What is Self-Care?
Self-care is not selfish. The current state of the world with the Covid-19 pandemic and uncertainties caused by it, is creating anxiety and stress to many of us. Focusing on what makes us feel nourished and on what gives us meaning, is part of easing those feelings and giving us a more solid foundation. The COVID-19 pandemic has radically changed the way we live, from our work, to our learning and to our social lives. Our new reality poses a unique set of challenges for all of us.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), self-care is the ‘ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health care provider’.
Self-care is not a new concept, and it has been in use for hundreds of years. However, in the world where wellness influencers and the quick access and spread of information is the norm, self-care can be seen as a nebulous, ‘feel good’ concept that has little relevance to the ‘real work’ of health, welfare and education professionals.
It is normal to feel stressed or overwhelmed during uncertain times. Emotions in response to uncertainty may include anxiety, fear, anger and sadness. You also could feel helpless, discouraged and, occasionally, out of control. Physical responses may include headache, muscle tension, fatigue and sleeplessness.
Now more than ever, practicing self-care is essential when it comes to taking care of our emotional health and wellbeing. And taking care of yourself will result in you being better equipped to support your family through this time.
The pre-frontal cortex is the ‘executive’ centre of the brain, and it works best when we are calm. Calm means regulated in the context of neurobiology. Being able to stay calm in the midst of trauma, through the use of regular self-care activities enables us to think more clearly and to be better able to support our family and friends.
Holding a regulated state also is core in terms of our capacity to prevent vicarious trauma – or others’ trauma we may end up experiencing as our own.
REPETITION BUILDS BRAINS
The important thing to understand is that self-care works similarly to going to the gym. Working out once every few weeks will bring you little to no results. Or that one-off yoga class, although nice, won’t bring any lasting effects to our wellbeing. Repetition of experience works with all activities in terms of the brain’s capacity to strengthen neuronal connections to facilitate activity. It is the same for self-care strategies, and their capacity to help us be most effective in our practice.
Self-care can include a myriad of practices that you find both enjoyable and that in some way promote your physical, emotional, spiritual, or mental health. According to the definition from the WHO, self-care is the behaviours you do to take care of your own health and can include hygiene, nutrition, leisure activities, sports, exercise, seeking professional healthcare services when needed, and much more.
A final point about self-care is that one person’s self-care can be another person’s stress, so you need to choose strategies that work for you.
Navigating the new normal is not easy, and in the midst of a global pandemic, the need to care for all aspects of our own health is of the utmost importance.
Lastly, if you feel your mental health has been suffering and your general wellbeing declining, please get support. We are very fortunate with a great range of free support lines in New Zealand. Please look through the list below.
Mental Health is my passion and specialty, and I would love to hear from you if you think you may need support in this area. At The Good Health Room, we run different levels of professional naturopathic support for mental health, from the express consult – for straightforward acute complaints such as stress and sleep, to full naturopathic consultations, and a 12-week wellbeing programme.
|RAISSA RINGER | 28 July 2020|
HERE ARE A FEW TIPS YOU CAN USE TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
- Fuel your body by eating a healthy, well-balanced diet and drinking plenty of water.
- Aim to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
- Exercise every day.
- Take deep breaths and stretch often.
- Avoid risky or destructive behaviours, such as abusing alcohol or drugs, excessive gambling or ignoring public health recommendations.
- Spend time outside, such as going for a walk in the park, but follow social distancing guidelines.
- Set and maintain a routine at home.
- Focus on things you can control.
- Use technology to maintain social connections with your loved ones. Consider a regular check-in schedule to give you something to look forward to.
- Focus your thoughts on the present and things to be grateful for today.
- Listen to music or read books.
- Consume reliable news sources that report facts, and avoid media that sensationalizes emotions. Limit your exposure or take a break from news and social media if you find that it makes you anxious.
- Lean on your personal beliefs and faith for support.
- Look for ways to help your community, such as blood donations, checking on older people in your neighbourhood, or donating supplies or money to local organizations.
- Acknowledge and appreciate what others are doing to help you and your community.
NEW ZEALAND MENTAL HEALTH HELPLINES
Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
- Lifeline – 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP)
- Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
- Healthline – 0800 611 116
- Samaritans – 0800 726 666
- Depression and Anxiety Helpline – 0800 111 757 or free text 4202 (to talk to a trained counsellor about how you are feeling or to ask any questions)
- www.depression.org.nz – includes The Journal online support tool
- SPARX.org.nz – online e-therapy tool provided by the University of Auckland that helps young people learn skills to deal with feeling down, depressed or stressed.
Helplines for children and young people
- Youthline – Free call 0800 376 633, free text 234, email email@example.com or Web chat from 7pm–10pm
- thelowdown.co.nz – or email firstname.lastname@example.org or free text 5626
- What's Up – 0800 942 8787 (for 5–18 year olds). Phone counselling is available Monday to Friday, 12noon–11pm and weekends, 3pm–11pm. Online chat is available Monday to Friday from 1pm–10pm and Saturday and Sunday from 3pm–10pm.
- Kidsline – 0800 54 37 54 (0800 kidsline) for young people up to 18 years of age. Open 24/7.
Help for parents, family and friends
- EDANZ – improving outcomes for people with eating disorders and their families. Freephone 0800 2 EDANZ or 0800 233 269, or in Auckland 09 522 2679. Or email email@example.com.
- Parent Help – 0800 568 856 for parents/whānau seeking support, advice and practical strategies on all parenting concerns. Anonymous, non-judgemental and confidential.
- Family Services 211 Helpline – 0800 211 211 for help finding (and direct transfer to) community based health and social support services in your area.
- Skylight – Skylight’s specialised services support children, young people, and their whānau, to navigate through times of trauma, loss and grief. We aim to provide the right help, at the right time, in the right way.
- Supporting Families In Mental Illness – For families and whānau supporting a loved one who has a mental illness. Auckland 0800 732 825. Find other regions' contact details here.
Other specialist Helplines
- 0508MUSICHELP – The Wellbeing Service is a 24/7 online, on the phone and in-person counselling service fully funded by the NZ Music Foundation and provided free of charge to those in the Kiwi music community who can't access the help they need due to hardship and other circumstances. Call 0508 MUSICHELP.
- Alcohol and Drug Helpline – 0800 787 797 or online chat.
- Are You OK – 0800 456 450 family violence helpline.
- Anxiety phone line – 0800 269 4389 (0800 ANXIETY).
- Gambling Helpline – 0800 654 655.
- Moneytalks – 0800 345 123. A free and confidential helpline for people experiencing financial hardship. Moneytalks can provide advice on budgeting, bills, debt, loss of income etc. to individuals, family and whānau. Visit www.moneytalks.co.nz, email firstname.lastname@example.org or txt 4029.
- Quit Line – 0800 778 778 smoking cessation help.
- Rape Crisis – 0800 883 300 (for support after rape or sexual assault).
- Seniorline – 0800 725 463 A free information service for older people.
- Shakti Crisis Line – 0800 742 584 (for migrant or refugee women living with family violence).
- Shine – 0508 744 633 confidential domestic abuse helpline.
- Vagus Line – 0800 56 76 666 (Mon, Wed, Fri 12 noon – 2pm). Promote family harmony among Chinese, enhance parenting skills, decrease conflict among family members (couple, parent-child, in-laws) and stop family violence.
- Women's Refuge Crisisline – 0800 733 843 (0800 REFUGE) (for women living with violence, or in fear, in their relationship or family)
Warmlines for consumers of mental health services
Free peer support services for people experiencing mental illness or those supporting them
- Canterbury and West Coast – 03 379 8415 / 0800 899 276 (1pm to midnight, seven nights)
- Wellington – 0800 200 207 (7pm–1am, Tuesday to Sunday)
- Auckland Central – 0508 927 654 or 0508 WARMLINE (8pm to midnight, seven nights)