Friday, May 20, 2022

Self-Care and Covid: Who, When and How

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The World Health Organization (WHO) describes self-care as one’s “ability to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health-care provider.”

Many may not know it, but self-care has been around for quite some time now. Mankind has been managing their own health ever since…well, forever. In fact, all throughout history, the dominant paradigm of healthcare was individual self‐care in the family and local community. And it wasn’t until the revolution of health care back in the 19th century that people actually started seeking the help of experts (a.k.a. people who dedicate a significant part of their lives learning about the sicknesses during that time and herbal medicine) to take care of their health.

With the Covid-19 still very much on full swing practically all over the world, it’s become really important for people to learn how to practice self-care to help not just themselves, but the society as a whole.

Who Should Practice Self-Care?

In a nutshell, everyone–or everyone who can. As individuals living in such a perilous time, practicing self-care should be considered a need rather than a luxury. That said, it is important for people to realize that self-care does not necessarily mean getting a facial or a makeover or doing retail therapy. To give people a better idea of the activities that fall under this act, the International Self Care Foundation (ISF), lists down seven pillars or domains that make up the framework of self-care. These are:

  1. Health literacy–The capacity of individuals to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.
  2. Mental Wellbeing–Knowing your body mass index (BMI), cholesterol level, blood pressure; engaging in health screening.
  3. Physical activity–Practicing moderate-intensity physical activity such as walking, cycling, or participating in sports at a desirable frequency.
  4. Healthy eating–Having a nutritious, balanced diet with appropriate levels of calorie intake.
  5. Risk avoidance or mitigation–Includes quitting tobacco, limiting alcohol use, getting vaccinated, practicing safe sex, using sunscreens.
  6. Good hygiene-Includes washing hands regularly, brushing teeth, washing food.
  7. Rational and responsible use of products, services, diagnostics, and medicines–Includes being aware of dangers, using responsibly when necessary.

It’s important to understand that the goal of practicing self-care is to maintain the general wellbeing of individuals not just physically, but psychologically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually as well. For this reason, any action that one takes to nourish or improve themselves and their lifestyle is considered an act of self-care. 

When is Self-Care Necessary or Best Practiced?

As previously mentioned, anything you do to take care of yourself can be considered an act of self-care–even the simple act of opting to eat a healthier meal or taking time to meditate even if it was just a couple of minutes. 

Fundamental as it is, we need to keep in mind that much like anything else, the practice of self-care also comes in different degrees, and some of the things that you do that are considered to fall under this broad definition may need to be properly timed just so that they are properly utilized and even maximized. This includes activities such as getting spa services to destress or going on a beach trip to help clear your head. The best way to tell if you need any of these is by listening to your own body and mind. You may also seek advice from a healthcare professional if you really want to be sure that these activities will indeed help preserve your wellbeing. 

How Does One Practice Self-Care in the Time of Covid-19?

Even with the onslaught of this pandemic, the definition of self-care still has not changed, neither do the pillars that make up its framework. However–and needless to say–the rules that surround these activities (especially the ones that really deliver a sense of care) have slightly shifted due mainly to safety reasons. 

Example, whereas once you could easily book an appointment with your favorite stylist or restaurant, or even ask friends to hang out when you’re feeling a bit blue, nowadays, doing so may not be as easy. And yes, for many this has caused much stress. Having your regular ideas of self-care and coping mechanisms taken away from you is never easy, but there are other things you can do to care for your wellbeing without having to leave the safety of your home.

These include but are not limited to:

  1. Getting on an exercise program with a certain goal
  2. Starting a new hobby or rekindling the romance with an old one
  3. Finally working on your own venture
  4. Doing a home makeover (even if it’s on a tight budget!)
  5. Taking up online courses (imagine emerging from this pandemic with a mastery of a new language)

There are no set rules when it comes to self-care. As long as what you do to help with the betterment or preservation of your wellbeing does not impose any sort of harm on others then that should be fine. But one thing that I personally find helpful is focusing on activities that lead to a bigger and more long-term improvement, like exercise and learning something new. 

Another aspect of self-care that is not much talked about is charity. Yes, it has long been proven by science that acts of kindness make you happy and in a very profound way too. So perhaps next time you’re looking for an activity to help you feel better, you can also try finding a way to extend a helping hand to those in need.

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