makes a big difference and that each small thing in life can have a knock on effect in other aspects of our life.

In the same way that when things go bung in our personal lives or in our professional lives, we know that other aspects of our life can be affected in the negative, so too when we make positive choices in our lives that can have a positive knock-on effect in other aspects of our lives.

For example if we decided to focus on one area of our life such as food and make changes there that nurture us and take care of us, then that quality will feed into other areas of our lives. Being hungry – or hangry –  does not help us focus at work!

Feeling nurtured and nourished with food helps the body feel settled. When we are settled, we are more able to be well in and with life, beyond meal time.

Have you also ever noticed how a good night’s sleep seems to make a big difference if there are problems or issues in life? Or made things that seemed so big and insurmountable, suddenly exactly that, surmountable? This is the example of the effect of quality in one aspect of life feeding quality in other aspects of life.

When we first start taking care of ourselves it can seem big and insurmountable and we wonder where to start!

The key, is to start with something, to start with what is right in front of you, and bring your quality and care to that area.

And then you will not only see benefits in that area directly, but you will also start to see knock on effects in other areas of life.

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Self-Care. Step 1 a.

Red Rosesadj

Step 1 with Self-care is knowing that you deserve to feel amazing, and that it is possible to feel amazing AND still do your job! In fact, even better than before 😉 Working in daily stress and tension is not a prerequisite to being a health care professional!

Yes our jobs can be stressful and there are aspects of the day that will challenge us from time to time, but there is no actual need for us to live daily in misery and tension and feeling unsupported.

Whilst there are many issues with the health care system that are yet to be rectified, the good news is that the power is still within us to make the changes towards well-being to empower ourselves to still feel well within the system. And then in time, of course the systems do need to change.

Feeling well is not about putting up with the systems the way that they are and accepting abuse, far from it.

Feeling well is not to please the administrators or the bureaucrats who are now exhorting us to ‘be resilient’ and ’put up’ with the failures and abuses in the system.

Feeling well is for us, because we deserve it and we are worth it.

Who doesn’t want to feel well?!

Step 1a is developing our quality.

Everything that we do in life comes with a certain quality. It is the quality of people that we feel and appreciate more than exactly what they do.

For example someone can yell at you “you are amazing’ but if they are saying it through gritted teeth and are angry at you, you will feel the deceit in the words.

If someone says with openness and love and care you are amazing, you will feel the warmth and the resonance in their words.

If someone touches you on the shoulder and it comes with control or is imposing, you will hate the touch, but if someone touches you with care and is unimposing, you will feel loved and amazing.

If someone helps you adjust your clothes, or tucks you into bed with cold rush and frustration you will feel it and you won’t feel cared for even though you are having something done to you that is supposedly caring. If someone does the same action with a caring presence you will feel cared for with that action.

Thus, it is the same with ourselves.

If we give ourselves food and it is rushed and just on the go, we will not feel cared for. It will be a functional empty exercise. But if we prepare our food in a way that is caring, and eat in a way that is caring of ourselves, then we will feel cared for.

Taking care of ourselves means taking care of ourselves in all aspects of our life, but it is the quality in which we do this that makes the biggest difference. Continue reading

Self-care. Where do I start?!

Daffodils adjThere is a growing buzz word on the streets that is ‘self-care’. We as doctors now need to ‘self-care’. But what exactly does that mean?!

When I speak to most people, they like me years ago don’t have a clear understanding on what it is to take care of ourselves.

When I speak with people about self-care their responses are usually, after a prolonged pause and thinking along the lines of:

‘Pampering yourself from time to time’

‘Making sure you eat healthy’

‘Knowing when your mental health is bad’

‘Having hobbies outside of medicine’

All those things are part of self-care, but they are not the all of what self-care is.

Most of us know that when we are ill, we need to take care of ourselves and get rest.

But what if we took care of ourselves all of the time?

Might that change the quality of life that we daily live in?

True self-care is not just about what we do to rescue ourselves when we are blue and down and out, but it is about taking care of ourselves in all aspects of our lives so that we lead amazing lives, feeling truly well.

In Medicine, our concept of life is that we survive life, that we survive the day, that we survive the week, and thus it makes sense that when we consider self-care that it is something that we do the bare minimum to make it through the day, the week and the year without dying.

But if we shift our focus and consider that we are here to live truly well in life, to thrive instead of survive, then that shifts our focus on the way we take care of ourselves.

The way that we feel comes from the way that we live life, in all areas of our life.

There is no one area of our lives that we can compartmentalise as being separate from any other aspect of life. We are the same body, literally, in all of life. We all know how stress at work can feed into and affect our home life, and vice versa. Thus self-care is about taking care of ourselves in all areas of life.

Self-care is not just doing the things that function, it is about the way that we do things with and for ourselves.

Self-care begins with a quality. Continue reading

Self-care – who needs it?!

IMG_0093When 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. Continue reading