Written by Elizabeth Bishop
Self-care is a buzzword right now, but what does self-care really mean? For many busy caregivers, self-care is an afterthought. However, with high rates of caregiver burnout, taking care of your mental and physical health is so very important.
COVID-19 has brought many challenges and uncertainties in relation to caregiving, but it also presents an opportunity to pause and tune into your internal compass and listen to what you need.
Being vs. Doing
For many caregivers, ‘self-care’ is just one more thing to add to an already long list. Self-care is rooted in self-awareness. It is recognizing you are a human being, not a human doing. Meaningful self-care is a posture you take, allowing you to listen and respond to your personal needs on a holistic level. The cornerstone of self-care is self-compassion, which emphasizes kindness to self and recognizing your human experience. Active and genuine self-care integrates all areas of life, whether you are at home, at work, or caring for other people, you keep your own well-being at the center of your experience.
Self-Care Does Not Mean Selfish
Wise author and coach, Iyanla Vanzant uses the term ‘self-ful’ to help us reframe what it means to take care of ourselves on every level. Self-care is a holistic practice and it means caring not only for our physical health, but also our emotional, mental, spiritual, financial, and social health as well. When you care for yourself from a ‘self-ful’ perspective, you honour the needs of your mind and body. It also invites you to nurture and care for yourself through emotional rough waters with a gentle and encouraging inner attitude. Research shows that self-compassionate people tend to be more caring and supportive in relationships and more compassionate and forging towards others (Neff, K. and Germer, C, 2018).
You Don’t Need a Reason
A common misunderstanding people have of self-care is that it may appear selfish (which evokes feelings of guilt). Caregivers often hear that self-care is important because “you can’t pour from an empty vessel” and are reminded that you must “put on your oxygen mask first before we help others.” Often, we soothe our apprehension by affirming that this time for ourselves will enable us to give more to others.
Consider caring for yourself just because you… well care for yourself! It is an expression of self-love and a demonstration of self-compassion. You do not have to feel bad in order to feel better or even good. When you feel well and nurtured from within, you will find that there is more of you that can overflow naturally to the people in your life in ways that are not depleting and draining.
During Zoom meetings and Face time calls, choose wisely how you spend and share your precious energy. Balance your need for quiet and solitude with your desire for connection and socializing. Self-care is checking in with yourself to understand what you need during these uncertain times.
May the mystery of this time unfold for you in miraculous ways.