In the midst of helping friends and family, have you ever felt overwhelmed by your commitments? At work, do you start to feel run down when you assist a coworker or take on an extra project? It’s not uncommon to get burned out when we spend so much of our time caring for others that we sacrifice caring for ourselves. This is why self-care is critical to taking good care of others. We often treat self-care like a luxury, when in reality it is a necessity.
What is self-care?
You may think it’s selfish to take time to make sure your own mental, physical and emotional needs are satisfied, but studies show that’s exactly what we must do in order to meet the demands of our relationships and jobs without feeling burdened or stressed. Self-care is any activity that replenishes you emotionally and physically. It’s about having compassion for yourself, supporting your own happiness and finding balance in our chaotic lives. Some common self-care activities include:
Eating the right kinds of foods: This isn’t about jumping on the next fad diet trend or never touching a candy bar ever again. Eating healthy foods is about knowing what your body needs— and every body is different. For instance, did you know that certain foods can help or harm your digestive health? Understanding the specific flora in your gut can help you choose foods that stop negative functions, like bloating, gas and discomfort, and green light positive function. For example, akkermansia bacteria can speed up metabolism and bifidobacterium can help your body absorb more nutrients. Not only will you feel better physically, but you’ll be more comfortable and confident in your own skin— two emotions critical for self-care.
Relaxing for a few minutes every day: A hot shower is nice, but it’s not exactly self-care. A relaxing warm bubble bath with a face mask and a good book? Definitely self-care. Take 30 minutes every day for a bit of “me time.” Though it might be hard to do at first, commit to 21 days of a little bit of daily “me time.” It takes about 21 days to get a habit to stick, so it’s important you give it some effort before deciding to try something else. Take 15 minutes on your lunch break to go for a walk, wake up 30 minutes early to meditate, read or enjoy a quiet cup of coffee.
Why is self-care important?
Self-care is more than just self-pampering— it’s making sure you prioritize the things you need to live a healthy happy life. If you neglect self-care, you can feel heightened levels of stress, anxiety and worry, which do more than harm your mental health— it can seriously damage your physical health, as well. Stress can lead to high levels of cholesterol and blood pressure, which, in turn, increases your risk for heart disease and heart attack. Some ways you can lower stress and prioritize self-care include:
Saying no when your plate is full: It’s easy to overcommit at work or home, with friends or while volunteering. Chances are, if you are overworked in one area, the stress is spilling over into another. Saying no is hard— it feels like letting someone down. However, knowing that by helping them you are letting others down— because the quality of your work and mood will be hampered— can be the encouragement you need to say no, or at least, not right now.
Getting plenty of exercise: It may feel hard to squeeze in exercise in an already-packed schedule, but doctors agree that it is one of the most helpful lifestyle choices you can make at any age. The endorphins you get from even moderate exercise will improve mood and your ability to manage stress. The physical workout will tire your body, helping you sleep longer (and better) so your muscles can recover. And on top of all that— it’s a major confidence booster to see yourself set and accomplish goals, fit into your clothes more comfortably and challenge yourself beyond what you thought possible.
Self-care starts today. Don’t put it off until tomorrow. Make whatever changes or additions you can— no matter how small— as soon as you can and commit to them every day. It won’t be too long before you start to see the benefits.