Self-care is now a popular and accepted term that we hear every single day. We’ve heard it on the news, from our doctors, or even from social media influencers. But what exactly is self-care? Is it just a trendy term, or something more? Jameela Goudarzi, a family nurse practitioner at MUSC Health and longtime yoga instructor, helps us understand the importance of taking care of ourselves, no matter the label.
What is self-care?
Self-care is being aware of your own physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs, and taking responsibility for those needs. Cultivating this awareness and acting on it can take time and practice, but each small step we take brings us towards better overall health. It may be as simple as taking a few deep breaths or going for a walk to help us relax when we feel anxious or tense. It may mean modifying our diet and physical activity or getting more sleep to help us achieve a certain health goal. It may mean asking for help during a difficult time.
Meditation, prayer, or simply spending time in nature, with loved ones, or even in solitude are some ways of taking responsibility for our spiritual health. Sometimes self-care means saying yes to an opportunity that may help us to fulfill a need or it may mean saying no to an opportunity that would wear us down. Self-care may look different for each of us as it is based not only on our individual needs, but our changing needs, abilities, and circumstances.
Who needs self-care?
We all need self-care. This innate form of care comes to us at a very early age. Picture a baby sucking their thumb in the womb; this is self-care. Some of us may not be aware of certain needs we have, or we may hold others responsible for meeting our needs. This does not exclude us from the practice of self-care. If we each practice self-care as we are able, we will find that this practice is one of the greatest expressions of self-worth and love. In this way, self-care has the power to transform our health and wellbeing.
When should we practice self-care?
Self-care is a daily practice, but it does not have to consume our time or our attention. In fact, if we practice daily self-care, then we will find that we actually have more time and attention to share with our friends and loved ones.
4 Ways to Add Self-Care into Your Life
Listen to Your Body
If you feel full, stop eating. If you feel hungry, eat food that nourishes your body. If you feel tired, get some sleep. If you feel weak, find ways to strengthen yourself. This may sound simple, but we have developed many tactics for numbing or talking over these basic communications from our body. Listening to your body is a form of self-care.
Be Aware of Your Thoughts
Positive or negative thoughts, past, present, or future thoughts, thoughts of others, thoughts of finances, health, shelter, and so on. Being aware of your thought landscape in any given moment can inform you of your mental and emotional needs and can help you to address them.
Practice Preventative Health Care
Many of us are aware of self-care practices that can help to prevent certain diseases. Eating a healthy diet, exercising, socializing, reducing stress, getting enough sleep, and maintaining a healthy weight can help us to ward off or reduce the risk of certain diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, high cholesterol, arthritis, and back pain. Making healthcare appointments for cancer screenings, such as for pap smears and colonoscopies, and receiving age appropriate vaccinations are also forms of preventive health care that translate into self-care.
Take Care of Chronic Conditions
Chronic conditions demand self-care. The self-care required to manage a chronic condition may seem overwhelming at times. For example, those living with diabetes may require frequent blood sugar monitoring, insulin administration, and frequent health care visits, not to mention the daily attention that one must give to maintaining a diet low in sugar and carbohydrates. It is important that those living with chronic conditions establish a self-care routine that is feasible and sustainable. Ask your healthcare provider about ways you can better manage any chronic conditions you may have.
Reminder: Self-Care Isn’t Selfish
Self-care empowers us to work to meet our own needs. In this way, self-care is a gift to ourselves and to others. What's more, when we practice self-care, we inspire others to do the same. Self-care can be a transformative practice, not only for ourselves, but for those around us.
About Jameela Goudarzi
Jameela is a family nurse practitioner who practices at MUSC Health Primary Care – Peninsula. She is an active member of the Charleston community, volunteering, teaching yoga, and promoting social justice education. Jameela believes in a holistic and collaborative approach to health care with the end goal of prevention and wellness. She sees patients as experts in their own bodies and experiences and, for this reason, partners with patients to empower them as active participants in their health. Schedule an appointment with Jameela Goudarzi online now!