By LaKeshia N. Myers
I plan on living past 100 (I’m patiently waiting to drive a flying car like on the Jetsons). While it may seem lofty, according to statistics, centenarians are growing in population. There are nearly 90,000 of them living in the United States (United States Census Bureau, 2023). Of the centenarian population, eighty-five percent are women. Based on those odds, I think I have a pretty good chance.
The Guardian published an advice column with advice for living to 100 from centenarians earlier this year and overwhelmingly joy, humor, and kindness were said to be keys to a fulfilling and long life. May being Mental Health Awareness Month made me think of these as key ingredients to caring for ourselves in order to promote positive mental health. “Self-care” is more than a buzzword or a trip to the local spa, taking time out for oneself can be both an act of indulgence and a form of survival.
Alexander Segall and Jay Goldstein define self-care as, “the process of establishing behaviors to ensure holistic well-being of oneself, to promote health, and actively manage illness when it occurs (Segall & Goldstein, 1998). Culturally, Americans lean heavily into a work-dominated culture. We work more and have increasingly worked longer hours–even taking work home, breaching the boundaries of work life balance. I have been guilty of this as well (no more work emails on my phone!); what stopped me? Kidney disease.
Being diagnosed with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) and having to undergo a transplant, and having that transplanted kidney reject, has been one of the most emotionally draining, rollercoaster-like experiences of my life. It forced me to reevaluate the way in which I operated in the world. I learned to live with intention and expectation.
I learned the power of work/life balance. I also learned the power and necessity of saying, “no” (it is a complete sentence). I am learning to become more comfortable taking risks.
I take the necessary time to recharge—prayer and meditation, spa days, beach vacations, or just an aimless drive through the city. Whatever I need to help me shed that day, I do. I encourage everyone to take a moment to reevaluate their situation and think of at least three ways they can begin to exhibit self-care.
101 year old Sokola Radonic of Croatia said, “What contributed to my longevity? Nature, food, singing in a choir until my 80s, and dancing. You need to have lots of patience and to endure some things. You shouldn’t quit right away. For happiness, health is the most important – and love for other people. Wealth is in last place.” This sounds like a recipe for good living.