Staff Voices: The Importance of Self-Care

Staff Voices: The Importance of Self-Care

Laura Copland

“Do as I say, not as I do.”

How often have we given advice…wonderful, wise advice…to our patients and never once considered its relevance to ourselves?  The answer to this is, of course, often, very, very often.

Clinicians routinely talk to patients about the need for balance between work and personal life, the importance of good sleep hygiene, exercise, socialization and eating well.  What prevents many of us from acting on this advice?  Denial, or avoidance can explain it in part, but a more proactive approach is that self-care is a two-fold model:

Simply recognizing the importance of taking better care of you is not enough. You also need to address the psychological obstacles that limit attention to self-care and foster stress.

The following short list is designed to help you make a shift in thinking that works WITH that tenet, rather than trying to fight it.

  • A single-minded devotion to career is impoverishing (to you AND your work)
  • By neglecting restorative activities clinicians tend to lose their emotional resilience (and the ability to respond effectively to patients and co-workers)
  • We need to establish time for rest, revitalization, exploration and emotional as well as intellectual growth (we tell others this all the time, now try it for yourself and see firsthand the potential pitfalls that can make it difficult, as well as the well-known benefits)

How You Can Practice Self-Care

1. Identify what activities help you feel your best. Self-care is individual. Take a few minutes to make a list.

2. Put it on your calendar. Tell yourself this is non-negotiable time.  Just as you know you need to be at work certain days and times, develop the mind-set that self-care is the same.  Buy tickets in advance for concerts and events to make it more difficult to talk yourself out of.

3. Sneak in self-care where you can. If you don’t have huge chunks of time, you can still fit in little moments of relaxation.  This is the “start where you are” game plan.  Take five minutes to quiet the internal and external chatter and practice deep breathing.  Taking a 10-minute walk during the work day will help relax you and clear your head.

4. Take care of yourself physically. Stock “good for you” foods and diminish that supply of sugar you’ve been using to ramp-up your depleted energy.  Find someone to exercise with.  You won’t want to disappoint them by not showing up and are less likely to give in to the endless reasons why you’ll “do it tomorrow.”

5. Know when to say no. People will always ask; only you know when it’s fulfilling.  If you only have so much time consider who you want to spend it with and what you want to do.  Finding yourself spending hours on Facebook or channel surfing can increase stress and negative thoughts of the “shoulda, coulda, woulda” kind.

6. Surround yourself with great people. Spending time with upbeat, positive people affects your mood, energy and thoughts.