Self-care isn’t something that you can just put off until you have more time. It is an active choice to participate in the activities that are known to increase your overall physical, emotional, psychological, social, and spiritual well-being. Take some time to truly consider how to integrate both basic self-care and highly personal self-care into your daily life. You will likely find that you feel much better in both body and mind.
The benefits of proactive self-care are numerous, measurable, and significant. You can see that it’s challenging to delineate these benefits in the many different areas of overall health, since self-care truly does impact an individual’s overarching well-being.
If you follow some of the basics of self-care, such as exercising, eating right, and reducing or eliminating alcohol or tobacco products, you can accomplish the following:
- Likely enjoy a longer and higher-quality life
- Reduce your risk of certain diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and coronary artery disease
- Boost your overall energy
- Enjoy better sleep
- Ease pain and stiffness in your body
- Reduce the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures later in life
And if you’re really on-board with the concept, the spiritual and emotional self-care you provide for yourself can also improve your physical health by reducing the stress that can lead to heart and vascular disease, diabetes, and gastrointestinal problems.
Stress can be useful for short periods of time to help individuals achieve important goals. Over a longer period of time, however, some of the feelings that accompany stress – such as fear, powerlessness, nightmares, anger, headaches, and back pain – can turn into a mental health disorder. Self-care, both physical and psychosocial, can reduce the risk of mental health problems over time.
Psychological and emotional health overlap to some degree, but emotional health is about more than just the absence of a mental health problem. The term encompasses the feelings that accompany people who are well-rounded and content. Such people are able to laugh easily, bounce back from adversity, retain a sense of meaning and purpose, flex with the challenges they face, and maintain a healthy self-esteem. Individuals who are consistently stressed out are much less likely to deal with stressors effectively, and thus less likely to enjoy emotional health than those people who have provided themselves with the self-care needed to manage stress.
Interpersonal or Social Health
Many studies show that individuals with solid social ties have far lower mortality rates than those with lower-quality relationships. The measure of social health isn’t determined by the quantity of friendships, but by the quality of social ties. People with poor social ties generally feel that they have few, if any, people they trust and few people they can call upon for help if they’re ever in need. And unfortunately, people with poor social ties are more likely to experience ongoing stress, which can further reduce the quality of their relationships. Self-care values relationships and stress management can improve overall health outcomes by building social support.
Spirituality is not necessarily the practice of a religious faith, although the religious faithful certainly practice spirituality. Spirituality is defined as any avenue through which a person finds meaning, hope, comfort, and inner peace. Although it’s not entirely clear how spirituality is tied to physical health, research indicates that spiritual vitality positively impacts health outcomes.
MAKE TIME FOR SELF CARE
There are several ways that you can work self-care into your day:
- Add It to the Calendar. If you’re a workaholic, put at least one thing you enjoy doing for yourself on your calendar every week. Like goal-setting, you’re much more likely to actually participate in self-care if you write it down as something that needs to happen.
- Confide in Your Spouse or Partner. You can even make the goal for self-care a family goal, since it’s likely that your partner is similarly depleted. Try to find one way that the two of you can support each other in self-care activities every week.
- Ask Your Boss for Flexibility. See if there is any flexible time available at work for occasional telecommute options or for the opportunity to take a long lunch break for a massage as long as the time is made up the next day.
- Bring Your Children With You. Children are often cited as reasons individuals don’t practice self-care. However, your children can be part of the solution. Bring them to a farmers’ market to select healthy produce, or take them to the park with you so you can all run around together.
- Infuse Self-Care Into Your Day. It’s not always possible to get away for a vacation or for an entire day of relaxation. However, five minutes of deep breathing in your car or t’ai chi during your lunch break can also be effective in mitigating stress.