Self-care is often seen as selfish. I hear/see it from the nurses I work with. I’ve received written responses on surveys and in emails that I send to my nursing tribe.
“I don’t take care of myself because my family comes first. I don’t have time because I’m always at work.”
Reading between the subtle lines, a common theme emerges:
Many nurses view self-care as selfish.
I’m not sure how these two terms became one-and-the-same; let’s have a quick look at their definitions. According to the Wikipedia:
- Selfishness is placing concern with oneself or one’s own interests above the well-being or interests of others.
- Self-care is personal health maintenance. It is any activity of an individual, family or community, with the intention of improving or restoring health, or treating or preventing disease.
Wow. To me these terms couldn’t be farther apart. Self-care is about improving or restoring your health; it has nothing to do with ranking your interests against another’s.
So I’m a Nurse Health Coach. And being a nurse entrepreneur, I put myself in somewhat of a ‘public eye’. I’ve created a social media presence, blog regularly, host my own radio show, and have self-published two books. My ‘soap box’: nurses’ health.
I want you, as a nurse, to desire, embrace, create, achieve, maintain, and sustain a happy, healthy lifestyle of total well-being. I believe that as nurses we have a duty to our patients to model what ‘healthy’ looks and feels like.
And I pride myself in walking my talk. I don’t just tell nurses to do this; I live this lifestyle as an exemplar of what it’s to be like.
Well, last week a very strange thing happened to me. I developed this odd feeling that I was “sick of being healthy, fed up of making the right choices all of the time“. I wanted to give up.
I thought to myself: “I’m so tired of being on display all of the time, making the healthy choice. I just want to be bad for a while. I don’t want to do this anymore. I want to sit around, watch TV, eat junk, and drink alcohol.”
While I have decided to take a break from some things, ease the pressure I place on myself, I’ve also reflected on this experience and received a fascinating lesson which I share with you here today.
You have to want self-care for you.
Sustaining healthy behaviors is hard, hard work. Sometimes we resent it. Sometimes we’re sick of it. Sometimes we’re bored, stuck, irritated, and tired of it all.
But in that very moment–in that moment when self-care becomes “hard”–the reasons behind why we do it become crucially significant.
From my example above, if I am making healthy choices and living healthy behaviors for some “image”, it won’t last. If I am choosing healthy options to be a role-model, I may fail. If I’m doing things for everyone else on this planet, except for myself, it’s likely I’ll give up.
You have to choose self-care for you. You have to make healthy choices because you want it. You have to live healthy because you decided that it is important to you.
What are your reasons? Why do you choose to put work first? Why do you put family needs before your own? Why did you make this or that healthy choice?
I encourage you to really take a look at your motivators, values, and reasons why. Live health for yourself. Follow what’s inside of your heart. Enjoy your healthy decisions. And success–in terms of good health, total happiness, and ultimate peace of mind–will follow.
Namaste, my friends.
I think that maintaining good health is critical for everyone in the healthcare profession. Took Dad to see his cardiologist who was sniffling. Doc assured us it was just some allergies. Dad caught those allergies a few days later.
@haroldgardner Oh my, thanks for sharing your example with your father's case. I appreciate hearing specifics like that because then I can pull from these stories when I am out there teaching nurses. You are so right- it is critical for everyone involved. If we don't care for ourselves, how will we do a good job for our patients?
@haroldgardner You're so right Harold. Healthcare settings need to promote health and wellness for both ourselves and our patients, but unfortunately there's still so much pressure to power through it just to cover a shift or to not let the team down.
Instead of taking a day to recover we end up pushing ourselves until we crash, which results in a longer recovery time at home and away from work. And as you mentioned, we end up risking our patients' health.
I do not know how nurses do what they do, day after day. I can't even imagine how it is possible without some level of "self care." I don't see it as selfish, I think it is a requirement to maintaining some level of sanity.
@PhilEll721 Agreed. I wonder- how do we get others to view it as an unselfish act? Because I am with you, but I know from experience... we are not the majority. Thanks for your insights!
@PhilEll721 Thank you for saying this Phil. We hear this often from the other side of healthcare (the consumer side), but I think nurses are embracing the idea that this is the norm because "everyone else is doing it."
We're trying to make a positive paradigm shift here.
Thanks for adding your comments Kevin, I appreciate your honesty and insights. I am glad you listened to your inner needs. I am glad you took a break. I am glad so that you can help us all in the many ways that you do. When we give from empty we have nothing left to offer. Thanks much for letting me share here!
Of course! And we appreciate your contribution. You too have an honesty about this post that is most intriguing. Transparency is key, and sharing our struggles can make the connection even more sincere. We get it. We're struggling too, but we are also forging ahead and doing something about it.
Make the effort folks. Just like any lifestyle change start simple and work your way up to more self-care tasks. Put it on your to-do lists.
@CoachScala makes some fantastic point here. A very powerful post indeed.
Don't ignore your personal flight attendant on this one. There's a reason why you place the oxygen mask on yourself first. You're not going to be able to assist the person next you, across the way, a family member/friend, or really anyone who could benefit from your support if you yourself are deprived.
I've had these conversations with many colleagues and even family members of the clients I work with. I will not be this kind of statistic. Forced into a growing number of professionals (healthcare related field or not) that are fast approaching burn out and unable to effectively perform personally and professionally.
I attempt to be available as much as I can for those who need me, and in my opinion I am, but I'm firm in my role that I will not be a martyr. You shouldn't be one either.
I've been very public about my "crash and burn" that took place early on in my start up business where I worked as much as 80-100 hours/week. My proverbial belief of casting one's bread upon the waters (generous acts because I felt it was right...) soon turned me into toast.
I had to take a physical and emotional leave of absence to regroup. I think you can fill in the blanks here and assume at this point that it was more stressful to reallocate staff to manage things while I was away then it would have been if I allowed myself the opportunity to manage my own self-care so that I could better sustain my endeavors.
Be among the leaders, innovators, game changers, health/wellness evangelists, and self-care pioneers. Don't be among the burned toast. It doesn't matter how much you try to butter it. It's still crispy and not at all enjoyable.