Self-care is arguably the most important feature of every day for every single one of us, and this is especially true for healthcare practitioners. Yet most of us will be familiar with the common occurrence of self-care falling to the wayside in favour of fulfilling other peoples’ needs.
A demanding job, busy family life, looking after elderly relatives, supporting clients in clinic, hectic social schedule or many of the other reasons we encounter in life, can soon mean that our own needs are dropped in favour of the needs of others.
When thinking about self-care, I often refer back to a lovely interview with Jo Gamble, one of the UKs best known functional medicine practitioners, who runs a busy clinic supporting clients of all ages, often with complex and chronic health problems. When you give so much of yourself in clinic, self-care is non-negotiable and I was keen to find out how Jo balances this in her own life. I asked Jo, “with such a busy schedule, how do you incorporate self-care into your day / week?”
Jo explained, “my mantra is you have to be selfish in order to be selfless. I regularly slot in weekly sessions where the focus is just about self-care, for example, I always have a weekly massage and I don’t start work till 11am on a Thursday so I can take the dogs for a longer walk and enjoy a leisurely breakfast. I love walking the dogs in the morning as it is a perfect time to clear my head before work. I also make sure I have plenty of family time scheduled in my week.
I arrive at my clinic at 8am and never put anything in my diary before 8.15 – 8.30am. I use this first 15 – 30 minutes to mentally prepare myself for the day ahead using mindfulness and meditation. This time is really important for me; it’s how I mentally switch from home life to clinic life - I make a transition and find I am then ready for the day.”
If you’re a regular reader of The Supplement you’ll also have heard me refer back to New York writer, Gretchen Rubin many times. In The Happiness Project, Gretchen writes, “what you do every day matters more than what you do every once in a while.”
Jo’s wise words remind me just how much of a priority self-care is and through Gretchen’s writing I am reminded of just how important the everyday habits are, no matter how seemingly small and insignificant they may seem.
For me, self-care isn’t one big thing (an annual week long retreat in the mountains), although these big things can certainly be very helpful! I believe self-care is a series of little things done regularly and repeatedly. I like to think of them as rituals, because this lovely word adds an extra layer of importance to these regular little habits.
Here’s a few ideas on simple everyday self-care rituals. Try these or be inspired to create your own.
1. Make tea in a pot
Switching from tea in a cup to tea in a pot helps you to make more of an occasion of stopping to make and enjoy a tea break.
2. Aromatherapy hand cream on your desk
I always keep a pot of my favourite aromatherapy hand cream on my desk and it’s become a bit of a ritual now for me to take a moment’s pause to apply some cream and notice the lovely geranium aroma. More than keeping my hands soft, my little pot of cream reminds me to pause in my work day, even if it’s just for a minute or two.
3. Daily walk in nature
There’s so many benefits of taking a walk outside in daylight in the morning that I’d recommend everyone try to do it every day; even if it’s just for 10 minutes.
4. Add Epsom salts to your bath
A jar of salts on my bathroom shelf reminds me to take a regular Epsom salt bath. The extra magnesium that is absorbed through the skin is calming and relaxing, and helps to support a healthy stress response.
5. Make your bed
I once read that making time to make your bed properly in the morning can really set the tone for your day. It’s a simple self-care ritual that really works.
6. Pause before you eat
Get into the habit of pausing to take 2-3 deep belly breaths before you eat and every aspect of your health will benefit.
7. Before you do anything else in the morning, take a moment to consider what you are grateful for
Many people take this a step further and keep a daily gratitude journal. Focusing on what you are grateful for can help to shift your mind from a busy doing mode to a more present and relaxed mindful mode.