Don’t Ignore The Red Flags!

By: Tracey Soghrati MA Psychotherapist RN, RP

Self-care can be a sticky subject. Is it just a privilege of the elite ruling class? It certainly seems that way when we equate self-care with pricey spa services and the free time you’ll need to enjoy them.  Or the funds required to attend fancy retreats that cater to meditation and yoga. I’m not saying these things aren’t soothing – I love a fancy retreat and crave regular massage. It’s just that the average person is on a treadmill of overworking to buy the things we desire. We often feel so overwhelmed by busyness, that shopping itself becomes our ‘self-care’ while insidiously fueling the need to keep making money. 

Rather than a luxury earned, self-care is the act of taking care of one’s health (physical, mental, emotional and social) daily. According to the International Self-Care Federation, this includes seven pillars; knowledge and health literacy, physical activity, mental health, healthy eating, risk avoidance, good hygiene and rational use of products (e.g.: medications, alcohol). Each of these pillars is supported through self-monitoring, self-regulation and decision-making that prioritizes a balanced lifestyle. This means committing to self-assessment and choosing actions that are health-promoting in both the short and long-term, while also managing issues as they come up.

Conversely, I see people ignore red flags about their health and grit their teeth as they force themselves to work constantly. Maintaining a high-pressure schedule is often fueled by substances (e.g.: caffeine, alcohol, drugs), and the release valve might be spending, gambling or even excessive exercise.  In this reality, a few days at the spa will only take the edge off, but it doesn’t change things long-term. 

If we want to embrace what self-care means, we need to learn about our fundamental needs. Every person hungers for a balance between connection (belonging, togetherness) and autonomy (freedom, self-direction). Further, we long for a sense of purpose, competence and joy which are amplified by health and safety. 

Ultimately self-care is a daily practice and therefore it’s imperfect (you won’t get it right every time). It starts by getting accustomed to checking in with yourself, and then responding with choices that lead you towards greater balance.

Emotional Health:

  • Identify your fundamental needs and barriers to meeting them
  • Determine boundaries needed to facilitate a more peaceful life
  • Map out the triggers to rage, anxiety or depression and actions you can take to interrupt the cycle

Physical Health:

  • Prioritize sleep, healthy foods and exercise
  • Get regular medical check-ups and dental care
  • Reduce the use of coping substances (alcohol, drugs)

Social Health:

  • Connect to others who support a lifestyle of well-being 
  • Meet friends at the gym, or for long walks
  • Start meditating for 5-minutes a day with a friend 

Tracey Soghrati is passionate about mind-body healing, and she’s spent her life exploring the intersection between mindfulness, psychology and our relationships.