Self-Care Part 1

Over the past couple of days, I have been seeing a lot of signs about self-care. Conversations have been centered about self-care. The media hype is all about self-care. We even have an international self-care day (ISD). [For those curious it is July 24]. But what exactly is self-care? What does this term mean? What are the origins of self-care? According to Aisha Harris, a writer for Slate Magazine, the term self-care began as a medical intervention. Doctors recommended to patients that through a healthy diet, plenty of good sleep and time enjoying hobbies and friends, patients can live longer, healthier lives. In those early days, the target audience/patient focused on those with mental illness and the aged. Later, this grew to include people who worked in high-stress occupations such as first responders and trauma therapists.

Don’t ever feel bad for making a decision about your own life that upsets other people. You are not responsible for their happiness.
You are responsible for your own happiness. ~Isaiah Henkel

It was not until after the women’s movement and civil rights movement that self-care moved from being a medical term to a political ideology writes Jennifer Nelson, author of More Than Medicine: A History of the Feminist Women’s Health Movement. But while women and people of color demanded the right to care for their own bodies, there were other marginalized people who felt left out. Poverty soon became a scapegoat for poor health and sexual preference was used to blame individuals for poor health.

Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Later in the 70s and 80s, the term returned to its medical origins, says Natalie Mehlman Petrzela, a professor at New School in New York City. The term changed to “wellness” which as you might expect is the opposite of “illness.” By the 1990s fitness and wellness had become mainstream. Everyone wanted to learn yoga, meditate, and practice various forms of wellness or self-care. The message was that we all have within us the ability to care for ourselves, to diagnose our minor dis-eases and in some instances to treat those dis-eases on our own.

Health is not simply the absence of disease.
~Dan Rather, 60 Minutes

Finally, we get to the adage, “You can’t help others until you help yourself.” This is most visibly seen in those who care for others long term. Caring too much can lead to compassion fatigue. This includes those who work hotlines, care for sick animals, or care for someone chronically ill. So take care of you. According to Nirmala Raniga, Founder of the Chopra Addiction and Wellness Center, when we practice self-care we learn to love ourselves and this creates feelings of self-worth. No, it does not mean you are being selfish or self-centered.

Self-care is never a selfish act — it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch. ~Parker Palmer 

If you are looking for ways to practice self-care consider taking time for one or more of the following areas provided by Raniga:

  • Do something for your physical self–go for a walk or take a nap.
  • Do something for your emotional self–listen to music and dance.
  • Do something for your mental self–read a book or work a puzzle.
  • Do something for your spiritual self–meditate or practice yoga.
  • Do something for your social self–have lunch with a friend.
  • Do something practical–buy groceries or do housework.

No one will come and save you. No one will come riding on a white horse and take all your worries away. You have to save yourself, little by little, day by day. ~Charlotte Eriksson

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