Self-care isn’t a luxury. It is part of the answer to how we can all better cope with daily stressors. It can reduce stress and anxiety, boost our self-esteem, protect our mental health and can lead to better relationships.
In 2019 the World Health Organization classified workplace burnout as an occupational phenomenon. It categorised burnout as a “syndrome” that results from “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.’’ The WHO noted that it can lead to feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job and reduced professional efficacy. Self-care isn’t a replacement for seeking help and I don’t think the onus should be completely on us- some of the working conditions out there are not great, but I do believe that it important to do everything in our power to support our positive mental health. Not only that, but it’s always good to have something to look forward too.
It allows you to give yourself a break and focus on your health, needs and wants. As pharmacists we are constantly giving, and far too often can come home thinking of patients we have encountered during our day. Self-care also means we can show up more for our friends and family, rather than snapping at them and taking out our stresses on them, which is inevitable if we burnout. It can be easy to forget to put yourself first, especially if you have multiple responsibilities and other people to care for.
Self-care can be whatever you want it to be- relaxing or calming, intellectual or spiritual, physical or practical. When we are working so hard, it can be challenging to even contemplate what we will do on our days away from the pharmacy. It is important however to schedule some fun for our days off, or even after work, so we return to the pharmacy feeling refreshed.
Self-care techniques can help manage some of the symptoms of many mental health problems. However, what works for one person may not work for someone else and it may be that chatting with friends about what works for them, sparks some ideas. Furthermore, when you first start thinking about self-care it can even feel a little overwhelming. It’s best to start off with one or two things and they need not cost the earth. They also don't have to involve a huge time commitment.
The first few questions worth asking yourself when it comes to self-care, are whether you are getting adequate sleep and whether your diet and exercise regimes are helping you or hindering you. These are some other ideas to consider;
- Practising yoga or meditation.
- Cooking or ordering in your favourite meal.
- Saying no to something you don't want to do.
- Watching your favourite film.
- Lighting a candle.
- Booking to go for a massage.
- Re-reading a good book.
- Dancing to your heart out!
- Go to the library and finding a comfy chair to sit in and read.
- Sleeping with a weighted blanket
- Buying a new set of pens or markers. (What is it with pharmacists and new pens!!)
- Netflix and chill-ing
- A trip to the theatre or cinema.
- A bubble bath.
- Spending time with younger relatives.
- Having time away from technology.
- A spa day.
- Nature walks.
One of my personal favorites is picking somewhere for afternoon tea. I have a fellow pharmacist who enjoys the same, so every so often we schedule in a chance to catch up and blow off steam, with the added benefit of far too much cake!
We do our absolute best for patients, but sometimes we can forget that there is actually more to life than pharmacy. Forcing myself to have days off, to actually do something I enjoy rather than rushing round doing all the chores I can’t usually get done, has certainly been good for my mental health. Again, I reiterate, if your mental health is suffering please seek help. There is lots of support out there and you aren’t on your own.
Let us know what your go to self-care activity is!