The concept of “self-care” isn’t necessarily a new one, but the field of research surrounding it is far from mature.
Succinctly put: we’re just starting to understand the physiological ramifications of long-term exposure to stress, anxiety, and frustration.
We’re in an era where most folks finally recognize the importance of self-care. By and large, we know we need to take time for ourselves. But recent research indicates that even healthcare professionals can struggle when it comes to doing it right.
Per a recent paper by Australian researcher Jason Mills:
“Common sense would suggest that self-care is a necessity rather than a luxury, whether you are a recipient or provider of healthcare. But in reality, effective self-care practice may not be so common for healthcare professionals.”
Mills goes on to point out:
“In comparison to patients’ self-care and other areas of clinical importance, the realms of theory and theory development for self-care among healthcare professionals are relatively underdeveloped.”
In essence, this indicates that people working as doctors don’t have a lot of resources when it comes to scientifically-evidenced methodologies for self-care protocols. There’s just not much in the way of research on how caregivers should go about self-care.
And this begs the question: how does this parley into the discussion on self-care for non-professional healthcare providers such as parents or caregivers for disabled persons?
It’s clear we could benefit from large-scale studies to investigate the efficacy of various self-care techniques in the context of caregivers.
The emotional struggles (and, by extension, the physiological effects) are likely to be fundamentally different for those who care for themselves and others versus those whose mental health responsibilities don’t extend beyond self-care.
It’ll be interesting to see where the research goes in the coming years – especially as our collective experiences as a global civilization are more aligned through shared adversity in the form of COVID-19.
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Tristan is a science and technology journalist who values life, humanity, and taco soup. He/him