Self-care is the purposeful act of tending to one’s own emotional and physical needs. Oftentimes with so many other responsibilities in our lives such as work and caring for loved ones, it is easy to let one’s own needs and wants fall by the wayside. There is a prevalent attitude in our culture today that values selflessness and discourages overindulgence in one’s own wellbeing, particularly for women and caretakers. While it is crucial to treat others with respect, ultimately our own physical and emotional health is our primary responsibility and must be attended to before we can sustainably care for others. This can be compared to the safety warning given on airplanes that instructs passengers to “Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others,” in case of an emergency. Essentially, we have to practice intentional self-care before we can be ready to care for others.
Self-care is not simply an occasional act, but must be completed consistently and mindfully. Odds are you are already engaging in many self-care practices, such as keeping up with regular medical care, getting enough sleep, engaging in hobbies which make you feel happy and relaxed, or seeking out emotional support from friends, family, or professional when needed. The more complete and consistent one’s self-care routine is, the more stable and gratifying one can expect their psychological and physical health to be. Self-care can be especially challenging for survivors of intimate partner violence, because survivors are often manipulated to not value their own needs and wants and instead focus solely on the needs and wants of their abuser. This can be a tough habit to kick, even in future relationships. Thankfully self-care can help not only with reestablishing self-esteem and love for oneself that may have been lost during the abusive relationship or sexual assault, but can also be a great tool for dealing with posttraumatic stress symptoms that many survivors face. Self-care is a technique that will improve the physical and psychological health of all, not only survivors of violence. The Self-Care Wheel is a great tool for assessing one’s own self-care routine and inspiring new self-care activities. It ranges physical, psychological, professional, personal, spiritual, and emotional self-care techniques, including basic definitions and specific examples. Remember to jot down your favorites and put them in your calendar as reminders!
Contributed by Emma Rouda, Policy Intern, CALCASA