Aside from blackberry season and my birthday, August is my time of self-care, a time to step back and try not to bake in the sun like lawns across the pacific northwest. In How I self-care New York times staff list some of what they do to step back and care for themselves. At the same time that I celebrate all these small wins, I also think about how self-care has been commoditized, as summarized in the article, The Dark Truths Behind Our Obsession With Self-Care. The author discusses how we are all charged individually for making up for society-wide deficits (e.g., lack of access to housing, health care), saying, “When we expect self-care to substitute for our larger systemic flaws in our healthcare, we also over-endow activities that should be basic privileges. Instead of finding faults with the more frivolous forms of self-care, and their pollution of the more “serious” self-care, maybe we should instead feel indignant about how every little moment in our lives needs to be productive and meaningful and presented to the world as such.”
Everyone deserves time and space to themselves and a comprehensive system that supports their ability to do so. I feel this acutely as the mother of two young kids – neither of whom seem to understand mommy time – and how this shows up in conversations around clinician burnout and resilience. In Have we been doing self-care all wrong?, the author asks, “In the absence of community care, self-care is insufficient,” citing Audre Lorde’s quotation, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare;” [that] “Lorde believed that being sustained not just through the self, but also through others, was critical to her wellness — and experts would agree.” We need to care for the self, care for others, and for others and for our surrounding systems to care for our basic needs.
This inclusion of policy into self-care makes me think of our work around value-based reimbursement, incorporating social need into clinical care, and FHCQ’s belief that there is no quality without equity. So I encourage everyone to remember that self-care isn’t selfish and to ask how your community is sustaining you and those around you. What changes do we need to make together to build a more sustainable, supportive community of clinical practice – both for those practicing medicine and those receiving care. We all deserve supportive environments that don’t expose us to physical or psychological harms – be that lead or traumatic violence. Community is paramount to our success as people in work and in our personal lives – and I am proud of the communities we have built at FHCQ.
Talk to you all in the fall.