Self-Care, an activity that we do deliberately

“Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional and physical health.  Effective self-care is key to improve mood, reduce anxiety and a good relationship with oneself and others”
Mesfin Feleke

Mesfin Feleke ,a professional fitness trainer since 2007 , started explaining lifestyle change on AWI B’sMonthly event On May 2 at Hilton Hotel by recalling how when he was younger, his father had always come home for lunch. He then asked the audience how many of them go home to have lunch, not much as most prefer to eat out. The lifestyle changes from eating at home to preferring to eat outside was used by Mesfin to highlight the impact our choices are having on our life and particularly on our health.  For example, the prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCD) in Ethiopia is increasing, owing to lifestyle changes.

Chronic diseases, along with injuries and cancer, accounted for nearly 30% of all deaths:

  • Hypertension is the seventh leading cause of mortality.
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Cancer

N.B.  The presenter faced a challenge to find available data. He cited Ethiopian government and WHO for the statistics.

Status of Mental Health
The prevalence of mental health problems in Ethiopia ranges from 3.5% to 17% (17,000,000)

Common mental disorders include:

  • Anxiety,
  • Depression

Somatoform (disorders characterized by symptoms such as)

  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty in concentrating

One out of five people in Ethiopia will be affected by mental and/or neurological disorders, including depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, dementia, and substance abuse disorders.

Most studies show that there is higher prevalence of common mental disorders among women than men.


  • Heavier burden of social and household responsibility
  • Forced marriages
  • Limitation of activities outside their home
  • Fewer opportunities for them in education and employment
  • Domestic violence
  • Hormonal changes during menstruation in women

Where do we start to address these problems compounded by contributing to the detriment of our health?

It starts with Self-Care: any activity we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. In order to mitigate these risk factors, (LIFE STYLE DISEASES) what is required is a deliberate and actionable change in behavior.

It is what we do consciously in the interest of our health which will make a difference!



Begin with a momentary reflection of your lifestyle (personal and professional) and the impact it has on the state of your health both in the short and long-term.

Consider the following risk factors:

  • Physical inactivity (am I physically active? am I engaged in a physical activity?)
  • Unhealthy diet or eating habits (do we know what they cook the food with when we eat out in a restaurant, do we just trust they cook the food using healthy indigents)
  • Life or work related stresses
  • Tobacco use (am I smoking? If yes, how much do I smoke?)
  • Harmful use of alcohol

Mesfin’s advise to his clients is keep it in moderation. In the meantime, he let them be exposed to and experience the 3D actual practical steps of paradigm shift or change of perspective to bring about desired change in their lifestyle. These are:

  • Desire = interest…

Are you interested to take control of your health & wellness? (…why tempt fate and or providence?)

  • Determination = drive

An unwavering commitment to maintaining your own health and wellness and design a road map (committed to making the changes you are going to make)

(You need a road map otherwise……wishful thinking remains wishful)

Discipline = consistency
uncompromising commitment to achieve your wellness goal. This is where many people fail out. Many pay their trainer and the gym and show up only twice and disappear.

What are the factors of applied change?

  • REST



The cardiovascular benefits of exercise are its impact on cardiac risk factors such as:

  • Cholesterol, blood pressure, Diabetes, Obesity, vascular stiffness Inflammation, peripheral artery disease.

Moreover, moderate exercise programs also help protect against (in terms of mental health)

  • Mental stress, dementia, depression, colon cancer, and even erectile dysfunction.

Physical exercise = walking

Once we decide to be physically active the bare minimum we can do is walk which doesn’t cost us and is not that hard.

The benefit of physical exercise depends on 3 rules of engagement:

  • Intensity (How hard we exercise)
  • Duration (How long)
  • Frequency(How often)

These three rules apply on any activity whether we walk or go to the gym.

Moderate and intense depends on your own capacity (the steps you can take) and how much you can do and then do it progressively.


Our eating habit accounts for 80% of the success of our wellness journey

  • Selection of food (whole vs. processed)
  • Variety of food
  • Portion of food


  • Makes up about 40 to 70% of the total body mass depending on age, gender, and body composition
  • Muscle contains 70% water by weight
  • Fat contains 10% water by weight

Suggested daily water intake

  • About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids for men
  • About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women


Quantity of sleep

Age                            RHS          Minimum                 Appropriate                               Inappropriate

 18 – 25                     7-9                6                                 10-11                                               11+

26 – 64                      7-9                6                                  10                                                    10+

64+                             7-8                5                                   9                                                        9+

  • You typically fall asleep in 30 minutes or less (30 minutes after getting into your bed)
  • Sleep soundly through the night awakening only ones
  • Fall back to sleep within 20 minutes

FOUR network of support we might need


You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

Emotional = these are expressions of empathy, love, trust and care. It resonates with you on a personal level.

Instrumental = Active support: These are concrete, tangible forms of assistance. It involves someone in your network sacrificing some resource for your benefit.

Informational = These are suggestions, information, advice or other knowledge to assist you. This can be both professional and personal, depending on the type of information.

Appraisal = These are similar to informational situations, but instead focus on information that is directly relevant for self-evaluation. Constructive criticism falls under this category.

Part of starting your journey to health and fitness begins with seeing yourself as you want to be. Believe it then go after it! Take time out to choose from activities in town like hiking or biking group, running or walking groups, yoga club to join or taking a time out to go for a swim. And if you don’t like what you see create one.

Summary of Participants’ Reflections and Q & A


In terms of ensuring mental health we should also consider other dimensions that are important for mental health. These are social (if we feel lonely or have family support), professional fulfilment (whether we like what we do), and having spiritual life.

With regards to healthy eating habit of your children we should give them organic food as opposed to fast foods like burger we consider to be fancy/fashionable.

Q& A

  1. Mental health is a serious problem in Ethiopia as historically we have suffered from loss, what should be done?
  2. We all got issues to work out. During the Military Government (Derg) we have all suffered. We all have a way of dealing with the past. However, we need to move on, we can’t do much about the past. Part of my therapy is to work with people, to train them and see them gradually improve. While we need to figure out as a nation on how to move forward, as an individual we need to get engaged and start the lifestyle change now.
  3. What is wrong with stepping on the scale? Shouldn’t we accept ourselves?
  4. There is nothing wrong with stepping on the scale and accepting ourselves but don’t be preoccupied with weight loss as it is a defeating exercise. Instead get in the gym, walk and get a sense of what you feel. That psychologically helps us to keep going because working out for a while and not losing will make us lose hope and give up, instead the focus should be the improving health markers such as sugar level, cholesterol, BP and the like as opposed to only focus on fitting in a dress.
  5. Are household chores such as cleaning and mopping the floor considered as physical activity? Why does it have to be purposeful when we do physical activity?
  6. There is a benefit you get mentally by doing physical activity. You feel high after exercise but exhaustion after house hold chores. Physical activity through household work is good physically however, we are exerting ourselves without doing it for the benefit of our body. The feeling of good endorphins released by the brain is high after exercise (gym) but you don’t gain the maximum benefit from cleaning and gardening as these activities are not intentionally targeted to benefit our health.
  7. How old is too old to start physical exercise?
  8. You are never too old to work out. Even in the yard you need to get your parents to move.
  9. What are the things we need to consider before we start being physically activity?
  10. Have medical checkup- (sugar level, cholesterol, blood pressure etc)

Consider your safety first (particularly women running early in the street, first make sure you are safe). The first rule is avoiding any exercise which might physically harm you.  If the exercise you do is uncomfortable or is painful stop! Do not get into a competition with someone whom you have no knowledge of their past experience. Always say no if you feel pain! Check if you have previous history of injury. Having a company (gym buddy) helps us to be accountable and keep each other being motivated. Go to the gym lift weight because your bones need to get strong.

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