Google has shown that searches for "self-care" have more than doubled since 2015. We are all aware of this buzzword but unfortunately, it's become synonymous with self-indulgence or even being selfish.

 

So let's clear the air. Self-care is not an excuse to overindulge. It's not overspending on retail therapy or getting that extra drink because "I deserve it." Self-care is not a quick fix or instant gratification. When we turn self-care into overindulgence, it becomes instant gratification without a long-lasting impact.

 

Instead, self-care is practiced regularly and used as a tool to handle everyday stressors. When we practice self-care regularly it can reduce stress, improve the immune system, increase productivity, and even lead to higher self-esteem. Ultimately it's meant to improve overall wellbeing. There are several ways to incorporate self-care into everyday life. That's the beauty of it! You don't have to wait until the weekend or a holiday, you can start practicing self-care today.

 

5 Every Day Self-Care Practices

1. Start with your hobbies.

Take a bit of time and reflect on "which activities bring you joy, replenish your energy and restore your balance." Some calming hobbies to try are reading, gardening, colouring/painting, knitting, or yoga/stretching.


2. Slow down your mornings.

Instead of waking up in a frenzy and rushing out the door, wake up a few minutes earlier to slow down your routine. For instance, rather than taking your coffee or tea to go, you can use the extra time to drink your coffee/tea in your favourite chair. You can also use those extra minutes to incorporate journaling, meditation, or stretching into your morning routine. If waking up early is not your thing, slow down your night routine instead.


3. Limit your social media use.

Social media can be a great tool to connect with friends but studies have also shown that social media can lead to feelings of "inadequacy about lifestyle or appearance." There are digital wellbeing features on smartphones to help control social media. These features provide options like setting timers or pausing apps, and they also provide data on how long you use specific apps. If you find yourself scrolling for hours, consider limiting your time on social media as your self-care practice.


4. Practice gratitude.

When life is hectic and busy, we can lose sight of what matters most to us. To refocus on what's important, reflect on what you're grateful for each night. The best practice is to write down what you're grateful for in a journal.


5. Nurture and build healthy relationships.

Everyday life is full of work, kids, and household chores so it's easy to neglect your relationships as life gets busier; but close connections are important for your wellbeing. Healthy adult friendships have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, and create a sense of belonging. You don't have to spend time with your friends every day but nurturing and building those relationships provides you the opportunity to have someone trustworthy to talk to.

 

Self-care is going to look different for everyone! What works for your friend or family member might not work for you. Regargless of what life stage you're in, regularly practicing self-care and committing to it is important to your overall wellbeing, as it has shown to prevent burnout. So whatever you decide to do as your self-care practice just know you're making the right steps each day to improve your well being! 

 

 

References:

What Is Self-Care and Why Is It So Important for Your Health?

5 Self-Care Practices for Every Area of Your Life

Social Media and Mental Health

Maintaining Adult Friendships: Is it Worth the Effort?

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Grieving the Loss of Your Health

When a loved one is diagnosed with a chronic illness or a degenerative disease, the diagnosis affects the whole family.  It is easy to overlook the ways in which other family members are also impacted by chronic illness because the focus is upon the person who is unwell. 


In the flurried rush of attempting to care for the person with the new diagnosis, families are often unaware that the emotional response they are experiencing is grief.  People sometimes assume that grief only applies if there has been a death in the family, but people experience grief from many types of losses.


Grief is our human response to a loss.  It is primarily an emotional response, but it can also have other dimensions too (physical, cognitive, social, spiritual, etc.).  When a loved one is diagnosed with a serious illness, family members may grieve.  For many family members, the grief is complicated by the fact that they are still in the throes of family caregiving, and they may be expected to remain “the strong one” for the sake of the family.


Grief is not a linear process that moves predictably through various stages.  While there may be stages to grief, those stages are not sequential; there is no graduation from one step to the next.  Each individual may experience various elements of grief at different times and remain with one stage for a long time, or they may move through various stages rapidly all within one day. There is no correct way to grieve, and there is no such thing as “failing at grief”.  It is an individual journey and process for each person.

 


There can be triggers for grief, and those triggers are as individual as the grief process.  A trigger could be something like hearing a favourite song that you once danced to with your spouse, and grieving that your spouse can no longer dance.  A trigger might also be a daily routine that has suddenly become difficult, and grieving the loss of ability or independence that changes gradually. 

 

For many families, there is grief over the loss of a role within the family.  It might be the role of primary provider if employment is reduced; it might be the role of fix-it-man around the house and no longer being able to operate tools; it might be the role of coordinating family events and family members feel scattered and disconnected. The change of roles and responsibilities can be a difficult transition and grieving those changes is a normal—even healthy and expected—response.

 

Grieving is an action.  It requires effort and work.  The goal of grief is not “to get over it”.  Unfortunately, many families feel that the message from friends and sometimes even health care professionals is that they should “get over it” or “get back to normal.”  When a family member is coping with a chronic illness, returning to “normal” is no longer an option. 

 

The previous version of normal doesn’t exist.  Illness has redefined what normal will be like.  The goal is to adjust to a new normal—adjusting to the illness as a new reality of life, and recognizing that this will alter many aspects of life.  Once families have begun to adjust to their new normal, they can begin to see hope for a newly defined future.


Instead of looking for a reason that the illness is present within the family, seeking meaning can be a lot more helpful.  Seeking meaning is looking for a silver lining—acknowledging that a difficult situation is the reality, but perhaps there can be some wonderful moments that are significant. 

 

While this may seem like a subtle shift in mentality, it can result in vastly different feelings.  Looking for reasons suggests that someone had to experience the illness in order to learn a certain lesson; looking for meaning is acknowledging that the illness has happened, and finding glimmers of hope will make the journey more meaningful.

 

How can you best support someone who may be grieving because of an unwell family member? 

 

The most important thing you can do is to remain connected.  Family caregivers constantly report that their closest friends and even other family members distance themselves because they don't know how to help, or they don’t want to impose. 

 

One gentleman laments that while his wife was palliative, she had so few visitors.  She felt the greatest relief from pain while a visitor was present, and her husband expressed this to friends and family, but few visitors came to the house because they did not want to impose.  Visitors weren’t seen as an imposition but as a welcome relief. 


The greatest thing you can do is to ask how you can best be supportive, and then LISTEN!  Truly listen.


Allow family members to tell you what they need and what they want.  Most of all, they will appreciate a listening ear who acknowledges their challenges and validates their feelings and experiences.  Pre-judging or assuming what someone is thinking/feeling is not helpful. 

 

A woman remarked that the comment “but you look so well!” (or that her husband, for whom she cares, “looks so well”) to not be helpful.  While it is intended as a compliment, it shuts down any conversation about how she is truly feeling.  She would prefer that someone just ask her how she is feeling, and be open to a conversation.

 

To best support someone else, be a listening ear and don’t distance yourself.  Remember that the person with the illness as well as the whole family is adjusting to a new sense of normal. 

 

Be wary of judgmental statements such as “things happen for a reason”, and instead help others to see some of the meaningful moments that have touched you and might also touch them.

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