Health, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), is “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” The way we care for ourselves, and promote our health, is not just about keeping our bodies functioning, but about experiencing a high quality of life.
We all know intellectually that we should nourish and appreciate our bodies. However, with ever-shifting priorities and responsibilities, the way we care for ourselves is as divided as our attention. We have different physical, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual needs to which we must attend. One approach, such as “you’ll feel better if you just get out of the house,” is not sufficient for meeting all of our goals in all areas of our lives. Strategies for self-care, for nourishing our “self” and not just our physical body, vary from person to person, and even from day to day.
The Reasoned Action Approach is a behavior theory that posits that people act based on their reasoning, and that reasoning is not always rational. We make decisions, weighing the pros and cons of both action and outcome, and those metrics are not always apparent or understood by others. We may not even understand them ourselves! When we have competing priorities, we may be taking care of one need or want at the expense of another.
Self-care is essential to health, but it is often oversimplified as people just needing a break, a distraction, or a treat. In clinical terms, one WHO definition for self-care is “health-related decision-making and care undertaken by individuals, family and communities.”
Self-care is a process of self-reflection and action, and regarding yourself with unflinching honesty about what your needs are and what you can do that will really help you meet those needs.
In what areas are you overextended and burned out? What areas are you neglecting and not giving enough attention? What adds value and joy to your life, and what is lackluster? Ultimately, what behaviors and choices will invigorate and empower your life, and what kinds of self-care just push issues aside?
Not everyone has a diagnosed mental illness, but everyone has experienced a time when they did not take care of themselves as well as they could have. Self-care can be the armor that protects us, the encouragement that uplifts us, and the stillness that quiets us. I encourage each of you to take time to reflect and ask yourself, “What do I need to feel, and be, well?” Then, take some time to care for yourself, and to reach that ideal state that is “health.”
[Take care of yourself: click here for a list of hotlines, OU resources, and how to access these resources.]