Looking after yourself is something you quite likely overlook while caring for others. But self-care is essential both to your own wellbeing and your ability to help your patients.

It’s not uncommon for people to confuse self-care with pampering yourself or being selfish by putting your needs and wants first. But nothing could be further from the truth, says Ronel Groenewald, a counselling psychologist at Mediclinic Kimberley and Gariep. ‘Self-care is a broad term that encompasses just about anything you do to be good to yourself. It’s about showing yourself the same kindness and respect that you do to others.’

Self-care also entails knowing when your resources are running low, and stepping back to replenish them to prevent the possibility of burnout.

‘In essence, self-care encompasses all the actions and attitudes that contribute to the maintenance of your physical, emotional, psychological, social, spiritual and professional wellbeing, says Groenewald.

She adds that it’s actually selfish not to engage in self-care, because in order to function optimally and care for others, you have to care for yourself first. ‘Engaging in practices and pursuits that feed and nourish you allows you to be present, energetic and available to others.’ 

While this may sound like something expensive, you don’t need to have a lot of free time – or money – to practise self-care. It can be as simple as lighting a candle and sitting quietly for 10 minutes before starting the evening meal, or waking up a few minutes earlier to water the plants or take a few deep breaths outdoors before preparing for the day ahead. ‘It’s not about booking costly pampering sessions or exotic holidays,’ says Groenewald. ‘Self-care looks different for different people. For some, connecting with their community is important, for others, a more solitary act of self-care is more useful. Some might want to prioritise more physical activity while others will prefer to concentrate on healthy and mindful eating.’

The benefits of incorporating a self-care routine into your daily life are manifold. When you make an effort to devote time to being good to yourself, you boost your self-esteem. You tell yourself that you’re worth it – and that you have value. This goes a long way towards conquering any negative self-chatter and feelings of inadequacy.

‘Good self-care also counteracts the toxic effects of living with stress,’ says Groenewald. ‘Overwork and exhaustion can deplete your emotional reserves – but self-care habits, such as getting enough sleep and setting professional boundaries, ensure you stay motivated and healthy.’