Self-care seems like an odd word to choose as one’s catchword for a year, but the concept deserves consideration for many reasons.
Catch-words help to focus our minds on important aspects of life, the areas we want to improve. A word of the year can develop into a powerful tool for change, without the bother of setting up goals or New Year’s resolutions that are sure to fail.
Last year, I chose ‘Serenity’ as my word for the year and it worked a treat. The conscious decision to practice serenity helped me through some tedious parts of 2019. This year, self-care seems appropriate, although nowhere near as inspiring as serenity
Definition of self-care
There are many ways to define self-care, often related to health, eating habits, sleep, exercise and being sociable, among other things. But here’s a definition I really like:
‘Self-care is the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness…’Oxford English Dictionary
This lovely description leaves the way open for a variety of actions (and inaction) which together form a way of life in which self-nurture becomes a habit.
Why we need this habit
Adults need to take care of ourselves at all stages of life. Perhaps this applies especially to women who may have been brought up to care for others with little thought for their own needs.
In my childhood, my parents and the nuns at the Catholic girls’ school taught us about the ‘sin’ of selfishness, which they defined as putting our needs before those of others.
But with maturity came the understanding that the oft-quoted Biblical injunction, ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself,’ only makes sense if we have a strong commitment to care for ourselves. A person can’t actually care for others unless they care for themselves.
As one wise, respected charge nurse (called the Ward Sister in those days) at Royal Perth Hospital where I trained as a nurse often said,
‘Nurse, if you are too busy to have a break, get a drink and pee, you might as well go home. You are no use to me on the ward and no good to your patients if you can’t look after yourself first.
Our friends and families may be more than willing to care for us when challenges disrupt our lives. We depend on others to care for us when we are ill and comfort us when we’re bereaved and grieving. But for the most part, we are responsible to care for and nurture ourselves.
There’s no easy answer to that question. Interestingly, catch-words I’ve chosen in other years become clearer as the year unravels.
It’s not that I neglect myself, eat badly or sit in front of the television all day. I look after my health, socialise, have fun and the odd holiday. But there is more to self-care than that. Here are a few things I guess could happen.
- I may start to eat only food I really love.
- Perhaps some new form of physical activity will attract me. (Think, yoga, Tai Chi, a dance class)
- Then, I may become more authentic, say what I think more often and ask for what I need.
- Maybe I’ll simplify the way I live or create more order in my life.
- The possibilities interest and excite me. Now committed to this concept for the year, I look forward to getting started. Curiosity will lead me on to new areas.
If you haven’t thought about naming a buzz-word to guide your new year, perhaps you would like to try. For another example, Susan Dunn posted on this topic a few days ago. I promise, it’s never too late to begin a new hobby or habit!