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Wellness and Self-Care: Setting Boundaries and Practicing Mindfulness

December 13, 2018

The following article was contributed by Northwest Permanente Physician Wellness Co-Director Suzanne Deschamps, MD.

The Oxford Dictionary defines self-care as “The practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health . . . taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.”

Stress and conflict are pretty much a constant in our day-to-day lives, and over the holiday season we can sprinkle in even a little bit more chaos! How do we protect and dedicate our time, compassion, and energy for self-care?

It seems as if it should be simple, almost instinctual, but for many reasons taking care of ourselves is not easy and requires making some tough decisions. It involves self-reflection and taking intentional actions to identify and prioritize what we value — and then designing our lives toward these values. Research shows that when we align our behaviors with our values, we are more likely to flourish.

Navigating through the insane amount of distractions and competing agendas in our overly “electronically” connected busy lives is time-consuming and exhausting. We can lose touch with our humanity and with what matters most to us in our lives. Sometimes we stay in this chaotic state until something awful happens to make us realize that placing our well-being first is not selfish but is necessary for a meaningful life: A value-congruent life that is unique to each of us.

In addition to the many foundational self-care practices that promote well-being, the ability to set healthy boundaries empowers us to live our lives authentically. Setting clear limits and saying “no” to requests or commitments that infringe significantly on your personal life or that do not align with your values can be difficult to do, but it is necessary. It will feel uncomfortable, and you risk disappointing others at times, but we must remind ourselves that our time is finite. Leaning into opportunities that excite your passion is awesome, but being overextended and resentful of not having any time to pursue the things you love in life is detrimental.

This can be simply saying a kind “no thank you” to another evening holiday party when you really want to be at home cozying up by the fireplace with family. We work hard and need time to unplug, recharge, and reliably incorporate periods of rest throughout the day.

We can also use mindfulness practices to help calm our brains and declutter the nonsense that interferes with what we are wanting to enjoy in life. Simple mindfulness tools help create that space, the pause that is necessary to respond compassionately instead of reacting impulsively to the multitude of frustrations we face in our day-to-day lives, distracting us from what really matters.

Please try to take some intentional time over the holidays to rest and reflect on your personal well-being. Self-care is not about booking a spa day or lighting a candle. It is about fully treating ourselves like we matter.

Think about where you are on the spectrum of setting healthy boundaries (rigid to flexible to none) and how potentially setting healthier boundaries may be useful. Seek awareness of what matters most to you, and bring your attention to prioritize and live these values.

Take out your 2019 calendar and book your vacations and days off for important birthdays, anniversaries, adventures, etc. Remember that your birthday at Northwest Permanente is your personal wellness day to enjoy annually and to celebrate YOU!

Check out the articles below if you are interested in how boundaries and mindfulness can help boost your energy and well-being too:

We Don’t Need Self-Care; We Need Boundaries
Why Is It So Hard to Set Boundaries?
How To Be More Mindful at Work

Finally, check out the inaugural Clinical Educators Conference, sponsored by Northwest Permanente, April 11, 2019, in Portland. (Follow the link, and then find the blue box at the top of the page.)


Northwest Permanente staff members enjoy music on the beach — and one another’s company.

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