A line in the sand…

A question came to mind one Saturday afternoon here recently as I was still pondering what I want to do when I grow up – where did the phrase “self-care” come from?  So, I Googled it.  (Or as my grandmother would have said, “Goggled it”.) 

Needless to say, I got an education.

It wasn’t surprising to me that it likely started as a way of providing the medically institutionalized a way to hold on to some autonomy and independence.  These look to me like a spectrum of the things the medical community now refers to as ADLs or activities of daily living – bathing, feeding themselves, toileting, dressing and transferring (moving from one spot to another).

I was greatly surprised, however, when reading about the political aspects of self-care embraced by the Women’s Lib Movement, the Black Panthers, the LGBTQ movement and others.  Self-care was more than literally taking care of themselves, it was a movement against conventional medicine that approached them as individuals and patients differently than white, straight men.

And that’s where I had to stop and really think about what I am doing in my clinical practice and here in my own health and wellness space. 

While I don’t think of myself as political, and I would guess that most of my patients and clients don’t identify as being politically motivated, we are looking for ways to fill the gaps of today’s medical system. 

So…self-care.  What is it?  The definition I have used more than any other is it is the stuff we do to take care of ourselves, mind, body and spirit.  That has really focused on mental health, boundaries, food choices, physical activity (I like to simply call movement) and multiple ways to specifically manage the stressors of life.  The typical stuff you read about if you search for self-care activities.

The thing is my goal has always been to teach and coach women how to take care of themselves so that they don’t have to rely on physicians for every little thing.  We take care of everyone around us – the young, the old, the scared.  We just need to remember to take care of ourselves.  And on a much bigger level than bubble baths, pedicures, retail therapy and walks in the woods.

When I told my attendings in my internship that I was going into a Preventive Medicine residency, they all laughed at me.  No one had heard of it.  And they all wanted to know if I was going to put them out of business.  I laughed it off, but my young save-the-world-self whispered to their backs, “Why not?” 

Today, my goal isn’t to put medicine out of business.  My goal is to offer a place where women can tell their story and be heard without judgement.  Where they can ask a question about their health and get answers and options.  Where they can get support in finding and creating their own version of health on their terms.

Still sounds like a pretty audacious goal, right?  The thing is, this is me.  I believe this is why I was put here – to do just that thing. 

OK.  So, all of that being said, self-care is a little different in my mind now.  It’s heavier and meatier.  It is the stuff that we do to take care of ourselves, mind, body and spirit. But it’s also incorporating your unique story and goals and values into what you do. 

It’s having alternatives to mainstream medicine, like traditional healing practices such as Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda or modern approaches still not accepted by the medical community, like epigenetics and effective supplement use.

It’s having a trained professional who is willing to openly share the risks and benefits and unknowns of a treatment you’ve discovered so that you can make your own decision. 

It’s being coached on how to communicate with the medical professionals you do need to see so that you are heard.

It’s about being believed. 

And if this all sounds a little too over-the-top, I want to assure you that I have never been more grounded in thinking about what I want to be and do when I grow up.  Why? 

Because I am already doing it. 

I’m already hearing amazing and heartbreaking stories…and helping these women rewrite the endings to those stories:

  • The woman who has chronic pain and fatigue and has sought care from the medical community only to be told that it is all in her head.
  • The woman who goes to see her regular physician with a complaint and sees the doctor for five minutes during which he never looks her in the eyes, interrupts her story and rattles off a standard treatment for the illness he knew she had before he walked in the door.
  • The woman who struggles with anxiety and depression and the only solution anyone offers is a medication that makes her sick-to-her-stomach, feel dissociated, apathetic or sleep all day.
  • The woman who has come up with a plan for physician-assisted suicide because she knows there is something very wrong with her health but not even the specialists to whom she is referred will attempt to help. 
  • The woman who desperately prays for help because her physician, as he is walking out the exam room, turns and simply says “good luck” in finding an answer to the one thing that limits her sleep and her ability to be the mom and wife she wants to be. 
  • For you…whatever your situation and whatever your story. 

No, I am not a political person.  But I am a physician, coach and woman who absolutely believes that we do not have to settle for how we feel today because medicine says this is it.

Let’s draw a line in the sand together.  Let’s change what self-care means for ourselves, our mothers, our sisters, our daughters and our friends. 

So much more to come…

Sixty-Second Self-Care Tip

Hey there.  Today I'm asking for your help.  Your help in creating a space where women like you and me can talk about the health topics we worry about, are curious about or have never considered.  A place with no judgement and no right or wrong answers - just validation that what you feel is real and information on how to make it different.  Feel free to write a comment below to share a topic that is big in your life right now.  And if you really don't want to put it out here on the interwebs, I respect that!  Send me an email: melissa@melissaoverman.com.  I read them all!  

How is this self-care?  Because you're shining a light on a challenge in your life and allowing someone else to support you.  Asking for help is one of the hardest self-care practices for women, in my experience.  


60-second self-care, being heard, declaration, safe place, self-care, vision

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  1. Knee pain….I have been to so many practioners ( natural minded my go to) and have gotten so many treatments some helped some not so much. I am now at a place where I really need to tune into my body and do all the things I have not made time for…..* stretching * strength training * pemf from micro- pulse.com use that's portable * ph balance in body * gut health * supplements I know to take* decreasing fungal load in body * food choices etc. I can't expect a Dr to do all that for me. Yes they can be a great help when needed but before I go back I need to work on above to do my part. It might take less time on fb or other time robbers but I know it will be worth it.

    1. Hi, Lisa! Thanks so much for your comment and insight. Sounds like you have a lot of great resources! PEMF is not used nearly enough, IMO. And I really appreciate your comment about not expecting a Dr to do everything. Ultimately, we are responsible for our choices that either support or don't support our vision and goal of health. But I know a little accountability can go a long way to keeping me committed!

  2. I had a complete hysterectomy at the age of 42. I used a hormone replacement for 4 years until it was revealed that his was known to cause cancer, strokes, and other vile things. Since then I have endured SEVERE hot flashes for almost 20 years. I’m now 65, and my flashes no longer end in sweat dripping off my nose, but I “glisten” at least 10 times a day. Is there a way to deal with this in a healthy manner?

    Thanks so much for what you do!

    1. Hi, Mary! Quick answer – Yes! When you need hormones, they can be great. But there are alternatives available if you decide you don't want hormone replacement or if you've already maxed out the available health benefit and you want off, especially for those obnoxious hot flashes. I'll do a blog post on non-hormone replacement approaches to hot flashes in the VERY near future. GREAT question! And something that women should be able to get solid, safe and reliable information about so we can enjoy each day with maybe a little less "glistening". Thanks so much for your comment and question!!

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