Self Care is Health Care

A man and woman laying in bed smiling for the camera.

“There are days I drop words of comfort on myself like falling leaves and remember that it is enough to be taken care of by myself.”

~ Brian Andreas


Aging in Place

Anyone who has ever been on a plane and sat through the safety presentation prior to take off can tell you what all attendants advise in case of cabin pressure dropping and oxygen requirements. You probably know where I am going with this–Always place the oxygen mask on yourself and only then, attend to those in need. The message is clear; self-care is required if you are going to be of any use to others.

These are turbulent times; it feels like you need a seatbelt and helmet just to get out of bed in the morning and 2020 is not letting up–nor will it in 2021. So now more than ever self-care is essential to not only survival but thriving to do whatever it is you do in the world. For caregivers, this time is especially bumpy, and resiliency is the character trait needed so we can be available physically and mentally for loved ones.

For this discussion self-care is defined as prioritizing your well-being/health by being gentle and kind with yourself–supporting your mind, body and spirit with thoughts and activities that recharge and bring joy. Yes, this will take some time and we are all short of that–but you can take the time to be healthy, or you will have to make the time to be sick. Having noted this, I am as guilty as the next person in following through on self-care. But, the mantra “self-care is health-care” does frame it in a more digestible way–at least for me. This is not self-indulgence (Catholic guilt aside), being there for you so you can be there for others, is a concept we hear often and read in every Oprah Magazine. So, the idea is not new, it is not revolutionary, what it is, is required for the times we are now navigating. Here are some simple Actionable Steps that can make a difference:

Take Deep Breaths

This sounds so simple and it is. Three deep breaths does it for me and I can do it anywhere, anytime.

The American Institute of Stress notes, 20-30 minutes of deep breathing daily is effective in reducing both anxiety and stress. It must be breathing deeply through the abdomen to produce the best results. What happens during deep abdominal breathing is that the oxygen breathed in stimulates the body’s parasympathetic nervous system. This, in turn, produces a feeling of calmness and body connectedness that diverts attention from stressful, anxious thoughts and quiets what is going on in the mind (

Practice Gratitude

I will often ask myself: “What’s good in my life right now?” This simple question always set in motion a cascading list of people/things that I am astonishingly fortunate to have in my life. I instantly feel better. I also tell myself to get out of comparison and get into to creativity!

Studies on gratitude and appreciation found that participants who felt grateful showed a marked reduction in the level of cortisol, had better cardiac functioning, and were more resilient to emotional setbacks and negative experiences. By reducing the stress hormones and managing the autonomic nervous system functions, gratitude significantly reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety (

Motion = Emotion

Move your body, it is as simple as that. Physical activity helps stave off depression/anxiety and boosts the immune system. The Kaiser Health Foundation suggests getting your heart rate up for 30 minutes a day. The Mayo Clinic reports that exercising regularly may help ease depression and anxiety by:

Releasing feel-good endorphins, natural cannabis-like brain chemicals (endogenous cannabinoids) and other natural brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being

Taking your mind off worries so you can get away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression and anxiety

Regular exercise has many psychological and emotional benefits, too.

It can help you:

Gain confidence. Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost your self-confidence. Getting in shape can also make you feel better about your appearance.

Get more social interaction. Exercise and physical activity may give you the chance to meet or socialize with others. Just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you walk around your neighborhood can help your mood.

Cope in a healthy way. Doing something positive to manage depression or anxiety is a healthy coping strategy. Trying to feel better by drinking alcohol, dwelling on how you feel, or hoping depression or anxiety will go away on its own can lead to worsening symptoms (

Eating Well

I have heard of “emotional eating” during this 2020 pandemic as well as reports of increased drinking and substance abuse. A truck tailgate business logo I was following down the freeway the other day said it all: DOOMSDAY BREWING.

It is understandable folks are turning to comfort and escape in the form of consumables–but this can be suicide on the installment plan! Make Nutrition a Priority During the Pandemic. This also includes the type of media you are consuming. Be mindful and discriminating…Ask does this add to my joy? A buddy recently suggested the line: “DROP THE ROCK” for a mantra to repeat when stubborn negativity invades his thought patterns. I liked that simple line so much I found a perfectly round river rock the other day and wrote it on the surface. I now see that on my desk as a reminder to LET IT GO…

Small Indulgences

A colleague at work carves out time to enjoy vinyl records on his vintage audio system. He sits and directs his undivided attention to the music ONLY–a focused awareness if you will. The music is not a backdrop to some “productive” activity–it is the activity! His description of the process, the aesthetics, the ritual, and the soul-stirring experience can only be described as “Home Health.” What is your potential small indulgence? Re-visit it.

Ask for Help

Call a friend who has your best interest in mind. Who is it that makes you a better person? I am blessed to have a couple of trusted friends who are supportive. Males tend to be less adept at building supportive communities and I will offer up myself as an example. My wife on the other hand makes it a priority to stay in touch with a core group of women friends. She views her life-long caravan of friends (sisters) as a “systems approach” to health and time invested–not spent (as of this typing, I can hear her in the other room on the phone with a girlfriend laughing to the point of tears).

These are just a few things that are easy to do–which also means they are easy to not do. We are all in this together and our days are filled with choice points–choose you, ultimately it will benefit all.

The line; This too shall pass, has been a source of strength and is a good reminder nothing lasts forever.


Faith Popcorn: Small Indulgences

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