I am a naturally quiet observer- it comes with the title of being a clinical social worker. For the last several weeks, I have walked across the hospital campus observing a group of adults doing everything from Thai Chi, lunges, and Pilates. I often slowed my steps to watch these individuals and their fluid movements. I wonder if it was some perk of the job, as the hospital is huge on self-care incentives (You get paid to ride your bike and walk to work). I recall receiving a bright colored sheet that read “what is self-care, exactly? in the onboarding process. A commonly referenced definition of self-care was developed in 1983 by the World Health Organization (WHO): “Self-care in health refers to the activities individuals, families and communities undertake with the intention of enhancing health, preventing disease, limiting illness, and restoring health. They are undertaken by lay people on their own behalf, either separately or in participative collaboration with professionals.” (I keep the document on my bulletin board as a reminder) Later that day I mentioned the daily exercise groups to my coworker. He smiled and said, “You are a woman of many hats, are you interested in joining?”
I told him I was curious, not wanting to sign up for a workout program that I couldn’t attend or was far more advanced than it appeared. He told me he would send me the material. I was surprised later on when I checked my email and there was a brief email from him “Hey, I think you would be a great asset to the Parkinson’s research team. Look over the links and attached article (Exercise Can Be a Boon to People With Parkinson’s Disease),and get back to me”. I was amazed that it wasn’t an exercise group for employees, but a research study. I settled in to read the article and the sentence that hooked me was “Unfortunately, Dr. Moffat added, ‘no one tells people with Parkinson’s what they could and should be doing unless they get to a physical therapist’.” This resonated with me and my clients, as many didn’t get what they needed until they were assigned a case manager, although many were told you’re aging out at 18 (what the hell does that mean when you’re 16?) or you need to see a doctor (for what? what should they ask?). Though I digress, the longevity and the curiosity made me want to learn more about how Parkinson’s is not a muscle wasting disease.
What does “healthy” mean for you personally? What does it look like? Having a vivid mental image of a healthy future helps increase motivation and activation. Perhaps the first place to begin is exploring what self-care means to you personally.