Self-care isn't selfish

By Dr. Mia Wise
Wednesday, December 19, 2018
mother hugging son

Between the holidays, work, and family responsibilities, life can feel more like a pressure cooker than “the most wonderful time of the year.” ‘Tis the season for self-care.

What exactly is that? 

Self-care is giving your time and attention to things that are healthy for you, like eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep. It’s also those activities and people that uplift you emotionally and spiritually.

Examples include being with close friends, volunteering, meditating, or spending time in nature.

Many of us let overworking or caregiving demands prevent us from taking care of our whole selves. While taking time out may seem like the last possible option, that’s often a sign that we need to recharge our batteries through self-care activities.    

For me, I have responsibilities as a mother of two, supporting aging parents, and as a medical professional. I am lucky enough to have grown up in this region resulting in long-term friendships and extensive family nearby. Those relationships benefit from my time as well. Balancing these wonderful forces in my life, with a job I am passionate about, requires attention and planning.

My routine is similar to many people. 

Managing yourself and the energy you need to bring into any situation is important. When you go without self-care, it’s like chipping away at your foundation. It becomes shaky and leads to problems later. This can range from inability to focus, to unhealthy choices relating to food and alcohol consumption, to problems with mood, to chronic health conditions like low back pain, diabetes and high blood pressure.

The holidays, with all the extra activities and obligations, can feel overwhelming.

But when your schedule fills up, be reminded that even small steps can have a positive impact.  One piece of advice I give frequently is to schedule time for self-care activities, even if it’s less time than you’d normally take, healthy routines make a difference!

By purposely making these choices to care for myself, I’m modeling this behavior to my children.

Maybe the greatest gift we can give is to shift our mindset about self-care. It’s not selfish. It’s vital for our health. Your body, mind, and spirit will thank you.

Here are additional tips:

  • Recognize the potential stressors of the situation. If you host a holiday dinner, how important is it that every dish on the table is homemade? Is it important only to you?  
  • Know how you react to potential stressors. Do you spend so much time taking care of everyone else that you miss all the fun and end up feeling exhausted and sad? 
  • Recognize your choices and simplify. Can you ask others to bring food and help clean up? Or let family members know in their invitation that politics won’t be served at the dinner table?
  • Know the purpose of the activity. Does it have deep value to you or is it just something to “check the box”?
  • Maintain eating, exercise, and sleep routines to help you feel balanced. Enjoy alcohol and holiday treats in moderation.

Dr. Mia Wise is a medical director at Premera Blue Cross and practicing medical professional.

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