This article was written by The Fix Staff and published by The Fix
According to the International Self-Care Foundation, self-care is defined as “a practical, person-centred set of activities that we should all be undertaking to maintain our health, wellness and wellbeing.” These activities are “a normal part of everyday life,” the foundation says, and are critical not only for feeling good, but also for staying healthy physically, emotionally and mentally.
To help further the idea of true self-care, the International Self-Care Foundation created seven pillars of self-care. Here’s what you should know about each, and how it can be implemented in your life.
- Knowledge and Health Literacy
The first pillar of self-care might be a bit unexpected. This pillar focuses on education. People who have knowledge and health literacy are able to understand the health challenges facing them, and how an unhealthy habit in one area of life can affect other areas. They know how to access treatments and resources that help them practice true self-care.
Consider this in the context of substance use disorder and mental health. Having good healthy literacy might mean that you understand the ways that trauma can fuel substance use. It could also mean that you understand treatment options, and are able to seek out help when you need it.
- Mental Well-being
Mental well-being is about more than just keeping it together by a threat. True mental well-being means being able to respond to life’s curveballs and stressors. It’s about being able to pursue fulfillment and contribute to your community.
A critical part of mental well-being is self-awareness, or the ability to recognize when you’re struggling. According to the International Self-Care Foundation, self-awareness goes hand-in-hand with agency, or the ability to take action based on your understanding of your needs. For example, if your past trauma is causing you to drink too much, you might recognize that you need professional guidance. You could therefore use your agency to pursue trauma-informed care.
- Physical Activity
This one is no surprise. Being physically active is linked to a host of mental, emotional and physical health benefits. Most adults should aim for 150 minutes of exercise a week. Although that might seem like a lot, you still get the benefits of exercise if you work out in short ten-minute increments, like on your lunch break or while dinner cooks.
- Healthy Eating
Speaking of dinner cooking, healthy eating is essential to self-care. While indulging in a slice of cake or a brownie now and then might feel like self-care, the more realistic way to take care of yourself is to nourish your body by eating a well-rounded selection of fruits and vegetables.
This is particularly important for people with a history of substance use disorder. Using and abusing drugs or alcohol can deplete key nutrients in your body. Once you get your substance use under control it’s time to replenish those building blocks of health by eating lots of whole foods, fruits and vegetables.
- Risk Avoidance or Mitigation
When you’re actively practicing self-care, you do what you can to make sure that no harm comes to you. While we can’t control everything, we can do things to reduce our risk of harm, like wearing a seatbelt in the car, not using drugs or alcohol, and avoiding places and people that we find triggering.
This is hugely important for people who are in recovery from substance use disorder. Abusing drugs or alcohol is risky in and of itself, and often leads to other high-risk behaviors like unprotected sex or drunk-driving. Everyday steps for risk mitigation, like wearing sunblock or using a helmet when you ride a bike, are simple ways to retrain your brain and remind yourself that you are worth protecting.
- Good Hygiene
Since the pandemic, there is a renewed focus on good hygiene. Although simple hygiene like washing your hands thoroughly might seem basic, it can help prevent disease and illness. Oftentimes, during active addiction, personal hygiene slips as a person becomes focused solely on finding their next fix. Once you’re in recovery, it’s a good time to reestablish a personal hygiene routine, including showering, brushing and flossing your teeth, and washing your hands frequently.
- Rational and Responsible Use of Self-Care Products and Services
These days, we’re all inundated with products and services that promise to make self-care easy. This might be a supplement that claims to help you sleep better, or a wellness program designed to help you drop weight.
Remember — if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts when it comes to self-care. Be a skeptical consumer and remember that true self-care starts with you taking the initiative for your own health and well-being.