The importance of self-care

Dr Nelia Drenth emphasises why self-care is a lifestyle and not an emergency response.

Self-care; the buzzword of our time. A word that is used so easily, and says so much but becomes complicated when we think of it as a verb.  

I recently attended my husband’s 50-year matric reunion with him and the words I heard the most when we said our goodbyes, were “Take care of yourself.”

Since then I’ve been asking myself if we really mean these words when we utter them. Do we really think about it when someone gives us such good advice? Because it really is good advice! 

But then we continue with life…as if it will never end, and rush from point A to point B, with no time for self-care.

What does self-care mean?

According to, self-care is “any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health.

Be kind to yourself

Why is it easier to concentrate on the well-being of others, rather than on the well-being of yourself? 

I’ll tell you why. It’s because it asks for action from the self. The same self that is so overwhelmed by life. It can also be caused by the monster, we call guilt. 

Guilt creeps up on us so easily when we don’t care continuously for our loved ones, jobs, the poor, the sick, and the who-knows-what-else. And, we feed that monster because we have no time to jump into action with self-care.  

We are entering a change in season which most are looking forward to. A change in season could give rise to a change in personal well-being. It starts with taking a step back and examining yourself. 

Consider what gives you pleasure, what you’re grateful for, who loves you, and who wants you in their lives. Think about the legacy you will leave behind. Will it be a legacy of the busy one, the fun one, the one who cared for him/herself as much as he/she cared for all those around him/her? 

Share your story

Self-care is not just face masks, bath bombs or drinking tea with friends. It includes making time to share your own story. This allows you to shed your tears about the sad and difficult times, to identify the things you’re grateful for, to stick to your personal goals, and to enjoy life. 

The wonderful thing of sharing your story is that you have choices:

  • You can share with a friend, and you decide what you want to share.
  • You can share by journaling, blogging, or writing an email to yourself. And, even here, you decide what you want to share.

In sharing your story, allow yourself to be mindful. Be in the moment and calmly experience your senses. What do you feel, see, hear, smell and taste when your are sharing your story? 

The Oxford Dictionary defines mindfulness as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.

Remember, that you can’t pour from an empty cup. Consider your successes, challenges, and strategies related to each of the areas of well-being. 

Build on successes

Self-care efforts need to build on successes. Think of times when you were more successful in an area of self-care. For instance, you may recall that you had better success with exercise when you exercised in the morning. 

But, because we all experience challenges, it’s good to share these with people in your social system to get advice on how to manage self-care. 

Self-care doesn’t just happen. It needs a structured plan, which means that we must acknowledge that our cups are empty. It also means that we must stop, breathe and think about our lives, and then act. 

What is your plan for?

  • Physical well-being
  • Emotional well-being
  • Spiritual well-being
  • Mental well-being

Maybe many of the well-being actions, that you identified above, are already on your bucket list. Why then wait for later  years to tick the items off?  

Self-care is attainable. It involves self-kindness and self-awareness. It means recognising and accepting your own humanness. Let’s make the following our motto for the last few months of 2019: “I care for myself because I care for others.”

Dr Nelia Drenth is a palliative care social worker in private practice in 
Pretoria, Gauteng. She presents workshops on psychosocial palliative care 
and bereavement counselling and has a passion for social work in healthcare.

MEET OUR EXPERT – Dr Nelia Drenth

Dr Nelia Drenth is a palliative care social worker in private practice in Pretoria, Gauteng. She presents workshops on psychosocial palliative care and bereavement counselling and has a passion for social work in healthcare.

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