Canadian Medical Association

“Self-care” means taking action to preserve or improve your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health and wellness.

Medical culture often makes it difficult to practise self-care, however. Dedicating so much of yourself to caring for others makes it easy to lose sight of your own needs and let self-care drop to the bottom of your priority list.

Self-care is a CanMEDS Role

According to the CanMEDS physician health guide, valuing your personal wellness and modelling self-care are among your core responsibilities as a physician: 

“It is recognized that, to provide optimal patient care, physicians must take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing and that of their colleagues.” 

Using all of the tools available to look after your own needs is also key to a successful professional life in a demanding career like medicine.

This page provides information, tools and resources you can use to build self-awareness and manage the influences on both your personal wellness and professional performance. 

The four domains of self-care 

The CanMEDS physician health guide breaks down self-care into the following categories: 

  • Physical health: Maintaining a good diet, getting enough exercise and rest, and committing to a healthy work–life balance 
  • Mental health: Pursuing wellness through mindfulness and relaxation techniques, taking resilience training, and getting psychological therapy to cope with disorders or grief 
  • Emotional health: Protecting and maintaining cultural and recreational interests outside of medicine, and protecting personal time and relationships with family and friends
  • Spiritual health: Taking time to worship, nourish the spirit, pursue spiritual practices, exercise compassion, and reflect on spiritual faith and gratitude

Self-care is a shared responsibility

Although the resources here focus on individual-level self-care strategies, physician wellness is a shared responsibility that requires both individual- and system-level actions. A greater focus on system-level initiatives is still needed to complement the approaches being taken by physicians.

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