This weekend I went away with girlfriends to celebrate a close friend’s milestone birthday. I am so privileged and grateful to be able to afford to go on a trip like this every few years. We decided to go to Miraval, a beautiful resort outside of Tucson, Arizona. This place is the epitome of self-care and I enjoyed my weekend which included many activities like a rose renewal massage (pictured above), mindfulness meditation, yoga and hiking. This may be what many imagine is self care = too expensive and time-consuming. But that isn’t really an accurate definition.
What is self-care?
Self-care is about identifying your own needs and taking steps to meet them. It is taking the time to do some of the activities that nurture you as a living breathing human being who cannot (and should not) always be on autopilot. And it is particularly important for new and expecting moms. Why?
The only way I can answer that question is to tell a story. I used to fly a lot during my college and grad school years. The flight attendants always described the safety features of the plane and I got very used to ignoring this spiel. Then I had a baby. This time when the flight attendant said, “in case of a change in cabin pressure an oxygen mask will drop in front of you and you should put on your own oxygen mask before you assist anyone else,” I thought - Wait, what? I take care of myself first?!?! I decided on that very flight that I was learning something very important: Only when we first help ourselves can we effectively help others. Caring for yourself is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. It is also one of the easiest things to forget. But you benefit greatly from self care and so do others in your life.
Why is Self Care Important specifically for Women?
According to Fort Garry Women's Resource Centre, women spend most of their lives nurturing others. This can be fulfilling and still have significant ramifications:
"When we find ourselves focusing more on others than ourselves, we become worn out, stressed out and run down. For those of us who spend time helping and caring for others, it is too easy to neglect our own needs. It’s like “running on empty” when we don’t take the time to re-fuel. We spend so much time and effort caring for our partners, children, pets, friends, family members, employers and employees. Add to that the numerous volunteer activities, errands, housework, family functions, meetings, etc.—and there isn’t much time left for caring for ourselves. Women need to balance the stress and activity of daily life with activities that bring a sense of peace and well being to their minds and bodies. Women who neglect their own needs and forget to nurture themselves often become unhappy, have low self-esteem and feel resentment. Self care can help you avoid this outcome by treating yourself as a worthwhile person who is valuable, competent and deserving."
What are Some Examples of Self Care Activities?
Practicing self care does not have to cost a lot of money. In fact there are many things that you can do that are free or inexpensive:
My personal goal is to do one of these things for myself every single day. Sometimes I only get 10 minutes for myself. Other times I can spend an hour. But I make the time, because I am worth it and because it allows me to be the best mother, wife, psychologist, scientist, daughter, sister, friend etc. that I can be.
Dr. Accortt in the News
9/11/18: USC Center for Health Journalism, Cedars-Sinai PPD Screening Program May be Model for State
Summer 2018: Cedars-Sinai Catalyst Magazine, The Helping Hand of Los Angeles Funds Postpartum Depression Screening Program, scroll down to page 40 of magazine
5/18/18: TODAY.com, Alyssa Milano on Postpartum Anxiety
5/3/18: Cedars-Sinai Maternal Mental Health Research
10/19/17: Cedars-Sinai Postpartum Depression Screening Program
3/24/17: MomCo. App for Social Support
Dr. Accortt is a California licensed clinical psychologist. When she isn't seeing patients in private practice she conducts research in the OBGYN department at Cedars-Sinai. She will update this page with important maternal mental health news and research.