Self-care is a term that has become part of our vocabulary, particularly during these challenging 15 months. When thinking of self-care, my mind used to resort to bubble baths, candles, and a good book. But I have come to realize, especially as a social worker in the Jewish Family Services of Calgary’s (JFSC) Seniors Mental Health and Addiction Response Team, self-care is fluid, attainable, and integral to our well-being.
I work with clients to identify and implement self-care tactics for their individual circumstances. Understanding self-care is different for each person, and helps us to better face our own struggles and live our best lives.
During this isolating and lengthy global pandemic, the majority of my clients have faced numerous stressors and challenges emotionally, mentally, physically, financially, and in other ways that have been initiated and/or heightened across multiple aspects of their lives.
Some clients require support in identifying, exploring and/or implementing self-care strategies into their lives. While others are often already enacting their own practices they may not recognize because these tactics do not fit their own definitions of typical “self-care”. I ask them “how have you handled your stress to this point? What keeps you going?” Clients are often not able to readily answer these questions, but from what I can gather, it is their resilience, strength, and perseverance that helps them cope with difficult life circumstances.
The conversations surrounding self-care can differ greatly when working with my senior clients. One individual has access to a family doctor, is attending appointments and has built natural and professional support networks. Self-care for another client means challenging a fellow resident to a walker-race with what they call their new 2021 set of wheels, determined to cross the finish line first. Another client sees self-care as using their new specialized safety equipment to engage in regular showers to ensure good hygiene. And, there’s a senior that now has access to healthy and nutritious food and is working to achieve a healthy body weight to fit back into the clothing that reminds them of a positive time in their life.
Through my professional experiences, I have come to recognize there is always room to choose and implement self-care even through challenging circumstances. Therefore, what can you do to work on your own personal self-care?
I encourage you to reflect on what you are currently doing for yourself, and the little things that make you feel happy, relaxed, grateful, fulfilled. We often undermine what we are already doing because we do not consider them as typical self-care practices. Perhaps there are more ways you could be introducing practices into your life that you never categorized as self-care. We are often more resilient and possess more strength than we realize.
Some self-care strategies include:
- Practice gratitude—express your gratitude to yourself, write it down, thank someone in your life
- Incorporate mindfulness—take time to be fully present, be aware of where you are, what you are feeling.
- Slow down and look at the small things
- Don’t sweat the small stuff
Although self-care is vital in promoting well-being, it cannot cure our struggles. But what it can do is provide a way to help us cope with our struggles and can help guide us to take necessary steps to admit the need for external support if we need it.
I feel privileged to have the opportunity to support my clients in identifying their unique strengths as a form of empowerment and recognition, and collaboratively utilizing them promote well-being.
JFSC (Jewish Family Service Calgary) is a non-denominational, accredited social service agency in Calgary. The Seniors Mental Health and Addiction Response Team cares for seniors (55+) struggling with mental health and addiction. The team is comprised of a Social Worker (RSW) and a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) working at an outreach capacity. To learn more about the Seniors Mental Health and Addiction Response Team or to make a referral please call our intake line at (403)287-3510. Outside of Calgary? You can explore local support services in your area by contacting 2-1-1. For more information on JFSC, our programs and services – www.jfsc.org.
Header image design by Clarrie Feinstein.