Self Care as a Vitamin, not a Band Aid

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Developing and implementing your own personal habits of good self care can and does make a big difference to your own health at work. It is well documented that we healthcare staff can be poor at caring for ourselves in general. We would much rather focus on the needs of others before ourselves. But forming good habits of self care is one of the kindest and most productive things we can do for ourselves. Some simple planning can make habits easier to form by taking daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly time frames to start with. For example, a daily meditation practice, weekly yoga sessions, monthly deep tissue massages.
For me, it’s akin to the difference between taking vitamins for our health and using a band aid to put on a cut or bruise when something hurts us. If we are continually and routinely practicing self care then this can be pre-programmed into our timetable and we just row along with it. Day by day we grow stronger and more able to draw on a feeling of resilience and are less likely to be knocked over when stresses come. There are times of course when something really challenges us at work for example a patient dies, or some of our clients are in crisis at the same time, or around the holidays. It is at those crunch times of stress that your daily habits really start to pay dividends. Being able to draw on the work that you’ve done for yourself is a real buzz.

I have to admit to spending time ‘under the bonnet’ every 3 or 4 months when things would seem to creep up on me. By that, I mean I found I might get stressed out by work or commitments or something unexpected that I wasn’t prepared for. I found I would need an extra bit of time off on Fridays or a free weekend to break away and spend time alone. However, when I started to be more disciplined about being kind and compassionate to myself on a daily basis, I spend a lot less time under the bonnet. I treat my self care ‘medicine’ like I would a morning vitamin with the same routine and consistency.

So what would this look like in your life? Could you get to work early and park up for a few minutes in a quiet spot and listen to a short meditation. Can you fit in a short prayer session? Some journaling? A walk? A visit to the gym? An extra few minutes each your breakfast mindfully? Can you go out for a ‘just me’ treat lunch once a week. No newspapers, no phone, no distractions – just YOU time? Could you schedule in a massage once a month and pre book for a few months ahead so that you keep to it? I truly recommend this level of scheduled self care. If you’re not doing enough for yourself then start by thinking about what you need first, and go from there.

Time in the morning before work is ideal. When your work day starts you have the comfort of knowing that as well as your clients and patients being cared for, you are cared for too.
Karen Brennan