By Dr. Sarah Syed
“My kids come first, my family comes first, my job is too busy, I can’t afford it, I don’t have the time.” These are the most common responses heard when someone is recommended to take time for self-care. Many seem to think self-care implies spending money on spa services such as massages or a manicure or an expensive trip somewhere out of town. The truth is that self-care can be anything that helps a person to relax, do something they enjoy, and actually take care of themselves. When we make caring for others a priority over our own health, eventually we inevitably reach a point where we can no longer do well for whatever it is we prioritize.
On an airplane, the safety message reminds you to first put on your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs. This is an example of self-care. According to clinical psychologist Roberto Olivardia, PhD, self-care is essential for achieving goals such as being present for family, engaging fully and empathically with others and staying healthy. Registered nurse Ingrid Kollack wrote in her 2006 publication, “The Concept of Self-Care,” that self care is considered a “primary form of care for patients with chronic conditions who make many day-to-day decisions, or self-manage, their illness.” Kollack believes self care is a partial solution to the global rise in health care costs placed on governments and is a fundamental pillar of health and social care means it is an essential component of a modern health care system governed by bureaucracy and legislation.
Self-care is individual and personal. It is different for everyone but necessary in order to maintain good health. For some, it may be playing with their kids or spending time with friends. For others it could be exercising, gardening, cooking, or painting. Whatever activity is chosen, it needs to be regular and something that is part of your routine, not earned or used as a reward. For Olivardia, self-care is anything “that affirms and strengthens my physical, psychological, relational, emotional, and spiritual well-being.” Something as simple as coloring can be relaxing and give you time to escape your routine. The growing popularity of adult coloring books and mandalas is testament to the increased awareness about the importance of self care. Along with regular daily prayers and reading the Quran, Dhikr is another excellent form of self-care. We know from the Quran that “verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find ease.” Making time for yourself on a routine basis to spend in quiet meditation or reflection can bring you closer to the Almighty and bring peace to your life.
Ultimately, our bodies have rights over us and our health is a trust, an amanah from our Creator. As Muslims, we know we have a duty to be healthy and not consciously do anything that can hurt ourselves or be detrimental. Not taking time to routinely prioritize your health and well-being causes you to not be able to do your best for yourself or others. Self-care allows you to refuel, essentially to refill your own cup so you can pour from it for others. You can’t pour from an empty cup.