Today (July 24) is International Self-Care Day
I first heard of International Self-Care Day in 2019 when I was looking on the Employee Assistance Program website at work. I had recently returned to full time work, out of the home and an hour commute away. It did not go well. I had little time outside of my caregiving role before working full-time, but had none when I returned. After-care was what I was doing, and I wasn’t even doing that well.
Many caregivers have little to no time for self-care. But speaking from experience, not taking time for self-care does compound stress. The reality is being a caregiver for an individual with a complex disability, especially with little community support, is stressful.
In a recent caregiver survey report from the Canada FASD Research Network over 90% of respondents reported high levels of stress as the number one factor that impacted them as a caregiver. Emotional health was a close second. Social support and community belonging were tied at third place, with 70% of caregivers. Physical health and relationships with spouse and relatives made up the remaining factors that impacted them as caregivers.
Interestingly being intentional with time for self did not rank in the top 3 helpful coping strategies. The top three were: talking about feelings, religious or spiritual practice, and physical activity or movement.
I’m curious what caregivers viewed as intentional time for self, as the three activities noted could be considered as intentional time for self. I did participate in the survey, but don’t remember the context of that question. It makes me wonder if media has skewed our perception of self-care. Self-care can be anything you do for yourself that feels nourishing, whether that’s physically, mentally or spiritually.
What is self-care and why recognize it on July 24?
July 24 was chosen as it symbolises the benefits of self-care are experienced 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In other words, the benefits of self-care are life-long and do not just relate to a single day.
The World Health Organization defines self-care as the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.
Self-care is a lifelong habit and culture. It is the practice of individuals looking after their own health based on the knowledge and information available to them. It is a decision-making process that empowers individuals to look after their own health efficiently and conveniently, in collaboration with health and social care professionals as needed. ~ Global Self-Care Federation
The International Self-Care Foundation developed a framework for self-care around seven ‘pillars’ or ‘domains’. If you want to learn more about them, you can check out my Self-Care Day post from 2019: Self Care and Messages from the Universe in the FASD Lane
What are people doing for self-care day?
One of my favourite graphics I discovered in 2019 is the one below that recognized self-care is different for each of us. I like it’s simplicity.
ZZZ Time is still non negotiable for me. It is one thing I do consistently as a form of self-care. I make sure I get 8 hours of sleep. I try to turn my social media off for the night at 7:30 when I walk the dog. I then read. I used to love reading, but couldn’t concentrate when I was in the thick of raising my daughter. I have already met my goal of reading 22 books in 2022.
Me and Zen Time is important as well. Even after leaving my job, I maintain getting up at least an hour before anyone else so I can start my day in peace. It continues to be a good grounding start for my day.
I also added more Tree Time this year. I used to always be in the garden. But like other practices I left it behind. It is great for vitamin N (nature). I also love to take pictures of the moon. I’ve never had a nickname, but some other caregivers who know I love the moon now call me Moon Boss.
Check out Self Care Day for ideas and articles if you need inspiration.
Rethinking Self-Care in the Context of Community Care
Six months after writing the my first Self-Care Day post in 2019, I saw this quote by Nakita Valerio: “Shouting self-care at people who need community care is how we fail people.”
Community care is what many of us need. It is still something I need. Almost three years later. Not having friends, family or local services available are the biggest causes of stress in my life.
I’m tired. No I’m more than tired. I’m exhausted. I’m depleted. No amount of self care (bubble baths, walks, therapy, lunch with friends, reading a book, etc.) is going to “fill my cup” and bring me back to where I need to be.
I’m not alone. Many people are. Those who are caring for individuals with disabilities or aging parents are in the same place I find myself in. No one situation is the same. And no one situation is worse than another. But the fact that we are even in this place is a result of years of policies by governments that have attacked the most vulnerable in our society. And as a result those who look after them are now suffering.
What Do Other FASD Caregivers Do for Self-Care?
A research project from the University of Rochester discovered the following most used strategies for FASD Caregivers.
Part of the 99 Days to FASDay journey highlighted self-care. If you didn’t see that post, check out: Day 46 of 99 Days to FASDay: FASD Strategies for Caregivers
Just know if you are at your own breaking point, having trouble finding time for yourself, I know how that feels. I’ve been there. You are not alone.
If you don’t think you have time to add activities into your day, re-examine your beliefs about self-care:
- Is there something you are doing that really is self-care and you just didn’t think it was?
- Is there some type of community care you could incorporate to help relieve some of the stress?
- The opposite can be also true. Is there something you can stop doing or take away?
I love the idea of self-care by subtraction. I curated my social media feed last year and although I need to be on social media for work, I try to maintain a healthy balance.
And for those on this road, stay with me. We will continue to walk this journey together and find solutions and strategies.