On July 24 each year since 2011, International Self-Care Day raises awareness about self-care as a vital foundation of health. The date chosen — 7/24 — serves to remind us to practice self-care and reap its benefits 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.
Not long ago I probably equated self-care with selfishness. After all, shouldn’t I tend to the needs of my family and friends before my own?
During the pandemic, we’re advised to wash our hands, wear masks and social distance — to protect others, not just ourselves. The same principle applies to proper self-care. Everyone profits when we make smart choices about our mental, emotional and physical well-being. We enjoy a good quality of life, give off positive energy that attracts people, and become better able to assist those who may rely on us. We also defy the notion that older individuals burden the health care system.
Self-care is not an indulgence; it’s a discipline. It’s not something to do occasionally when the world gets crazy. Like now. We must aim to stay healthy and balanced, consistently — every day, every week, every month.
- Health literacy is using skills — e.g. reading, listening, critical analysis — that enable us to act on information about leading healthy lives. We need to find out about the value of sleep, laughter, meditation and more.
- Self awareness. Mental wellness depends in part on optimism, purpose and a sense of belonging. It’s important to recognize when we should seek support in trying to feel well.
- Physical activity. Regular activity improves health and reduces the risk of developing chronic diseases. “Keep moving” must be our mantra.
- Healthy eating. Eat the rainbow every day: fruits and vegetables of different colours to get essential vitamins and nutrients. Plus consume protein and whole grain foods as outlined in Canada’s Food Guide. Drink plenty of water.
- Risk avoidance. Avoid or reduce behaviours that directly increase the risk of disease or death. Oh no. I best limit my consumption of ice cold beer!
Now, I will exercise self-care by leaving my computer to go outdoors. And I will take my water bottle along for the walk. •
P.S. Self-care can also entail a long, hot, scented bath!