How do you talk about self-care?

"This stuff is for babies!" I remember being taken aback during my fieldwork by a patient's response to my self-care treatment. I've since wondered, during countless other treatments, if we are framing conversations about self-care all wrong. Dressing, bathing, grooming, dining: these seem to be daily bits that people take for granted in the healing process. People do not pine to return to doing them. There is a glamour to taking your first steps again. I suspect this is because the moment is easily captured on film and plays with the popular imagination. The first steps have become symbolic of healing. I by no means want to detract from their importance, but only assert that bathing again for the first time can be just as glorious. 

I taught a life skills course and never had the courage to talk about self-care. I had worked too hard to build rapport to bring up tooth brushing with grown men. I now wish I could go back, armed with a new framework for beginning the discussion. I recently read "The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry Liturgy and Women's Work" by Kathleen Norris. Norris talks openly about her own battle with melancholia and the healing power she found in returning to the humble acts of caring for oneself . She writes that our culture asserts that the ideal self should rise above everyday tasks, like self care and chores; that these are of no significance to us spiritually. But when we fall prey to this strain of thinking, we miss out on their foundational and healing power. Read the power she attributes to self-care:

Shampooing the hair, washing the body, brushing the teeth, drinking enough water, taking a daily vitamin, as simple as they may seem, are acts of self respect. They enhance one’s ability to take pleasure in oneself and the world.
Care is not passive— the word derives from an Indo-European word meaning “to cry out,” as in a lament. Care asserts that as difficult and painful as life can be, it is worth something to be in the present, alive, doing one’s daily bit.

How do you think about self-care?

How do you talk about it with patients? 

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