On Self Care
A few weeks ago, I had an epiphany regarding self care:
I am my own best caregiver.
As a primer, I want to share my own experiences in hospitals, given the benefits of being taken care of. These experiences built the foundation that led to the epiphany.
My First In Depth Patient Experience
Remember the most frequent cause of death from the game Oregon Trail?
I unfortunately suffered from dysentery and dehydration in 2010, but luckily — unlike those on the Oregon Trail — I had access to healthcare. I had never felt so defeated and physically weak; my mind felt numb and detached. All I wished for was the excruciating pain to subside, but it continued to exponentially get worse. The illness warranted my first visit to an emergency room.
The care team took my vital signs and asked a series of questions to obtain a complete picture of my symptoms. After a series of physician consults to diagnose the cause of my illness, the care team decided to keep me overnight and prescribed me several doses of antibiotics and IV fluids. Once the care plan was in motion, the only action I could take was to lie in bed and be patient with the recovery process. The treatments significantly improved my condition, and I was discharged to go home after an 18 hour stay. It only took a few days to feel 100% healthy again.
To this day, I’m grateful for the high quality of care I received from my caregivers. What touched me most across this experience was the compassion expressed by the physicians, nurses, and emergency room staff. Moreover, my parents (my caregivers since birth) were by my side the entire time. They all had an innate sympathy for my suffering; they hoped for my well-being.
I’ve also recently spent more time in hospitals professionally and am grateful to be immersed in such a mission-driven industry. I’ve had the privilege to sit in on hospitals’ morning huddles, where the department leaders review the current state of patient safety. It amazed me to observe the hospital staff’s dedication to prioritizing high-quality and patient-centered care, leading to patient satisfaction and optimal outcomes.
Years removed from my patient experience and now having spent more time in hospitals, I only recently realized the correlation between the noun and adjective definitions of ‘patient’:
Patient (Noun): One Who Suffers
The term ‘patient’ comes from the Latin word patiens, which means ‘suffering.’ This makes sense — I’ve only considered myself a patient when I’ve been ill and sought out medical treatment from a healthcare professional.
Patient (Adjective): Ability to Suffer Without Anxiety, Accept Problems and Delays
In another sense of the word, being patient means to suffer without anxiety. Once I’ve sought out medical treatment, I listen to the healthcare professional, adhere to the care plan, am patient, rest, and let the illness or injury ride out its course.
Feeling Malaise In Other Life Contexts
Historically, whenever I’ve felt unsatisfied, my go-to solution has been to take a leap. I’ve leapt to new cities, new companies, and new relationships. Yet, each time I’ve taken a leap thinking that I’ve moved forward, I continued to find myself in the same circumstances feeling similarly unsatisfied. Jumping from place to place had been merely a band-aid and didn’t solve the root-cause of the problem: lack of self care and patience.
A Shift in Mentality
To understand what self care meant, I realized parallels from the healthcare setting, from the lens of a patient and a caregiver:
- I deserve the highest quality of care from myself
- I need to prioritize my own well-being and safety
- I control my ability to experience satisfaction
To determine how to best take care of myself, I went back to my patient experience in 2010 and applied the healthcare delivery framework to the issues holding me back from being my healthiest and happiest self:
- Evaluate Symptoms and Pain Points
- Diagnose Root-Cause
- Create The Solution via a Personalized Self Care Plan
- Adhere to the Self Care Plan
- Follow-up on Progress
- Achieve Outcomes
More importantly, I adopted the mentality of being patient with my pain points, knowing that the circumstances will get better with proper diagnosis and a self care plan.
By applying the above framework, I’ve finally been able to address several of my longstanding issues. I’ve also handled new causes of frustration in a more constructive manner. Without the barriers that previously caused contention, I’ve been able to drive towards more satisfaction on a daily basis.
A Call To Action: Be My Own Best Caregiver
I bulked out the framework in hopes that this serves as helpful as a resource to you as it has been for me. As I personally reflect, I remind myself to be patient with the process.
- Evaluate Symptoms and Pain Points
This list of questions helps me better evaluate the pain points that prevent me from being healthy and happy:
- Is my mind in sync with how my body feels?
- Do I remember to take deep breaths in times of frustration?
- Am I getting enough sleep?
- Am I drinking enough water?
- How often am I moving/exercising?
- Who are my other caregivers aside from myself? (i.e. family, friends)
- What is my environment at home? (i.e. safe vs. chaotic)
- What causes me stress?
- Is there a particular scenario I’m having difficulty with?
- What is my reaction to this scenario?
- Am I constantly learning?
- Am I pursuing activities outside of work to cultivate learning? (i.e. reading, taking classes, learning a new hobby)
- Am I engaged with my current job?
- Does my current company and manager provide me with the resources I need to be successful?
- Do I have a supportive manager and colleagues?
2. Diagnose Root-Cause
After evaluating my answers to the questions above, I dig a bit deeper:
- Why am I feeling this malaise?
- What or who is making me feel this way?
- What consistent themes are unsurfacing?
3. Create The Solution via a Personalized Self Care Plan
Once I’ve pinpointed the root-cause of my pain points, the next steps are to put together and implement a self care plan. The purpose of a self care plan is to ensure I get better, feel satisfied, and live the highest-quality life I deserve each and everyday.
Maintain Vital Signs
- When feeling stressed or overwhelmed, close my eyes, take a deep breath, and connect with how my body feels
- Sleep for at least 6 and no more than 10 hours every night, ideally 7–9 hours
- Drink enough water everyday to prevent dehydration
- Make time to get my heart rate up everyday for at least 30 minutes (i.e. walk, hike, run, push-ups, lift)
Engage Support Network
- Identify other caregivers to support and help me through my pain points
- Implement ground rules at home to maintain a positive and safe environment
- Acknowledge that I have the ability to control my reactions
- Identify the actionable steps to put in place to mitigate the root-cause of my stressors
Ensure Continuous Learning
- Determine what I want to learn (content or skill) and research resources
- Read articles or take a class on a content or skill area of interest
- If I am not engaged with my job, determine what aspects of a job that would keep me engaged
- Conduct informational interviews with friends and professional contacts in the field or role of interest
- Discuss with my current manager what tools and resources I need to be successful
- If my current manager and/or colleagues are not supportive of me, seek another company
4. Adhere to the Self Care Plan
I prescribe myself at least a dose of each item from my self care plan everyday.
5. Follow-Up on Progress
I follow-up on my progress at the end of everyday, and I request my support network to keep me in check on a regular basis.
6. Achieve Outcomes
Taking care of myself through self care plans has enabled me to significantly improve the quality of my daily life, and therefore my well-being.
Similar to the seamless patient experience I had at the hospital facilitated by the care team, I hold myself accountable to drive my own best experience as a provider of my own personal well-being. I encourage you to do so as well.