What is Self-Care?
This is a question I get asked a lot because the topic of self-care is misunderstood and misconstrued.
I think this is a great topic to discuss because, quite frankly, it may not be what you think it is. And, most people may not understand why it's so important.
Self-care is an action that refuels you and contributes to your wellbeing, rather than taking away from it.
In health care, the notion of self-care is any necessary human regulatory function which is under individual control, deliberate and self-initiated.
Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it's a simple concept in theory, it's something we very often overlook. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety.
Self-care actually helps you make progress faster in your life for a few reasons:
First of all, self-care helps you avoid getting to that point of no return. You know the point where you become overwhelmed, overstressed, and totally exhausted. Self-care helps to reduce the negative effects of stress. Small amounts of stress can serve a purpose, but after a while, it just breaks down your mind and body.
I see facebook posts all the time that self-care is an indulgent piece of chocolate, but in fact this can be more harmful than helpful especially for individuals who use food to soothe their emotions. We don't want to repeat behaviors that are harmful, especially if you are prone to eating the whole bag.
This is also a reminder that food is not a reward like we've been taught most of our lives. Every had ice cream after getting an "A" on your report card, or went out for pizza to celebrate that big little league win?? Food has been used for celebration and reward in most cultures, and food is typically at the center of most celebrations and events. However, in practicing self-care we can remove food as a method of self-care to help us stay more in control of our mind, body, and focus on the post-op WLS journey.
Food is for nourishment and while pleasurable, and yes, we get to eat food that is both delicious and nutritious - however, using food as a source of stimulation, coping, or soothing is giving our brain the wrong message when it comes to forming habitual behaviors... so I strongly encourage you to find non-food related rewards, coping mechanisms, and self-care strategies to help you rewire your brain and your habits.
This is why food, for those of us who have struggled with food, should not be a form of reward for good behavior, a bad day, etc., because it signals to the reward center of our brain, creating patterns of desires that perpetuate the need for more and more (especially sugar). Therefore, it is really important that self-care be non-food related to serve us best.
SO... what is self-care if it's not food?
Self-care is taking care of yourself and doing things that light you up. However, self-care is more than just pedicures, massages, and hot bubble baths. This is what a lot of people think of when they think of self-care.
Self-care is also...
Calling yourself out on negative self-sabotaging behaviors
Setting healthy boundaries with people who tend to take advantage of you
Putting yourself to bed when you need sleep/rest (instead of binge-watching your favorite shows)
Getting a workout in when you 'don't feel like it' (or when you really need to move!)
Choosing fresh food over processed foods
Giving away the chocolate that you received as a gift because you recognize it's potentially dangerous for you to have around
Calling your best friend when you need to vent
Creating a meal plan and meal prepping (instead of winging it!)
And can also include....
Finding healthy ways to release anger
Practicing forgiveness (it's for you, not for them)
Taking time for yourself when needed
Acknowledging your feelings (instead of stuffing them down)
Fueling your body with healthy foods
Staying hydrated (drinking water regularly)
Going outside and connecting with nature
So just for this week, I want you to make your own list of what self-care looks like for you. What helps you to destress?
What would be your own list of self-care strategies and tools?
Where might you need to call yourself out and push your limits to change behaviors? Where might you need to relax and rejuvenate yourself and what can you do to replenish yourself and your life?
Take this information and create your own self-care routine that you can begin implementing right away...
YOU ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN YOUR LIFE.
Self-care might not be what you thought it was, but you can take these ideas and run with them in making your own routine to revolutionize your life post-operatively. You deserve to have a practice that helps you to destress and refresh yourself.
Remember that self-care is something that you actively plan, not something that passively happens in your life. You are the conscious creator of your life, and being an active participant in your life is essential. This is YOU taking care of you, and it needs to start with your conscious mind and creating a plan for yourself. Putting things on your calendar and letting people know you'll be busy, away, or committing to certain activities will help you ensure that you'll follow through -and.. you'll be glad when you do!
Use these tools to help you grow.