By Sandra Zawalski, MSN Ed, RN, CRRN, CCM, ABDA, MSCC

What happens when the caregiver gets sick, disabled or is out of commission for even a short period of time? Healthcare professionals are well known to ignore their own health to better care for their families, patients and friends. However, when that caregiver becomes ill, it seems like those they care for have their world shut down or at least come to a surprising stop. We have all seen this either personally or out in the community. This is why we ALL need to take better care of ourselves. Humans are great for having excuses to not to do things: “I don’t have the time”, “I work too much”, “my kids need me” and the list could go on. There is a saying, if you don’t make time for your wellness, you will be forced to make time for your illness. Read that again. I know, at one time, I had to make time for my illness, and it was not fun. I found that making time for my wellness, although not fun either, was so much better than the illness part.

Orem’s self-care theory states that self-care is considered activities that people engage in to maintain, restore or improve their health. Some even say it goes further: If you can’t take care of yourself, how can you take care of others? In other words, if you get sick, how will you be able to take care of yourself and others?

So, what can you do? Take frequent short walks, even if it is a 5-minute walk. If it’s cold, dress warmly. Get your children out there with you. When you get home from work, tell your family you need 5 minutes to switch from professional parent/spouse to the parent/spouse you need to be. Then close your door and breath for 5 minutes. Wash your hands and change your clothes. You will feel refreshed and ready to tackle your home world.

Learn how to say No without giving an explanation. This is a tough one. Bake sale at the school? It’s OK to buy the cookies. Homeowners’ association needs a volunteer, and your calendar is so color coded you have no idea where you can find the time? Say No. And somewhere in there you are working overtime, driving children to/from activities and the last thing you need is something else on your plate. Say No. Practice saying No in front of a mirror. Once you get comfortable doing this, your life may become a bit less chaotic. If your No offends someone, that is on them, not you. Only you are responsible for you. No one is going to come to save you, to give you the motivation or to take those mundane chores away from you. This is YOU!

Once you start taking care of yourself, it becomes a habit, and a good one at that. You will also be teaching your children that it is OK to take care of themselves. Do they need private time? It’s OK to take it. You may even find yourself starting to feel better about yourself and your life. So, if you have an excuse to not take care of yourself, let me have it and I will turn it around for you. I have heard them all!

Interested in learning more about self-care? The 1 hour CE course (RN, CCM) "Our Minds are Magical" is available in the CMSA Educational Resource Library at
After this session attendees will walk away with a renewed mind and the ability to recognize their inner magic. It will provide a platform for successful outcomes within personal life and professional roles. Recognizing the true magic in our minds allows us to fully embrace the CMSA standard of facilitation, coordination, and collaboration to achieve target goals.

Bio: Sandra is a registered nurse with almost 40 years of experience in a variety of clinical settings that include orthopedics, brain injury rehab and neonatal intensive care. Currently employed by MCG Health, she has extensive experience in case management leadership positions including owning her own case management consulting business. Sandra has a master’s in nursing, is a board-certified case manager through CCMC, certified rehabilitation nurse, certified as a Medicare Set Aside Consultant, a member of the American Board of Disability Analysts and a designated ATD Master Trainer. She has published numerous articles in case management professional journals and regularly contributed to Just Begin magazine. Sandra is a former commissioner for CCMC, a former chair and has had the privilege of speaking at multiple case management national conferences.