Self-care: A critical ingredient to your success

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Aside from learning the language and adapting to culture, newcomers should add self-care to their list of priorities. We are a group that is the least likely to have self-care routines, especially in the first few months upon arriving. Considering that this is the period where we are driven to do everything all at the same time – learning about our new country, striving to find good jobs, establishing comfortable homes for our families and assimilating to our communities – not having self-care activities to break sustained efforts can cause health problems and make us susceptible to anxiety and depression.

What is self-care?

Self-care is any activity we do to nourish our physical, mental, emotional and social health. Sounds simple enough right? However, most of us don’t practice it.

Why do many of us forget self-care?

The simple reason is that we don’t have time and we don’t value it. We don’t make time for it because we somehow feel guilty when we do it – we think that it is a selfish act. This is rooted in culture. A lot of us are raised to value hard work. We take pride in being busy. Women, especially, fall into this trap. Our image of a successful woman is one who is efficient at work and has a complete handle of things at home. We take care of everyone and everything. If this lifestyle continues without proper self-care, it can lead to the development of stress-related illnesses or worse, burnout.

It is important to change our perspective about self-care if we want to succeed. At the very least, see it as an investment; the amount of self-care you put in today will translate to more focus and energy for use later on. In short, take care of yourself so that you can work more efficiently and take better care of the people you love.

Self-care is important because you need proper maintenance to be able to perform optimally. It is essential to your health and well-being.

What self-care is:

  • It is intentional. It is an activity that you undertake specifically for yourself.
  • It has physical, psychological, emotional, social and spiritual components.
  • It is personal. It can mean different things to different people.
  • It is regular and sustained. It has to be done throughout your life.
  • It is any activity that supports your health and wellness.

What self-care is not:

  • Taking drugs and alcohol to forget or to feel good.
  • Being lazy and anti-social. Examples of these are isolating yourself and sleeping too much.
  • Self-indulgence and extravagance. For example, maxing out your credit card to spend on things you don’t need.
  • “It should not be addictive, compulsive or harmful to your body, mind or bank account” (Ashley Eder, psychotherapist, as cited in 7 damaging myths about self-care).

Simple steps to better self-care:

Self-care routines do not have to be elaborate and expensive. Start with the basics like getting enough sleep, eating well and having an environment conducive to wellness.

  1. See your family doctor. You don’t need to have an ailment to get a check-up.
    • Schedule a regular medical check-up, for example each year on your birthday month.
    • Get age-appropriate screenings like mammograms, pap smears, shots.
    • Consult your doctor about how you can take better care of yourself. Ask about vitamins and better nutrition. Ask for a referral to a dietician or counsellor if you need more help.
  2. Set goals
    • Take control of how many hours of sleep you should get at night
    • Strive for better nutrition
    • Exercise regularly (make it something you love)
  3. Take a mental health break. If you need immediate self-care (for example, if you feel overwhelmed at work), take a break. Go out for walk and be in nature. Take deep breaths.
  4. Take time for hobbies, relaxation and socialization.
    • Check the Leisure Guide for free or low-cost activities in your community centre.
    • Explore Manitoba! See the sights, relax at the park, admire the museums and join the festivals (read 20+ free and almost free things to do in Manitoba).
    • Get a massage or a haircut (facials and pedicures/manicures are great too!)
    • Read a book or listen to music
  5. Set some quiet time at the end of the day to regroup. Get in touch with your feelings and emotions. It can be during your commute or drive home. You can also schedule some meditation, yoga or writing a gratitude journal before bedtime.
  6. Take a technology break. Set a day where you don’t use your cellphone, tablet or laptop.
  7. Use your vacation leaves. Taking a vacation will not make you look less efficient to your boss.

There are many other ways that you can practice self-care. As mentioned, it can vary depending on the person – what you may find enjoyable may not be for others. For example, I feel relaxed when I wash dishes or organize my closet. Others may see this as work and not relaxation. It is important to find a variety of activities that you like and grounds you. And remember, it doesn’t have to be elaborate or take all day to do. What’s important is that you recognize your limits and don’t spend your life continuously working to the bone. Match your drive with proper self-care and watch yourself succeed!
 
Sources: What is self-care – and how does anyone have time for it? Rachel Chen, Chatelaine; What self-care is – and what it isn’t, Raphailia Michael, MA, PsychCentral; and 7 damaging myths about self-care, Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S., PsychCentral. Accessed August 15, 2019.

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Community Resources

Go to these links for Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s (WRHA) information on Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and Adult Mental Health Services.

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