What is Self Care?
Thanks for joining us during the Holiday Season. Many of us forget to take care of ourselves during this time. Let's take a moment to chat about ways to take some time for YOU.
Kasia Pytlik joins us to chat. Kasia has been an NICU social worker both at Mount Sinai Hospital and Sunnybrook Hospital over the last six years, supporting families with their NICU journey. She currently splits her time between clinical work and parent programming at Mount Sinai Hospital.
Simply put, self-care is a deliberate act in order to take care of our mental, emotional and physical selves. This sounds simple and easy, and in theory, it should be. But often times people, particularly busy parents, feel guilty for doing something for themselves, especially something that has been traditionally overlooked in the maintenance of “good health”. But here’s the thing: we take steps to maintain proper oral and physical hygiene like brushing our teeth and bathing without feeling guilty, so why should taking steps to maintain emotional and mental health be any different?
Why is self care so important?
Self-care is not just important, it’s crucial. If you aren’t taking care of your emotional and mental health, then you can’t care for another person. Something I routinely say to new NICU parents: you need to put your oxygen mask on first before you can attend to your child. If you get sick, both physically and/or mentally, then who will care for your baby? When framed this way, it’s a little bit easier to see how self-care isn’t a selfish act—something busy parents might think when they feel guilty for taking their own ‘timeout’ from life.
Not only does self-care maintain healthy mental and emotional health, but it is also a preventative measure against “overload burnout”. It also reduces the negative affects of stress, and it should rejuvenate you. This last point is important to underlined because self-care shouldn’t become another thing you have to do. While, yes, we should make time for it, we shouldn’t have to force ourselves to do it. That completely defeats the purpose! Self-care should refuel you; you should have a sense of being refreshed and ready to dive back into life after you do it.
What are examples of self care?
Self-care means different things to different people—as mentioned above, it has to be something that you enjoy doing. One person might find journaling cathartic and a good way to organize their thoughts, while another person might find the thought of journalling fluffy and unhelpful. That being said, there are some guidelines that might help you find a fulfilling self-care routine:
- Self-care doesn’t just happen. You do have to make a conscious effort and plan to incorporate it into your daily life. Put it in your schedule; tell your partner that you’re planning a ‘self-care timeout’; or actively find a free 15-20 minute chunk of time to practice self-care.
- Identify your self-care practice as self-care. For example, someone might find a hot shower as relaxing and as a way to unwind, but only view it as a personal hygiene act. By identifying your hot shower as a part of your self-care, you can tack on a few extra minutes to your routine and (hopefully) not feel guilty for doing so.
- Set some boundaries by identify things you don’t want to do. For example, not answering the phone during lunch/dinner, not reading emails after a certain time, not attending events that you’re not interested in attending, and limiting time with people who bring negativity into you life.
- Eat Healthy. I get it—this gets pushed down our throats everywhere we turn (pun intended!). But eating a balanced diet does affect our mood and thus our emotional and mental health. Eating healthy is hard most days, but especially so over the holidays. Remember the key is balance—there’s nothing wrong in indulging a little in holiday goodies, just remember to throw in some leafy greens, and fruits throughout the day too.
- Exercise. Yup—another thing we hear over and over again. But this too affects our mood. But how can we exercise when it’s -100 out and we have a fragile NICU graduate with us? Sometimes getting to gym is not an option. One way to work up a bit of a sweat and stay comfortable and away from crowds is to wake up early, and head to mall before it opens. This might sound unrealistic and kinda cheesy, but it does work! Try brisk walking or a light jog around The Eaton’s Centre’s three levels five times without stopping, and you’ve got yourself a sweat glow.
- Okay—some explicit (and traditional) examples of self-care: journalling; yoga classes; ten-minute meditation breaks; crisp fresh air; lunch dates with friends; joining a “parent and baby class”. Remember—these examples might not be something that works for you. But you owe it to yourself, and your family, to find something that does work for you. Once you become mindful of things that do refuel you, you’ll be able to identify more explicit forms of self-care that work for you and fit into your life.
How often should I make time for “me"?
Every day. That’s not to say you have to take two hours daily to get to that spin class. But you should be doing something for you, and only you, every day. That also doesn’t mean that it has to be by yourself. Maybe a 15 minute conversation with that friend that always makes you laugh is all you need to leave you in a great mood for the rest of the day. But try every single day to do something uplifting, or relaxing. Once you become cognizant of incorporating self-care into your life, you’ll start to develop your own routine of finding ways to bring some rejuvenation into your life daily. The more you practice self-care, the easier it will be to find ways to incorporate your self-care practices into your daily living.
The Holiday season is tough. My baby is home from NICU, I'm trying to get to see everyone and I feel overwhelmed. HELP! How can I accomplish it all?
You can’t accomplish it all. And you don’t have to. Once you give yourself permission to not be super parent, the expectation to “do it all” disappears. The thing is, most people aren’t expecting us to do everything either. Most of the time, it’s an expectation we place on ourselves. The holidays brings a certain level of stress though—everyone’s in town, and everyone wants to see us (and probably your NICU graduate too!). But this is where setting boundaries comes into play. There will be some people who will be disappointed they didn’t get to see you this holiday season. But most people will understand why. It’s okay to reschedule plans for when things are less busy a couple of months from now. Maybe using Face Time or similar sort of technology to catch up with friends is an option. Prioritising your own sanity during the busy holiday season should be taken seriously, and not just an option.
What's the easiest way to take care of myself?
There are many free apps out there that can lead you with mindfulness/meditation exercises. Just ten minutes of deep breathing, body scanning and letting your mind drift to a safe and relaxing space can do wonders for regulating your mood.
An app I really like is called Headspace. It is Guided Meditation is a free app that I’ve used and would definitely recommend.
Thank you Kasia for joining us and providing all of these amazing insights and tips. Wishing you all some "me" time this Holiday and time for some self care every day.
If you have any suggestions of future topics to chat about, shoot us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll see you next month (and next year!) for our next #PreTermChats!
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