Our latest Balancing Work & Cancer webinar was held on July 12th. Joining us for the session was Wade Iwata who led a presentation on Self-Care: Practical Approaches at Work and Beyond. There are so many misconceptions around self-care like it’s too expensive or takes a lot of time. The truth is, self-care can be as simple as a 5 minute break in your day to listen to your favorite song. To help illuminate the many forms of self-care, Wade broke it down into four categories: In the moment, ongoing or habitual, protective and spiritual.
In the moment self-care is taking care of a concern as it arises, instead of ignoring or neglecting it. This can mean dealing with a new symptom with your medical team right away before a worst-case-scenario plays out in your head. It can even be something as simple as responding to an email right away so your inbox doesn’t get out of control. And it doesn’t have to require any change. Activities you are already doing can be considered in the moment self-care. Watching your favorite tv that brings you joy, cooking a meal you love or going for a walk to end your work day to have some moments of peace are all examples of things you probably are already doing for in the moment self-care.
Ongoing or habitual self-care can include bigger goals. Healthy eating is something that you work at over time. This doesn’t mean restricting or avoiding certain foods but exercising moderation and eating foods that will give you energy and nutrients needed to get through the day. Planning your meals for the week can be a good way to practice habitual self-care. By doing this you can not only stick to nutrition goals you may have set, but you can also track which foods give you energy, make you sleepy, etc and adjust for the next week. Prioritizing sleep is another ongoing form of self-care. Certain treatments might be especially draining of your energy, and maintaining a steady sleep schedule can help maximize your energy and set you up for success.
A big part of protective self-care is boundary setting. Establishing clear boundaries at work (limiting the number of hours you are working, saying no to projects you don’t have time for, working from home rather than coming into an office when your immune system is more compromised, etc) can relieve stress and anxiety, and utilize a limited pool of energy and focus to the best of your ability. It also means checking in with yourself and having a sense of self-awareness to process your feelings in a challenging moment.
Finally, spirituality is a type of self-care as well. This can mean a regular practice of prayer or worship through an organized religion. It also can just be connecting to a community you have cultivated on your own or meditating on purpose and meaning. There is no one size fits all form of spirituality, just like there is no one size fits all way of setting boundaries. For some people, just watching the sunset can elicit a form of spirituality in the same way someone going to a house of worship will feel a connection to a higher being.
Everyone practices self-care in their own unique way. What’s important is to figure out what brings you joy. Someone who is balancing work with a cancer treatment can get caught up with appointments, deadlines and family commitments that all add up. No matter who you are, or what your commitments are, everyone needs to stop and take time for themselves.
For more on self-care: