A Concept that is as Important as Ever TO YOUR HEALTH AND WELL-BEING
What is in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”William Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet
Lately it seems like I read or hear the term “Self-Care” in blogs, books, and various other forms of media many, many times each day. It is not a term that I can remember hearing growing up, but, while currently on-trend, self-care is nothing new.
Self-Care’s Social Media Prevalence: Do We Have Trump to Thank?
Could we equate the rise in the significance of the self-care movement in social media to American politics? According to The New Yorker magazine, it seems that during the run-up to the United States’ presidential election, pitting Republican candidate Donald Trump against Democrat Hillary Clinton, ” ‘Self-care’ rose as collective social practice in 2016 alongside national stress levels… which peaked in Google searches the week after the (U.S. Presidential) election.” While it is funny to think that this may be the case, the author, Jordan Kisner, traces the concept of self-care back to Ancient Greeks; in Plato’s Apology, Socrates advises not to enter politics until one has first taken care of themselves. Kisner points out that self-care was preceded in the American vocabulary by ‘Self-Reliance’, ” But both stem from the puritanical values of self-improvement and self-examination.” (Jordan Kisner, The New Yorker, The Politics of Conspicuous Displays of Self-Care, March 14, 2017). The article goes on to point out that the term Self-Care has taken on political, healthcare, and even commercial meanings.
Most of what I have been reading about self-care has to do with physical and mental health. That is not to say that it isn’t being monetized through product reviews and affiliate links, but I find the type of material I read has a focus on health. I recently read an excellent article on the blog Nyxie’s Nook discussing the difference between self-care and self-soothing. I realized that I had, perhaps, been confusing the two. The author writes, “Self-care and self-soothing fall very closely together, and both are necessary but in different ways. Often they become entangled and confused, as do some of their key elements.” She goes on to argue that while self-soothing activities can be comforting and good, they do not necessarily lead to recharging or renewing and may become escapes or self-indulgences that are not good for us ( NYXIE’S NOOK.COM, July 8, 2019) .
Self-care and self-soothing fall very closely together, and both are necessary but in different ways. Often they become entangled and confused”NYXIE
For example, as a person with chronic illness, I recognize the importance of getting enough rest and eating a diet that is nutritious, but avoids foods that are contraindicated by my kidney failure. I also experience chronic pain, for which I often distract myself with activities such as watching television or scrolling through social media. Before reading Nyxie’s blog, I might have confused them all as self-care when in fact, eating well and getting the necessary amount of sleep is self-care, while distracting myself with television is actually self-soothing.
Currently, I am re-reading Stephen Covey’s 1989 best seller and classic self-help book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (a book I have recommended to just about anyone who will listen!) While I do not recall Covey using the term self-care at all in the book, I would refer to the culminating Habit #7 which he calls “Sharpening the Saw… It is the habit that makes all the others possible… It’s renewing the four dimensions of your nature–physical, spiritual, mental, and social/emotional.” These all-important activities which many of us tend to place on the back-burner until we have time to take care of them, might include: exercise, adapting to healthier eating, reading or updating knowledge, spiritual care, and service to others.
Earlier in the book Covey describes a ‘Time Management Matrix’ in which he would divide the time we spend on specific activities into four quadrants from Urgent to Not Urgent on one axis and Important to Not Important on the other, resulting in Quadrant 1 Activities, which are Urgent and Important (crises and pressing matters which must be dealt with immediately), Quadrant 2 Activities, Not Urgent but Important (proactive, preventive and planning type activities), Quadrant 3, Urgent but not Important (these are our daily interruptions, such as phone calls, and if the book had been written today might also include text messages, social media mentions or DMs), and finally Quadrant 4 which are Neither Urgent or Important (time wasters, pleasant activities, busy work). Self-Care in this matrix would fall into Quadrant 2, Important but not Urgent, for most people. Self-Soothing might well be found in Quadrant 4 among the not urgent or important activities but could arguably be in any of the four quadrants if a person is suffering, depending upon the degree.
Covey contends that we spend most of our time in Quadrant 1, dealing with critical or urgent matters of the moment, and Quadrant 3 which are the matters that interrupt us. Because these activities are draining, we spend much of the rest of our time in Quadrant 4 by choice, just because we are worn out from the other activities. Covey encourages us to examine where we spend our time and to focus on spending more of it on proactive Quadrant 2 activities that will in the long-run reduce the amount of time needed in Quadrant 1 crunches because we will have prepared and planned better resulting in fewer crises and pressing deadlines. (Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, 1989)
Sharpening the Saw and Your Health: Where Do You Rank Self-Care?
I would like to take a little bit of license now to apply Covey’s Time Management Matrix to our health and where I would surmise that most people would rank time spent on activities related to their health, focusing primarily on physical and mental health. It is important to note that some of the Quadrant 3 and 4 activities are still necessary to avoid social isolation and to make time for soothing. Sample activities are by no means exhaustive, just examples that seem to fit.
One of the reasons that I enjoy blogging (and that members of my healthcare team support it) is that it contributes to my self-care, or helps me ‘sharpen my saw’ by enhancing parts of my nature as described by Covey including the Mental (reading, writing, planning), Social/Emotional (helping/serving) and Spiritual (value clarification, commitment to study) areas. I find it very difficult to find the time with my medical appointments, family obligations, fatigue, and so-on, but I try to keep coming back to the blog as a self-care activity.
Whatever You Call It…
Whether you call it Self-Care, Self-Improvement, Self-Reliance, Proactive Habits, or Sharpening the Saw, it would seem worthwhile to take a look at where we are spending our time on a daily basis. Do you see a benefit to re-imagining and planning your days to make time to practice the proactive habits of self-care? Is it more or less significant for those who experience chronic health issues? Where would you rank self-soothing activities in your own time management matrix? I would love to know your opinions, please feel free to leave your thoughts and remarks in the comments area below.