Life is a lot. We all see it and feel it everyday. As if wrestling with life’s conflicting priorities like managing family commitments, pursuing work ambitions, maintaining some level of a social-life wasn’t enough, it’s also essential to take time out dedicated to self-care. Looking after ourselves is an important part of living a happy and healthy life. Yet, it is often the easiest item to bump off life’s list of priorities.

Essentially, the stress of taking time out to de-stress is stressful so we don’t do it. Sounds about right.

Self-care, the activities and practices that we intentionally choose to take part in on a regular basis to maintain and enhance our health and well-being allow us to refill and rejuvenate both physically and mentally. While the importance of building self-care into your life is not new information, we know that Canadians are still not paying attention to this important need. The average Canadian worker is away from work for the equivalent of almost two weeks in a year, for casual absences related to mental health. What this tells us is that everyone needs to take a break from time to time, and if you do not create time to self-care you will likely end up taking unplanned sick time.

A more empowering approach to self-care is identifying the healthy habits we want to explore as we learn what we need to take care of ourselves. Designing a self-care plan should be your first step. To help with your self-care plan, the International Self-Care Foundation has developed a framework called Seven Pillars of Self-Care that divides up aspects to account for in your personal self-care plan.

Pillar 1 – Health literacy

It’s important to learn about your health so that you can make informed decisions on what we need for self-care. Your needs are highly personal so your plan should be as well.

Pillar 2 – Self-awareness of physical and mental condition

We need to be self-aware about the state of our physical and mental health. The best way to do this is to regularly visit your doctor or health practitioner and be honest about how you’re feeling physically and mentally.

Pillar 3 – Physical activities

Regular physical activity is vitally important for self-care. It doesn’t have to involve intense or extreme activities. Walking, cycling, yoga, swimming – anything that keeps your moving significantly improves your health, fitness and mood.

Pillar 4 – Healthy eating

Eating a nutritious, balanced diet is always essential. Take the time to eat. Eat and chew slowly without distraction, and use your fancy plates while you are at it.

Pillar 5 – Risk avoidance or mitigation

A few tips are:  avoid smoking, limit alcohol intake, and use sunscreen daily. Take Vitamin D, especially for us Canadians who experience less sunshine and relatively short summers than those living closer to the equator.

Pillar 6 – Good hygiene

While most of us practice good hygiene, it’s still important to note that washing your hands well and often is one of the most important things we can do. Self-care can also be as simple as taking the time to wash your face before bed.

Pillar 7 – Rational and responsible use of products, services, diagnostics and medicines

Avail yourself of medical help when necessary. If you’ve been prescribed medication, take it as directed. If alternative medicine is your thing, use it. Just take a realistic and measured approach to anything you choose to bring into your life.

Self-care need not be a stress. Start by making your plan – approach it one pillar at a time and integrate things you have always wanted to try with activities you know you will be able to do easily on an ongoing basis. Slow down and look for daily rituals and routines that offer moments of rejuvenation – a 10 minute walk at lunch, a daily tea break, and making sure we get enough sleep are all acts of self-care.

Investing in some you time will help make you a happier and healthier person. Taking care of ourselves can be a VERY new concept for many. However, learning to show up for yourself and about your personal health is truly empowering, and will allow you to offer that much more to all the aspects of your life!

Lisa Schaffer, Public Relations Coordinator, Obesity Canada Public Engagement Committee
Image 1: Pillars by Guillaume Seguin (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))