SELF LOVE AND CARING – A REMINDER OF ITS IMPORTANCE
"The only journey is the one within" - Rainer Maria Rilke
Recently I was surprised to learn how many people I knew that were on anti-depressants. I don’t know if it was the medication itself that surprised me but just HOW prevalent depression and yes, diminished self-love is.
February is the month of Valentine’s Day and love. It is also the month for heart disease awareness.
The heart is a symbol of love- emotionally, energetically and physically.
Self-love and caring for oneself past the point of survival (food, shelter, etc.) is, at its core, self-esteem.
Surprisingly (at least to me), it is more closely related to (your) body image than body size.
(Olchowska-Kotala A, 2018)( https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28453407/ )
Self worth, self love, depression and fatigue…all of these are intertwined. Your emotions and mental state affects your physiological health and vice versa. ( https://www.snhu.edu/about-us/newsroom/health/what-is-self-care )
In other words, if you don’t value yourself or think highly of yourself, you’re less apt to take care of yourself and are at risk for health issues.
Do you struggle with self-care? Self-esteem?
Do you struggle with giving out more support than you receive or give to yourself?
Over time, you end up exhausted, am I right?
Add that fatigue to the low feelings you may already be experiencing, and it’s a perfect breeding ground for depression and other health conditions.
We see this a lot in healthcare occupations. Coincidentally the rate of suicide among healthcare professionals is high.
There’s a term for this: compassion fatigue or caregiver fatigue. It’s like depression and fatigue TOGETHER as a byproduct of the extreme care you’ve been giving out. There comes a point where it’s too much. And that point may be different for different people depending on a whole host of different circumstances and lifestyle influences.
Better self-care leads to better self-esteem and improved physical, mental and spiritual health.
Self-love leads to greater love across all your relationships.
That’s right- it is not selfish or indulgent!
On the contrary, self-love (as in narcissism) was negatively linked to relationships and health.
(Campbell et al., 2002 J Per Soc Psychol.) ( https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12150232/ )
Sure you know some of the steps to be healthier but realistically who has the time?! “I can’t. C’mon now. Tomorrow I’ll try better.” THIS is what you know.
Plus, you have a laundry list (no pun intended) of things that must get done. And if YOU don’t do it, who will?!
The number one complaint for not taking care of oneself is “lack of time” and ultimately the practice of burning the candle at both ends.
But eventually…and who knows when really…the “poison” is going to leak out and/or you are going to break.
Almost 50% of people in the US say they’re exhausted bc of work. That is up from 39% a little over 10 yrs ago (Geraci, MensHealth Nov 18). Even with all the recent uptick in mindfulness and yoga talk, things are getting worse, not better. And this was before the pandemic.
Where does someone turn to for information and resources when they want to feel better?
As always, we look to the research to see what might be reported about strategies to help. For the purposes of this article, I searched the demographic “women and depression”.
Of course, it is multifactorial in terms of influences: genetic, sleep (lack), hormones, stress, diet, lifestyle, other medications...
Here’s a synopsis of some important things:
- Prioritizing sleep
- Yoga and breathwork
- Resistance/Weight Training
- Healthy diet
Here are some things that were not conducive to self-love and self-care:
- Workload, business, job situation
- Low levels of physical activity, sedentary lifestyle, sitting a lot
- Social media
In a study of women on hospice who did yoga (poses, breathwork) twice a week for 12 weeks, they were found to have had significant improvement in their depression and anxiety as well as higher self-esteem. (Ramanathan et al 2017 Int J Yoga), ( https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28149064/ )
I know anyone reading this who follows my work and posts on social media, know that I consider breathwork (especially) a required component to my patients’ and clients’ lifestyles.
Consistent exercise, in general, is a significant key factor in improving self-esteem, most physical health markers and well as depression and anxiety (Al-Qahtani et al 2018) ( https://www.researchgate.net/publication/326537438_Exercise_as_a_treatment_modality_for_depression_A_narrative_review )
Why even a little positive self-talk, in the form of a pep talk or affirmation, can be highly effective! What’s cool about affirmations is that the more you do, the better off you become or the more beneficial the affirmations are. The authors of a study last year declared that it is a skill that, like any skill we need to practice, needs time- particularly if you are starting off with a negatively skewed version of yourself. (Zhu and Yzer, 2021 Br J Health Psychol.) ( https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33641204/ )
At the end of your day, YOU, yes you, still need care and attention. (And to put yourself first and maybe not wait until the end of the day.)
Like the kind of love, affection and caring that you put into your family, friends and even work!
Let’s promise the following (because I need this too!):
- Start today and just do something in that is demonstrative of self-care however small of a gesture it needs to be. Don’t wait for the right time or when you feel that you’re ready – spoiler alert - because there is no such thing. Maybe it’s journaling, doing a 5-minute meditation, going outside for a walk or simply deciding to let go of a situation (or someone) that you have been carrying around in that beautiful head of yours (also is #3 below).
- Move more.
- Edit your life. Frequently. (This includes social media that isn’t a positive influence on your health.)
- Breathe deeply.
I hope you indulge in some quality self-care this month!
Dr Tanya Doman (“T”) is a clinical doctor and multi-credentialed health & fitness professional.
She teaches dance as well as a host of other formats (including yoga, as a 200hr RYT), while also being a long-time Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (NSCA). When she’s not working with patients in the clinic or online, she is an elite and exclusive performer for LifeTime. She has served on several boards and task forces including AFAA and California’s Department of Consumer Affairs.
Her professional and personal priorities were amended when she was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in 2020. A lover of evidenced-based medicine and research, her free time is spent reading studies.
She provides health and wellness consultations for those seeking to thrive, particularly if they have been impacted by cancer, arthritis or other chronic health conditions.
You can check out her Instagram profile ( @thefitchick ) where she posts helpful health hacks and reach out to her through her email or the website TheFitChick.com