Occupational Therapy believes that how we spend our time (what we do, or our occupations) impacts on our health and well-being.
One of the areas occupational therapists explore with people is how we look after ourselves, ie the role of being a Self-Carer. This underlies our ability to do all of the other things we need to in our lives… if we aren’t well and energised then it’s hard to go to work or school, maintain our friendships, do fun things or manage our homes etc. So what actually is self-care? When I talk to people about this, I cover the areas below. Many are surprised at the breadth of topics, as they haven’t always considered them to be part of self-care. What do you think?
SLEEP: How much, usual time you go to sleep, usual time you wake up and the quality. What do you do in the hour before sleep? Do you wake up feeling refreshed? Do you nap during the day?
NUTRITION… or as I say “everything we ingest, inhale and imbibe” (referred to as ‘I cubed’ from now on) as I can’t think of another overarching word for that)! Do you know what constitutes a healthy diet, and how does this match what you actually eat? How often do you eat? Do you ever skip breakfast? How many serves of fruit and vegetables do you have each day? How much water do you drink every day? What’s your alcohol intake? How much caffeine, sugar and saturated fat does your diet include? Do you smoke? Do you use any illicit substances?
EXERCISE/BEING ACTIVE. How often? How long? Cardio? Weight bearing? How active are you? How long do you spend sitting each day?
PERSONAL HYGIENE AND GROOMING. Showering, dressing, shaving, make-up use/cleansing, waxing, doing hair, shampooing, cutting nails, menstrual hygiene, using deodorant.
PHYSICAL HEALTH. How often do you have a check-up with your GP and dentist? If you are sick or needing investigations, do you make appointments and attend? Do you take medications as prescribed? Do you follow recommended home exercise regimes from health professionals eg physios? Do you conduct breast self-examinations? Do you know how to manage any physical health issues (pain/injury/condition) that restrict you from doing things?
REST/RELAXATION. Do you build rest/relaxation into your week? How easy do you find it to take time out to relax? Can you slow down/switch off when needed? If you have pain issues or physical limitations, do you alternate activity with rest? Do you take your breaks/holidays?
MENTAL HEALTH. Do you know what activities support your mental health and make sure you do them regularly? Do you know how to identify and manage your individual stress signals? Are you able to be assertive if you want to be? Do you have self-confidence and value yourself? Can you make decisions if necessary?
Take a moment to consider how these things impact on each other and are connected. For example, How does your sleep impact on your desire/ability to exercise and vice-versa? How does ‘I cubed’ affect your ability to sleep, and vice versa? How does exercising impact your mental health? You get the idea…
That’s a lot involved in self-care! Take 10-15 minutes to consider these questions and give yourself and ‘Self-Care audit’! Do any areas stand out as something you’d like to improve or work on?
Choose one thing that feels possible straight away and take action in the next 24 hours. Once that’s well established, move onto the next thing… and note how what you’ve done has impacted on your health and well-being.