Importance of Self Care

Tracey Cooke 18 Jun 2020

Reminding health professionals of the importance of self-care in this current pandemic. 

Writing a blog for the first time and my anxiety levels started to rise. As nurse I have my own standards and expectations for how I express myself, alongside a great deal of experience. However, this was new! My anxiety began to rise, “What is a blog” even? Despite encouragement from peers I doubted myself.

We probably all experience this at some time; a natural response to something expected of us outside our comfort zone. How we respond to these feelings will determine how we ultimately deal with the problem but also the impact to our health and well-being.

All of us will have strategies for dealing with situations. Although some people appear to cope much better and be very resourceful, enthusiastic about challenges and good at problem solving, others when faced with a new challenge will get particularly anxious. They may internalise these thoughts and appear unresponsive or create scenarios or solutions which are far more complex than necessary. 

Everyone can learn new strategies to support and enhance existing skills or learn new approaches skills they are not aware of. We all have the ability and capabilities within us, but this may be dependent on other external support structures that we can call upon.

We all have a persona, whether we wear a uniform or a work demeanour, we are experienced and know our roles and the expectations from others and ourselves. We are not just defined by our role though; our family friends and wider social experience make us who we are. 

The way we respond and react to stresses also affects how we interact with others, how we work, or our relationships. This can be further compounded where others in the team appear to cope better. Pressure builds, anxiety levels continue to rise and our ability to cope becomes so affected, to the detriment of our health and well-being. I know this from personal experience, it is not a nice place to be.

How do we cope? There is no magic wand – how wonderful if there was. 

Ultimately it is inherent within – OURSELVES. As professionals we can educate, signpost and there are plenty of resources available but WE as individuals need to take responsibility. As a profession we are trained to think and care for others but “Who cares for carer?” It is essential that we also think about ourselves.  
The current pandemic has been turned the world on its head and previous ‘normal life’ no longer exists. Human beings certainly can be resourceful and adapt but our ability to do so is being tested. This is particularly in health and social care settings which are arguably under pressure like never before. Globally we have seen wonderful acts of kindness, bravery and resourcefulness. As nurses it is in our blood to care, this is often what drives us, this can however, also be to the detriment of our own health and well-being, as we often forget to care for ourselves.

Caring for ourselves the “I”, is vital. Don’t be afraid to seek support, talk to family, friends and colleagues. Rather than suggesting weakness seeking support and talking about what is worrying you shows strength, it also means you can take control and help with feeling empowered.

Everyone is working hard and pushing themselves to the limits. Our expectations of others and ourselves is particularly high. It is vitally important you care for yourself; you are not indestructible and you have needs.

Here are some ideas from the Bulletin Magazine as to how to do this.

Focus on the basics of self-care:

  • Such as sleep, rest, routine, eating healthily, hydrating, taking your breaks
  • Stay connected to family and friends
  • Find time to switch off
  • Engage in hobbies during your downtime
  • Avoid unhelpful coping strategies such as tobacco, alcohol and other drugs “can worsen your mental and physical well being”

The World Health Organization (WHO) says:

“Make use of well-being apps and online resources. Many of these have been made available free to NHS staff. And use any support services offered by your employer.”

Tracey Cooke

Tracey Cooke

Public Health Forum Committee Member

Specialist Occupational Health Practitioner

RGN, RMN, B Med Sci OH, working independently in occupational health with 30 years experience in the public and private sector.

Page last updated - 17/11/2020