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Do We “Walk the Walk”?

July 23, 2015


As a supervisor and program manager of an integrated behavioral health care program, each year I assist my behavioral health educators and consultants with Vista Hill SmartCare to develop personal and/or professional goals, as part of their evaluation process, for the coming year.  As our program has progressed over time,  our team members are more likely to incorporate wellness goals for themselves, often stating that they have either been influenced by the wellness messages we promote through our program, or inspired by their patients’ motivation and commitment toward healthier lifestyle choices.  Goals might incorporate healthier eating, increased physical activity, adding daily meditation, affirmations, a yoga practice, aromatherapy, or other activities that support self-care.

We often find ourselves promoting the airlines’ safety proclamation of putting on your own air-mask first, before tending to your loved ones and other fellow passengers.  In other words, you can’t give to others if you don’t give to yourself first.  Those of us in the health fields may know this from our training, but in truth, we may be the least likely to put ourselves first. When caregivers are our patients, we try to help them to create a self-care plan.  But truly, all of us, whether officially caregivers or not, could, and should benefit from self-care.

Self-care of course includes caring for our physical selves – through proper nutrition, physical activity and proper sleep, but also those extra steps that only you know will be nourishing to you, such as a soak in a tub, a pedicure, a massage, walking barefoot on the sand…  as important as these things are, self-care is much more than tending to your physical needs.

Self-care must also include nurturing your emotional needs – whether it’s having alone time or time with friends, saying “no”, setting boundaries, taking time to read or to write, time to meditate, time to pursue artistic ventures… it is about refueling and nourishing yourself each and every day, mind and soul, as well as body.  The more you do so, the more you have to give to others.

Work environments have been recognizing the importance of self-care for their employees, adding workforce health programs that may include gyms or gym memberships, tobacco cessation programs, education on nutrition, sleep hygiene and others.

One of the most beautiful and encouraging examples I recently came across was at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington D.C.  They commissioned artist Stacey Sachs* to paint the stairwells of this five story building with inspirational wellness quotes as well as birds of flight, to encourage the employees to take the stairs. I can certainly imagine that taking the few extra moments to climb these stairs, with the beauty of these images and inspiring quotes, only refreshes and rejuvenates the health care workers as they  continue on with their day.




 It is also important to remember that your own self-care needs, just like the needs of those you care for, are fluid and dynamic.  I suggest that you take the time each day to check in, take inventory, and assess what you need today, right now.

Breathe, listen and accept.

Pamela Sachs, LCSW


*all paintings courtesy of Stacey Sachs

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