Information gathered and prepared by H. Wiens MSc., RP.
Registered Psychotherapist Portage Medical Family Health Team
What is self-care and why does it matter? Self-care includes all the things you do to take care of your well-being in four essential dimensions, which include emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritual health. Each of these dimensions is achieved by making the addition of the following components to daily life: hobbies, career, partner, education, physical activity, children, community activity, reward system for the self, social structure, spirituality, support groups, and extended family. Self-care is essential for managing stress, emotions and preventing burnout.
Hobbies: A hobby is an activity that explores our creative side as we learn to cook, bake, paint, take photographs, play a musical instrument, or engage in any other arts and crafts. This not only provides pleasure but also cultivates self-esteem as we discover ourselves in the type of activity we choose to pursue. It gives us something fun to do during our leisure time and allows us to learn new skills as well as relieve stress by keeping engaged in something we enjoy. The best way to cultivate a hobby is to try something new. The world is full of activities that we can explore and adopt as our own. Once we find a hobby that we truly enjoy and are passionate about, we become hooked. It becomes part of our lives and captivates us in a very personal way.
Career: Choosing a satisfying career plays an important role in determining life satisfaction. Online resources such as interest inventories and aptitude tests assist with career exploration. Selecting the right career provides meaning and purpose when learning new skills, which lead to achievements that in turn build self-esteem and confidence.
Partner: Cultivating a nurturing relationship with a partner extends life by as much as eight years. Create satisfaction by planning quality time together, accept each other’s differences, cultivate an atmosphere of appreciation, do loving acts of kindness, and have realistic expectations.
Education: For personal or professional development, you may wish to learn something new regularly to nurture your intellect, which helps diminish the risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s as new synapses within the brain are being created. You may choose from any topic that is of interest to you from history, to biographies, politics, keeping up with world events, learning a new recipe, a language, playing a musical instrument, do it yourself projects, or any type of arts and crafts.
Physical activity: Exercise is a main component of wellbeing, longevity, and mental health. Thirty minutes of daily activity acts as an antidepressant as the brain creates serotonin that makes you feel good, as well as dopamine that motivates you to complete your workout and any other tasks you may have planned for the day. Weight-bearing exercises diminish the risk for osteoporosis and build muscle mass, which is the furnace that burns calories to prevent weight gain. Cardiovascular exercises, which are exercises that are done at a pace in which you would have difficulty having a conversation, strengthen the heart muscle, and circulates blood and oxygen to all organs for optimum functioning. Research has shown that cardiovascular exercise diminishes the risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Children: As parents it is important to carve out time for family life, as well as scheduling time with each child, to develop individual relationships, and create secure attachments. For others that do not have children, mentorship and support may be provided to our extended families, neighbors, our friends’ children, or through community programs such as Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Canada.
Community activity: Volunteering provides a sense of purpose and meaning and provides perspective when donating one’s time, resources or contributing to an organization financially. This provides an opportunity to make meaningful connections with others, which counteracts stress, depression, and anxiety.
Reward system for the self: Eating a balanced diet of five to eight handfuls of fruit and vegetables, as well as the size of a deck of cards of protein daily provides the body with the nutrition it requires to maintain cell function, brain chemistry, as well as muscle mass and bone density for optimum physical and emotional health. Seven to nine hours of sleep allows the body to repair, rebuild and detoxify. Keeping the body hydrated with six to eight glasses per day provides the liquid needed to transport oxygen to cells, cleanse the vascular system, helps joints and muscles remain flexible, and increases concentration and overall energy. Planning fun daily allows the body and mind to take a break from the tasks of daily life, for an opportunity to become refreshed with a rewarding and pleasurable activity.
Social structure: Having plans to get together with a friend or a group of friends provides that sense of anticipation as we have something to look forward to. Having fun, sharing hardships, and having individuals that have been a part of your life creates community and a chosen family. Research has indicated that this is significant in reducing the risk for heart disease, as being in the presence of friends diminishes stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline in the bloodstream. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, we can maintain these friendships via social media platforms or meeting with safety protocols in place.
Spirituality: Research indicates that those that believe in something greater than themselves have fewer incidences and shorter bouts of depression and anxiety. It provides a sense of community and assists in providing support in life’s most difficult moments, as well as answering existential questions such as the purpose and meaning of life and the process of transitioning into the afterlife. Having a relationship with a higher power via prayer or meditation, reading books that nurture your faith, and joining a faith community will connect you with your essence and provide you with purpose and meaning.
Support groups: During life’s most difficult moments such as when we have encountered the loss of a loved one, a job, or transitioning into a new phase of life, it is helpful to seek out the assistance from a group of people that are also going through similar life experiences. Listings of specific types of groups can be located by contacting In Communities (211) or online at www.incommunities.ca/en/.
Extended family: Staying in touch with relatives does not mean we have to agree with their religious or political views but instead allows for a sense of belonging and stability by discovering our cultural identities and histories, to find a sense of appreciation, not only for others but how we came to be who we are.
Developing each of these categories is a life’s journey into self-discovery towards a balanced lifestyle for physical and emotional wellbeing. Have fun developing each of these categories into something meaningful and beneficial to you, that allows for individuality and self-expression, and that is flexible to ever-evolving and changing needs. Enjoy the process of creating the life that you envision for yourself!