I’ve been thinking a lot about a common phrase I hear from many of my patients: “It’s time to take care of myself again.”  I love hearing those words, but it’s easy to draw the conclusion that for a period of time, you may not have been caring for yourself at all! Have you been there? There’s the analogy we’ve all heard more times than we can count: you have to secure your own oxygen mask before you can assist others. Practicing self-care is much the same.

Generally speaking, self-care is engaging in activities and behaviors that have a positive effect on your mental and physical health. There is no one thing — or even a list of things — that encompasses self-care. It’s different for each person. However, in my opinion, the end goal should be the same: to reduce stress, preserve relationships, maintain a beneficial work/life balance, and nurture your mental and physical well-being.

It’s a bit like reversing the golden rule: treat yourself as compassionately as you treat others. I believe it involves some introspection in identifying your needs and taking the necessary steps to meet them. I personally struggle in this area. When I neglect the importance of caring for myself I tiptoe around the flames of burnout. My physical health and energy levels takes a hit and I feel emotionally withdrawn.

Over the past few months, I’ve compiled my own list of self-care habits that I am trying to incorporate at least once per week. Here are a few examples: a 20 minute exercise session, painting my nails, looking at old/forgotten photographs, relaxing in the sauna, going for a drive and singing to the radio (beware fellow commuters), looking in the mirror and engaging in positive self thoughts, and taking a day off of work for a mental health day. I think these seemingly small changes make a big impact in our well-being. During the holiday season and the months to come, I encourage you to compile your own list and starting taking steps to nurture your entire being.

Hope Placher, PA-C, IFMCP