By Jenna Davis, RSW
(Calgary) – Self-care is a term that has become part of our vocabulary these days, particularly through the challenging past fifteen months. When thinking of self-care, my mind used to resort to bubble baths, candles and a good book. I have since realized the depths of what self-care means, and how important it is to our well-being.
Self-care for you, me, and for others can look vastly different. As a social worker on the JFSC Senior’s Mental Health and Addiction Response Team, I work with clients to identify and implement self-care tactics for their individual circumstances. I have learned how important this is for all of us to be able to face our struggles and live our best lives.
During this isolating and lengthy global pandemic, the majority of my clients have faced numerous stressors and challenges that have been initiated and/or heightened across multiple aspects of their lives – emotional, mental, physical, financial and others.
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 see, many times it is their resilience, strength, and perseverance that helps them cope with difficult life circumstances. Some clients require support in identifying, exploring and/or implementing self-care strategies into their lives, others are often already enacting their own practices that they may not recognize because these tactics do not fit their own definitions of typical “self-care”.
The conversations surrounding self-care can differ greatly when working with my senior clients. One individual ensures they have access to a family doctor, are going to appointments and have built natural and professional support networks. Self-care for another client is in the act of 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. I have a client 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. Self-care for others can be making the difficult decision to seek shelter and safety to flee an abusive situation at home.
What can you do to work on your own personal self-care? Through my professional experiences, I have come to recognize that there is always room to choose and implement self-care, even through challenging circumstances. I believe the term “self-care” is fluid, attainable, and promotes well-being.
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 considered to be categorized as self-care. We are often more resilient and possess more strength that 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, the reality is it does not create a destructible barrier for mental, emotional, physical and financial struggles. What self-care practices can do, is provide a way to help us cope with our struggles and they can help guide us to take the 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 in promoting well-being.
Jenna Davis is a member of the JFSC Seniors Mental Health & Addictions Response Team.
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.