Why Self-Care Isn’t Selfish: Advice for Women(4/4)

By Rumi Samuel Published on September 18, 2022
Why Self-Care Isn’t Selfish: Advice for Women(4/4)

Self-care might at first strike one as another pop-psychology buzzword in this Age of Anxiety when burnout is being called the “new normal." But science reveals its critical nature.

Self-care is a regular, intentional process of devoting oneself to protecting and sustaining mental health. It is backed by science and not just fee-good, self-indulgent sentiments.

The World Health Organization has declared a global mental health crisis and defined burnout as an occupational risk and a workplace condition. Escalating pressure to do and be everything at work and home is creating a context breeding exhaustion, overstimulation, and angst.

Most of us operate with few margins in our lives: respite, rest, and time off seem like luxuries. In my clinical work, I often resist the suggestion of self-care. It can seem fluffy or self-serving or unlikely to make an impact when stress is high. It can also feel unachievable in light of the enormous demands around every corner.

Self-care comes in different forms:

Cognitive restructuring/reframing. Quieting the inner toxic critic; practising self-compassion.

Lifestyle medicine. Sleep, nutrition, hydration, exercise habits.

Community. Spending time with loved ones; having a support system.

Leisure and fun. Finding time to relax and participate in activities where you get lost in time and space and can really enjoy the moment.

Quiet space. A place away from distractions, screens, and duties.

The American Psychological Association has stated that we often don’t know that stress negatively affects our health until we get sick. In my research, I’ve seen many examples of the essential nature of self-care as a protective factor toward resilience. I advocate for a “universal precautions” approach to well-being: Even if we think we are faring relatively well, prioritising self-care is essential. Rather than waiting for red flags and wake-up calls, we can attend to ourselves deliberately to sustain ourselves in an ever-increasingly pressured world.

We must all be hypervigilant when it comes to the cumulative effect that self-neglect can create. Self-care can help mitigate the consequences of our demands and roles.

Rumi Samuel

Rumi Samuel

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