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Why self care is important

Self-care can be described as a deliberate action a person takes to maintain or improve their health and well being. Self-care can take many forms and will be different for us all. It could be could be; a daily walk, a bath at the end of the day, ending a relationship or stopping work when we feel tired.

Before I had cancer my self-care could be summarized as non-existent and was an alien concept. I was too busy being chaotic and rebellious. When cancer arrived the physical and emotional side effects of treatment prevented me undertaking the majority of my former life. I was left isolated, depressed and lonely because my life had mainly centred around being out of the house with other people, preferably having used my passport, wearing a bikini and with a bottle of vodka close by.

The fear of cancer returning jolted me into taking better care of myself both physically and emotionally. My self-care started with a focus on my diet and I began eating my weekly tally of fruit and veg on a daily basis. When I felt well enough I would march along country paths and roads releasing the anger and anxiety about my life with the rhythmical movement of my body. I began reading again, a pass time which I had stopped many years ago. I also took a mindfulness course which reminded me I had five senses and each of which fed me interesting information about my surroundings. I began to take notice of them and feel energised by nature rather than parties.

I now love nothing more than being outside by myself at sunrise and sunset, listening to the birds, feeling the air on my skin and watching the colour of the sky change moment by moment. I now get up at least an hour earlier than the rest of the house and enjoy the calm and quiet before the chaos of the day bombards my senses. I missed my imaginative child hood days and found I could channel my creative streak into cooking and now cook one new dish a week with mixed success! More recently I have taken up yoga and love how my body feels during and after the poses.

The majority of my self-care to something I can do by myself, cheaply and on a daily basis. I now listen to what my body is telling me instead of recklessly pursuing the next goal I had set myself at any cost. My physical and mental health has increased significantly as self-care has become part of my daily life and have found they were interlinked; if my physical health increased so did my mental health. I’m much more aware of and sensitive to physical and emotional stress now and actively avoid situations which create these rather than chasing and creating them.

While I don’t believe any one factor will create or prevent cancer diagnosis number four I do see it as my responsibility to do what I can to look after myself physically and emotionally. Although great fun at the time I now wouldn’t dream of behaving how I did before, my body, health and time are too precious for that.

Self-care helps reduce stress and should be a part of our day and especially after the physical and emotional trauma cancer creates. Our physical and emotional needs and abilities maybe very different post cancer and it can be a good idea to take a few minutes each day, week or month to reflect on our physical and emotional needs and how we are going to meet these. Life can be busy, demanding and stressful but we should all find at least 10 minutes a day to look after ourselves.

What is your self-care? How do you feel after self-care? How do you feel if you don’t self-care? What are the signs you may need to change your self-care? What might prevent you from daily self-care? Is your self-care pre and post cancer different?

This post is part of our 'Looking Back To Go Forward' series, written by a mum called Rebecca. She was diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant with her second child. Seven years after her diagnosis and treatment, she reflects on that time, how it affected her and some of the unexpected feelings and experiences it brought up.


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