Self Care 101: The basics of how to provide yourself with what you need.

Self care. Whether you are a client, healthcare practioner, child, adult, man or woman, you need self care. Self care refers to those things that we do for ourselves that keep us healthy physically, emotionally and spiritually. The problem with self care is that some fall into the trap that caring for ourselves makes us selfish. It is no selfish to provide for ourselves that which we provide for others on a daily and sometimes moment-to-moment basis.

My clients have heard this metaphor time and time again, but think of self care in this way:
When the air pressure of an aircraft drops and the oxygen masks drop, the passengers are instructed to first put the masks on themselves first before proceeding to put the mask on another who may not be able to do so for themselves. Is it selfish of the person to put the oxygen mask on themselves first?

The purpose of placing the mask on ourselves first is so that we are able to put the mask on others. If we do not take care of ourself first we will not be able to help the others who may need our help. In the same way, providing ourselves with self care is helping others.

Self care is not a selfish act, but a necessity. While working in hospice, I learned the importance of providing myself and my colleagues with self care opportunities. Sometimes it came in the form of group counseling, individual therapy, prayer, a painting class, meeting after work for dinner, and so on. We did that because of the stress level of our jobs. On a daily basis we talked illness, palliative care, and death. Many times we experienced first hand our clients graduating to the other side. Occasionally we were able to discharge patients because they got better. The roller coaster of emotions we experienced on a daily basis proves why working in hospice is such a high burnout career.

High burnout professions (not an exhaustive list by any means):
* Healthcare – Physicians, nurses, social workers, therapists, counselors
* Emergency response professions – EMT’s, Paramedics, Police, Fire Fighters
* Armed Services – Army, Navy, Marine, Coast Guard, National Guard, Reserves
* Law – lawyers
* Teaching – Teachers, Principals, Professors
* Parenting – special needs children, single parenting, mental illness in families

If you are in any one of the professions listed above, then you need to be practicing self care. In the next blog post I will discuss the three areas of self care:
* Physical self care
* Emotional Self Care
* Spiritual self care

Until then, remember the importance of placing the oxygen mask on yourself first before placing it on others. What areas of your life do you attempt to place the mask on others first? Do you then find that you are unable to help because you don’t have the oxygen (or energy) you need to help them?

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