The same principles apply to supporting self care as the business case for breastfeeding: employees who are more satisfied and loyal and cost savings realized in the retention of experienced employees, the reduction in sick time taken, and lower health care and insurance costs.
Nearly a decade ago, Healthy Children Project’s Donna Walls, RN, BSN, ICCE, IBCLC, ANLC helped establish a meditation room in the maternity care wing of the hospital she worked at. With soft lighting, comfy chairs and the option for aromatherapy and calming music, the room was well-received, or necessary as Walls would argue.
Now, Walls co-teaches an overview of holistic health as part of the Allied Health program at Sinclair College in Ohio.
Walls and colleague Jeri Layer recently presented a compressed version of the course, “Learning Self Care Through Active Practice”, to Sinclair faculty.
In their course, they ask participants to consider what they do on a daily basis to maintain physical and mental health. Participants are also asked to consider: what are their stress triggers and what are the sensations associated in those times of stress?
Typically, as a nation, we have been taught to be reactionary with our health, but Walls says that even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, she started to notice people paying attention to mental health and self-care.
“The pandemic put a really bright light on it,” Walls says.
Walls and Layer have broken down self-care into very specific strategies and offer a variety of modalities for humans to promote emotional, mental and physical health.
For instance, aromatherapy can come in the form of simple awareness of the scents around us like freshly baked bread, the air after a rain, or the scent of roses. Essential oils can be used therapeutically as they have “a direct effect on the brain and trigger emotions and hormonal responses.”
The duo advise how to use essential oils along with methods of administering like steam inhalation, direct application to the skin with carrier oils, or used in diffusers like lamp rings or cotton balls for example. Oral ingestion is NOT recommended, they warn.
Tapping, or the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), is another modality proposed.
“Tapping is a self-help technique that involves tapping with fingertips on points of ‘energy meridians’ located around the body,” Walls explains. “It is based on the theory used for acupuncture, but without the use of needles, to stimulate energy points on the body which create a balance both emotionally and physically.”
Affirmations can be coupled with tapping.
Walls and Layer share these:
“Even though I feel this anxiety, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
“Even though I panic when I think about ______, I am strong enough to deal with this.”
“Even though I’m having pain, I can see myself relaxing and releasing this pain.”
Other self-care techniques include the Havening Technique which is a method that uses sensory input to alter thought, mood, and behavior through a process called synaptic depotentiation, mindful breathing, 4-7-8 breathing, box breathing, and three-part breathing, and mediation.
The majority of these practices are inexpensive and accessible making them good options for whenever the need arises.
Walls and Layer emphasize the importance of building the immune system as a self-care tool. Part of building a healthy gut, a major component of the immune system, is minimizing the use of antibacterials and instead, washing hands with toxin-free soaps.
Using appropriate herbs, ensuring proper micronutrients through whole foods and prioritizing sleep are all vital components in caring for ourselves holistically, the duo teach in their course.
Walls acknowledges that it’s often most difficult to carve out time for self-care when we need it the most.
Reminiscing about when her children were young, Walls says, “I look back on those really busy times in my life and wonder ‘How did I get through those crazy times?’ I think I learned early on how to do a lot of these self care techniques… and I am really glad because I can see the benefits as the years have gone on… I am reaping the benefits now at my age from [practicing self-care] back then.”
When we practice self-care, we’re setting examples for the next generation, too. Walls points out that her adult daughter now uses many of techniques she observed as a child with her own children and with the children she works with at an elementary school.
Walls likens this to a concept Dalai Lama is credited with: “Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects.”
Check out another Our Milky Way piece Self-care strategies for lactation care providers for more thoughts on providing sustainable care.