When’s the last time you practiced self-care? No, I don’t mean squeezing in a shower after a long day, or meal-prepping healthy foods for the week ahead. Self-care is not only essential to our mental health but nurtures our overall well-being. Even so, it is often something that we neglect due to our busy lives.
Among my family and circle of friends consist are many front line workers who have worked tirelessly this past year responding to calls, securing PPE, or caring for patients on ventilators in ICU floors. They are the true heroes of this pandemic, so for everyone working on the front lines — from first responders to nursing home caregivers to restaurant workers — this one’s for you. Gain some insight on self-care and learn how to incorporate it into your life. After all, self-care, like these workers, is essential.
What Is Self-Care?
Self-care is often misinterpreted as something we do because we think we should be doing it, rather than because we want to do it. For example, if working out feels like a chore, but you exercise five days a week because you want to look fit, it’s not self-care. If you hate eating spinach, but force yourself to eat a spinach salad every night because of the health benefits, that’s not self-care! According to this article for PsychCentral by Raphailla Michael, “self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.”
Moreover, self-care is essential to reducing stress, anxiety exhaustion and helping prevent depression. “Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety,” Michael writes. “It’s also key to a good relationship with oneself and others.” This article also discusses the three golden roles of self-care: stick to the basics; plan self-care rather than wait for it to happen; and be conscious of how your activities make you feel.
Some easy self-care ideas from the article that we can all implement into our routines are getting enough sleep, do at least one relaxing activity each day, follow-up with medical care and spend more quality time with loved ones.
Where Do I Begin?
Implementing self-care into your daily routine can be as simple as taking 15 minutes to meditate daily or stepping outside for fresh air every hour during the workday. However, it can be difficult to shift our routines to include self-care when we already work long hours or lead busy lives. I encourage you to consider the advice in this article from the University of Buffalo, which provides a step-by-step process for developing a self-care plan. Interestingly, the article distinguishes between maintenance and emergency self-care. The former “refers to the activities that you have identified as important to your well-being and that you have committed to engage in on a regular basis to take care of yourself,” while the latter prepares you for emergency situations that might induce extreme stress or panic.
For frontline workers specifically, check out these self-care tips that can be adapted to your demanding work schedule. For mental health, the article suggests that you:
- Practice self-monitoring to gage your mental, emotional and physical status
- Take brief relaxation and stress management breaks as needed
- Consult with co-workers and supervisors on a regular basis
- Recognize when you need time for yourself versus when you need to reach out to your support network
- Follow trusted sources for information, but remember to limit exposure to graphic images or worrisome statistics
- Honor your service. Remember that your work is extremely important, valued and appreciated
Remember that it is difficult to alter our existing routines, but making time for self-care is not only important, but integral to promoting our mental and physical well-being.
On Happiness and Sadness
When it comes to self-care, the goal is to promote happiness, for developing a positive mindset will in turn will benefit all other aspects of our lives. Take a look at this article that describes advice from Ashley Whillans, assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, who describes five easy activities that increase your happiness fast. Included activities are: organizing your errands, reaching out to a loved one and watch a relaxing nature video, all of which only take up about five to ten minutes of your day.
Dealing with emotions as we near one year of restrictions and lockdowns can be extremely difficult. Although negative emotions are ones we typically try to avoid enduring at all costs, sometimes it is necessary to simple acknowledge and accept how we feel in order to heal. This article by Sydni Ellis details how allowing herself to feel sad actually helped improve her anxiety. Ellis described that during this process, she identified the source of her sadness either verbally or in a journal, allowed herself to feel sad for as long as necessary, and refrained from judging herself for anything she felt sad over. No matter what we endure, negative or positive, refraining from judgement lays the foundation for practicing self-care.
COVID-19: NECC Hosts Community Forum on COVID-19 Vaccine
Northern Essex Community College (NECC) students are teaming up with doctors from the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center to present a community forum that will answer questions about the COVID-19 vaccine. During the forum, three doctors from Greater Lawrence Family Health Center will be on hand to take questions, dispel myths, and share the latest information on the COVID-19 vaccine and how to get it. Free and open the public, the forum will be held on Zoom next Tuesday, March 2 at 4:30 pm, and those interested can register here.
To kick off this week’s good reads section, meet Tiffany Bell, a Haverhill Mother of Six Wants to Be a Nurse:
Northern Essex Community College (NECC) practical nursing student Tiffany Bell has a motto: when you make yourself better, you’re making your whole family better. It’s something this Haverhill mom of six children, ages 5 to 23, considers as she balances her full-time classes, her kids’ hybrid school schedules and running a household. “I told them, this will be craziest 10 months of my life but at the end of it I will be a nurse.’”
Bell knows a lot about perseverance. Despite having her first son when she was 17, she graduated high school with honors. She worked odd jobs while getting her nursing assistant certification. A few years later, while working fulltime as a CNA and caring for her young son, Bell went back to school, and became a medical assistant at a busy pediatric office.
Life was moving right along- she had a job she loved, she got married and had two more children — until an autoimmune disease stopped her in her tracks. While Bell took time off to focus on her health, she started to entertain the idea of getting a nursing degree.
“My youngest was in pre-k and I just wanted more for myself. I felt lost,” she recalls. She re-enrolled in NECC and started chipping again. And despite a few set-backs and a global pandemic, this Dean’s List student is on track to become a nurse this year.
When she graduates in August, it will be a full-circle moment for Tiffany Bell. For anyone who feels overwhelmed about the thought of taking on something new, especially mothers, she offers this advice: “Have a short term goal. Take a few classes, take them online when it’s convenient for you…you’re worth it. Invest in yourself.”
Peace & Quiet. Research has found that “ambient noise generated by human activity such as travel and machinery dropped by 50% last year,” meaning that small earthquakes that otherwise would not be observed have been detected in some areas.
There’s No Place Like Mars. Last Thursday, NASA’s Perseverence rover finally landed on Mars and sent over stunning images that suggest what it’s like to land on mars. Keep this story bookmarked, for the rover is sending more images this week!