By Pascale Leclair-Roberts
On July 24th, it’s time for everyone to give a little bit of self-love, since it is International Self-Care Day (ISD)! Started by UK’s International Self-Care Foundation (ISF) in 2011, ISD is an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of self-care and its role in leading a healthy life. So what exactly is self-care? According to the WHO,
“Self-Care is what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health, and to prevent and deal with illness. It is a broad concept encompassing hygiene (general and personal), nutrition (type and quality of food eaten), lifestyle (sporting activities, leisure etc), environmental factors (living conditions, social habits, etc.) socio-economic factors (income level, cultural beliefs, etc.) and self-medication.”
Since the WHO definition encompasses so much, the ISF has come up with seven ‘pillars’ they believe make up self-care. These pillars are seven ‘domains’ where we can all use some self-care. So here they are, along with a few things you can do for yourself or others in order to promote and embody self-care:
- Health Literacy
Health Literacy is about having the knowledge and skills to enjoy better health and well-being. It is about understanding the implications of healthy lifestyle choices and information given to by a healthcare professional. People with higher levels of health literacy enjoy healthier and happier lives!
Health Nexus offers a wealth of resources on different health topics to help you increase your health literacy knowledge. Interested about maternal and child health? Check out our Best Start Resource Centre Website! Maybe you aren’t too sure what sort of health literature you may be interested? Check out Health Nexus’ Topics and Tools page to explore various different health literacy resources. So, take a little time to self-care your knowledge and skills, and browse around hundreds of interesting, easily accessible health literacy articles.
Self-awareness is the first step of any self-care activity. It enables you to be aware of yourself and your health, to identify any areas of improvement. It is good to be aware of the needs your body or mind may need, and attend to these before they worsen. So, take a few minutes every day to tune into your body and mind. Identify if something(s) may need a little more love and care, like stiff muscles or a headache. Once you identified something that could use some attention, initiate a self-care activity. If you don’t know where to start, there are thousands of resources available to help you learn and increase your level of health literacy!
- Physical Activity
Physical activity is a great way to help control your weight and reduce the risk of metabolic illnesses. Luckily, physical activity here doesn’t imply intense and long physical training sessions. In fact, regularly walking, cycling or participating in recreational sports brings you many health benefits. So, on beautiful hot summer days, go for a half hour walk after diner or a swim at your local pool. But remember, wear sunscreen! Your skin need some love and care too.
- Healthy Eating
Proper nutrition plays an important role in maintaining a good health and is an easy way to give your body a little self-care. Nutritious foods contribute to proper brain and muscle function, give you the energy you need for the day and helps strengthen your immune system. And it doesn’t have to be expensive either! It is possible to eat healthy on a tight budget. Eat Right Ontario provides tons of resources on buying budget-friendly healthy foods, meal planning menus for tight budgets, budget-friendly recipes and many more tools and tips on everything you need to know to eat healthy on a tight budget! So go ahead, treat yourself to a nice, healthy meal tonight!
- Risk Avoidance or Mitigation
Risk avoidance or mitigation means to avoid or reduce behaviours that are harmful towards health and well-being. According to ISF, these include vaccination, practicing safe sex, moderately drinking, wearing sunscreen or sitting in the shade, and wearing a helmet when you ride your bike. This pillar can go hand in hand with other activities, like physical activity. For example, if you are going for a bike ride for some self-care, mitigate risk of injury by wearing a helmet. Again, if it’s sunny outside, wear a hat, sunglasses and some sunscreen! Protect your skin and eyes from sun exposure that may be irreversible. It is important to understand that this pillar doesn’t mean to refrain any and every behaviour that may be risky. If that were the case, we would never leave our beds in the morning! It is more about being aware of your limits (self-awareness!), understanding the risks (health literacy!), and taking the steps to minimize risk.
- Good Hygiene
Good hygiene is essential in preventing the spread of disease. This not only includes personal hygiene, like washing your hands and body, but also the environment where you live and work. For example, cleaning surface areas regularly such as desks, kitchen areas and floors are all part of good hygiene practices. And no, this doesn’t mean we should all start cleaning franticly and live our lives like the Bubble Boy, but cleaning up weekly helps keep bacteria and allergens under control (and during this hot summer season, fruit flies!).
And of course, personal hygiene is crucial. It has played (and still plays) a pivotal role in society’s public health advancements. So those kindergarten teachers constantly reminding you to wash your hands were on to something! And your mom bugging you to take a bath or shower every other day, maybe she knew something you didn’t!
So in the spirit of ISD, take a nice long bath, after (or while) enjoying your healthy home cooked meal. Even light up some candles, but make sure they aren’t near any flammable materials like curtains (risk mitigation!).
- Rational and responsible use of self-care products and services
This last one tends to align itself with the first one. This pillar is about using self-care products and services rationally and responsible, such as prescription medication, preventative health products and health services. However, you may not know how to use a product or the effects it may cause. Therefore, a good idea is to read the outside labels and instructions inside of the packaging. These don’t help? Look it up. Again, the internet provides a wealth of information to help you out! However, always keep a critical eye on the source providing the information. Make sure it comes from a credible source formation, like a government website, a healthcare resource centre, and health promotion resource centre or community health organization.
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