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The Working Definition of Self-Care



Throughout history we have been sold that self-care was resting on Sundays after working a long hard week. We were sold that self-care was also getting pampered only on our birthdays or special occasions and now it has evolved in the media to the beautification of self with hair, nail, clothes and for some a small vacation of at least 2weeks per annum.

To be honest, I started to get really upset with that perspective of self-care as I worked in a drug rehab over the past 15 years. This is where I truly began to understand that no amount of getting your hair done, or nails did, could really give people the understanding of how to take care of past hurts or create a new evolution of self.

I became further perturbed when I recognized that we needed to be intentional with Self-Care and were not being taught this early enough in our life. WE as a society were okay with waiting until people hit the crisis mode, in order for them to take control of their lives. We were prepared to wait until people experienced burn out at work, or depression in motherhood, or entanglement in relationships (yes I had to use that word, it’s in your psyche now, so you can totally relate).

What we were not sold on was the actual working definition of self-care and how it could actually improve our general well-being.

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”. Perhaps one may believe that this definition is intended to help generate proper health practices for countries rather than creating opportunities for effective human optimization within the said countries.

The definition of Self-care must start with the concept that Self-care is first and foremost a systemic concept that is passed onto the individuals throughout their life span. Our initial relationship with our parents, siblings, the community determines what we know about Self-care and how to implement it in our daily lives. A concept that evolves through the course of our life span development from infancy to seniors. Self-care is also something that is taught through our schools, our communities, and then through our jobs, hobbies, and lived personal experiences.

We learn to brush our teeth, take showers, eat daily as means to be more independent as we grow up. However, as we master these activities we forget that we need to remain intentional in our acts as a means for our self-care strategies (trust me when you are a first-time mother, you start to recognize that those three things are so meaningful to feel like a human after taking care of another human being).

So at each stage of our life, a working definition of self-care needs to be established to meet the needs and desires of each individual.

So personally, I like to use the working definition of self-care, as the intentional act of taking care and evolving one’s mental, physical, and spiritual well being. This definition allows me to use dimensions of general well-being to guide my practice of taking care of me.

What’s your working definition? I highly suggest you write out your definition and keep it visible for you and others around you to be reminded of the intentional act of optimizing your human performance.

Always Jay.

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