Self-care for caretakers


In the opening line of The Oath of a Pharmacist, it states, “I promise to devote myself to a lifetime of service to others through the profession of pharmacy.” Keyword: others

For most pharmacists, taking care of others is what we are good at. In fact, it’s usually why most of us joined this profession. I can even compare being a pharmacist to being a parent in some ways. We are patient, we multitask, we are problem solvers, we are calm under pressure, and we lead. But ultimately, we are compassionate beings who seek to understand and heal. We offer all of these amazing qualities so generously to our patients, but do we offer these qualities to ourselves? Usually not. 

Using the words of the English author Samual Butler, “Self-preservation is the first law of nature.” Yet, this is a law that most don’t abide by. In this fast-paced world that we live in, self-preservation, more often than not, comes last on our laundry list of to-do’s. Most people say, “Well I just don’t have the time!” You’re too busy with work, your family, or other responsibilities. Everything except yourself. The daily grind. Sleep, wake up, work. And repeat. Sound familiar?

The thing is, everyone knows that self-care is important but not until you actually reap the benefits do you start to understand how vital it is to living out your true potential. 

About two years ago was when I started my journey to self-love, acceptance and being fit. 

Let me paint the picture for you: I was navigating the world of being a newlywed and all the difficulties that come with it, my parents were separating after 32 years of marriage, and my beloved hometown pharmacy, the only place I’d worked as a pharmacist, was being sold. To say I was stressed and sad was an understatement. I was lost. Utterly and completely lost in the universe…and alone. And being alone was my ultimate fear. So here I was feeling alone in my marriage, feeling alone as I no longer had a family unit, and feeling alone in my career. After all, my patients were my extended family as well. What would I do next? 

That’s when my journey to become a Fit Pharmacist really began. If you look up the word “Fit” in the dictionary it says: 

“Qualified or competent; proper or becoming; prepared or ready; in good physical condition; in good health; to be in agreement or harmony with; join or cause to join together to form a whole; be of the right shape and size for.”

Let’s face it, I was none of these things and I knew it. 

I wallowed in depression, gained 40 or so pounds and let everything fall apart. I realized very quickly that no one could help me—except myself. The moment I decided to take control of my life and stop feeling sorry for myself was when everything changed. If you focus on the hurt, you will continue to suffer. If you focus on the lesson, you’ll continue to grow. The lesson here was perspective. 

Most of the pain, anxiety, and fear was created in my own mind. See, fear isn’t real: it is the product of the thoughts YOU create. Fear is a choice. In most cases, mistaken identity is the culprit behind fear. We can either live with letting fear control our life, keeping us stagnant and afraid, or it can motivate us to be productive and persevere. 

Instead of letting the fear of the unknown control me, I decided to embrace the unknown. I decided to put a positive spin on each situation I was facing. Maybe this horrible time in my relationship would lead to understanding myself and us better and ultimately lead to a happy marriage. Maybe my parents separating would finally make THEM happier which would in turn make me happy for them. Maybe my pharmacy closing would lead me to an opportunity that would be even more rewarding and fulfilling. Guess what happened?

I changed my perspective, and it changed my life.

I co-founded a booming online pharmacy, Honeybee, which stands on the foundations of transparency, fairness, and access to all.

I’ve been able to take my passion for pharmacy and align it with my core values. My relationships are flourishing, especially the one with myself. I’m able to look back with gratitude for all the struggles as its helped me appreciate where I am today on my journey. And I’ve never been more physically fit— a direct result of being kind to and loving myself. 

There is no way any of us can avoid fear, risk and discomfort. Life will always throw obstacles your way. But you must learn to trust yourself and give yourself everything you seek others to give you—love, trust, respect, comfort, safety, and happiness. With every fear you face you will gain the courage and strength that is inherently inside of you. 

The person I was two years ago would have said being a Fit Pharmacist meant being physically fit, losing 60 pounds, and able to complete the Spartan Race. 

Today, I now know being a Fit Pharmacist means being able to keep perspective, practice gratitude, demonstrate compassion, and always choose myself. 

DR. JESS

As women, we all look at ourselves, regardless of size, and see a challenge. But it’s important to remember that our body is our journey. Our journey of obstacles, struggles, and successes that ultimately lead us to become the best version of ourselves. 

I’d like to note that your journey is an ever-changing process and learning about yourself never ends: it takes practice! What most people will come to realize is that being happy is a very personal thing— it really has nothing to do with anyone else. It’s usually life’s ever-changing, and sometimes traumatic, events that propel you into moments where you have the most clarity. 

I’ve come to learn that life is all about balance. You won’t always have the answers—and that’s ok too. Some days you gotta wake up and act like the king or queen that you are and run things! Other days you gotta spend 10 hours balling your eyes out in bed. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Trust yourself and forgive yourself. You are living and learning.  

Bottom line is this: we’ve all taken the pharmacist’s oath. We try to live by it, but life gets complex. We forget.

It’s up to US to rediscover it, improve ourselves, and remember that the oath we take for ourselves is just as imperative as the one we take as pharmacists. 

• • •

Dr. Jess Nouhavandi
Dr. Jess Nouhavandi

Dr. Jess is a co-founder of Honeybee and the head pharmacist, with a focus on bioethics. She enjoys watercolor painting, trashy TV, and leading the charge for a better healthcare industry. 

 
Dr. Jessica Nouhavandi

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