The Self-Care Challenge
I became acutely aware of the importance of self-care after having my second daughter, Sascha. After returning to work when she was 6 months old, I soon realised it was going to be essential to look after myself proactively if I was going to be able to care for my family, patients and students to the best of my ability.
When Sascha was one year old, I booked in for a yoga retreat in Dunsborough. During the course of the retreat, I was introduced to Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science that takes a body – mind – spirit approach to health care and recognises the importance of living in harmony with nature to maintain wellbeing. Not long after the retreat, I decided I needed to learn to meditate. This led me to find a meditation teacher, then complete the 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program. I also enrolled in a 12-month Foundations of Clinical Ayurveda training program in Perth.
Since completing my meditation and Ayurveda training, I have remained committed to a number of daily self-care practices, and I believe this has been the cornerstone to maintaining a fairly balanced life, with good health and harmonious family-life.
Around the time I started my personal meditation practice and Ayurveda studies, I also became aware that my community of patients was wanting something more from me as their GP. Many of them were accessing care from other complimentary practitioners, and my patients clearly valued the care and treatment they were receiving. I realised I knew very little about what these practitioners were offering my patients.
So, I decided to invite as many practitioners as I knew, or knew of, to come together to meet and learn from one another for the purpose of supporting our community in a more collaborative, patient-centred way. The result was the creation of the Holistic Health Practitioner Network Inc, of which I am the Chair. The Network now has over 100 financial members who meet every 2 months to network and learn about the different approaches to care, focussing on a different topic at each meeting.
We have also created the South West Wellness Festival, which has been a free annual event in Busselton since 2016, providing the community with access to the practitioner members through stalls, workshops and talks with the purpose of providing information and opportunities to meet the practitioners before committing to making an appointment.
Through this process, I myself have started accessing a wide range of different modalities for my own self-care, including osteopathy, kinesiology and sound healing to name a few. I have also developed positive working relationships with a number of practitioners to support my patients, which has led to positive health outcomes for my patients that may not have been possible without this collaborative care.
What is self-care?
Self-care encompasses a range of different activities but also describes a way of being. When I think about what is required to maintain wellness, I include all of the following:
How we eat, move and rest
How we express ourselves
How we illuminate our inner truth
How we allocate our resources
How we think
How we contribute to the world
How we connect with others
How we harmonise with nature
If one or more elements are not receiving the attention required for to maintain balance and flexibility, our health and wellbeing will suffer and begin to impact on other elements.
Why do we need it?
It’s important to understand that self-care is essential not only for our own wellbeing but so that we are able to interact with our community and our environment in a meaningful and harmonious way. We are all interconnected and if we are not taking care of ourselves, this has a flow on effect to our families, friends, work colleagues, community, creating a culture and environment that can be toxic.
It can be very motivating to reflect on times when self-care has been neglected and we have experienced negative consequences. These may include physical ill-health, emotional ill-health, conflict in relationships, poor performance at work, and addictive behaviours.
Why don’t we do it?
Even though we appreciate how important self-care is, we all know that there are many barriers that prevent us from taking action. These include time, energy, cost, competing priorities and even feelings that we are not worthy.
Overcoming barriers to self-care
I’m no stranger to these challenges, so I’ve had to put time and effort into making self-care a priority in my life. These are some of the strategies that I have found useful:
Put it in the diary and set a reminder.
Visualise it first – start the day by imagining yourself performing your self-care activities.
Do it with your family and kill two birds with one stone.
Get an accountability buddy – I am part of a small group of women who meet once a month and within the group we pair up with a buddy. We text our buddy every Sunday with our intentions for the week and feedback on how we went the previous week.
Budget for it – self-care needs some financial support to make it happen so allocate your self-care activities with the funds they deserve.
Make it an organisational affair – make it your responsibility to role model self-care to your colleagues at work. Include self-care activities in your daily work routine, encourage your work mates to enter a team at events such as fun-runs, organise a retreat, etc.
Seek professional support – you’re not expected to do this on your own, so if you need help from a health professional, make the time to get support. As a doctor, I have learnt that treating myself is not the best solution and I actually really appreciate the learning from other practitioners, including my own GP.
Which leads me to invite you to participate in Dr Sarah’s September Self-Care Challenge. If you need some assistance with creating the habit of a daily self-care practice, then I’ve crafted a month-long program that will provide you with the encouragement and support that you need.
It’s free to register for Dr Sarah’s September Self-Care Challenge and you’ll go in the running to win a copy of the book “The Whole Health Life” by Shannon Harvey AND a BodyTalk session with Melia Brent-White, Inner Equilibrium. Please register via email firstname.lastname@example.org by 30th August 2019 and make self-care your priority in September.