As I reflect on my childhood, when did I learn to care for myself? Was it through observing my parents’ behaviors, while caring for my childhood dog, or was it playing with my cousins? I came to understand the values of work-life balance, play and relationships to daily well-being and happiness. As a health care professional, I have observed what it means to have good self-care and what it looks like through life phases, various roles and life challenges.
As a young adult, I actively learned about self-care through seeking guidance from counselors, learning to balance social life with academics, and networking with my peers. As a professional, self-care is exhibited by supervision and collegial support ensuring I am self-aware of my emotions and thoughts and its effect on my work. Maintaining connections with peers for professional and personal support have helped me feel positive, empowered and centered. Caring for one’s self looks different for everyone; however, the importance lies in the ability to manage the demands of life, have an overall sense of contentment and maintaining a sense of health. “Most of us did not learn when we were young that our capacity to be self-loving would be shaped by the work we do and whether that work enhances our well-being,” (Bell Hooks).
Self-care is an important topic in the helping profession and is generalizable to other professions as well. Counselors maintain awareness of their personal need for guidance. Similarly, doctors seek care from other medical professionals; and pastors are encouraged to seek spiritual guidance from seasoned ministers. There are endless illustrations of professionals caring for self, speaking to the need to continued commitment to grow experientially and with support. Moreover, each profession is held accountable by accrediting bodies, which require continuing education to ensure ongoing self-development.
At times when life is challenging and work demands are overwhelming, practicing techniques to show fondness and admiration of self is key. Caring for self means finding time and space to feed your spirit with undertakings that allows you to unwind, relax, reflect, and advance.
Along with professional persona, one should employ self-care in their personal lives. In the face of such overwhelming pressures from many roles, identifying ways to take care of oneself is imperative. Eleanor Roosevelt reminds us to “remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one”. As a parent, it is important to take moments to re-energize away from the children, for a few minutes, hours or even longer. As a friend, it is important to set boundaries to ensure you are not giving too much of yourself. As an adult child, it is important to learn effective juggling techniques caring for ailing parents, self, and one’s own children. As community and organization leaders, it is important to delegate and seek support.
The most important result of effectively caring for oneself is an overall contentment. This contentment is obtained through consistent self-care practices such as meditation, prayer, exercise, healthy eating, connecting with others, spending quality time with significant others, challenging cultural norms and oppressive systems. Consistency is at times the hardest thing for many; however, it is always through hard work that one prevails. To end with this quote by Alice Walker, “In search of my mother’s garden, I found my own.”
Learn more about the author of this post: Kanosha Leonard, LCPC