Helpful articles for overcoming life's challenges

Understanding and Practicing Self-Care

What is self-care? 

Self-care involves taking care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Self-care helps us feel better, e.g. feeling less stressed, anxious, depressed, and makes us more resilient. The first step for self-care is identifying and understanding our needs in various areas in life that require more attention. Then we deliberately take corresponding actions and set aside time for practicing the activities or skills determined to improve the targeted areas. The actions don’t have to be large.  Even taking small steps to enhance the quality of life and our well-being  can have lasting impact. Self-care doesn’t have to be burdensome or expensive to accomplish.

Obstacles to practicing self-care?

Common obstacles to practicing good self-care include busy lives, stress, prioritizing others over self, and feeling guilty for taking care of ourselves. However, even though self-care requires some effort, it really benefits others as well as ourselves.  It is hard to give to others what we don’t have ourselves. When our own needs are met, we are in a much better place to care for others.  Imagine if we thought it was selfish and expensive to put gas in our vehicles.  We would end up pushing the car instead of driving it.  Think about self-care as the emotional gas in our internal engine.  We can drop off a meal to a friend, take the kids to soccer practice, or bring groceries home much more efficiently if we can drive rather than push our vehicle.  Furthermore, sacrificing self-care can compromise our immune system and cause us to be more susceptible to a variety of physical and psychological problems.

How to practice self-care? 

According to Dr. Pederson, a licensed clinical psychologist, researcher and trainer on self-care, a reminder for us to practice better self-care is through using the acronym PLEASED:

Physical health – taking care of your physical body including things like maintaining personal hygiene.

List resources and barriers – what are barriers that stop us from practicing self-care daily? Some common barriers were previously mentioned.  What resources are available help us with self-care?  For example, social support. We are probably more likely to do that online yoga class if we have a friend do it with us.

Eat three healthy, balanced meals – including protein, vegetables, etc. in our daily meals. Our body needs the necessary nutrition to have a robust immune system and fight health problems and keep our mood stable. For example, avoid being hangry – which refers to when some of us notice we are angry or irritable when hungry.

Avoid mood-altering drugs –substances such as alcohol, marijuana, etc. Chemicals can negatively alter mood and/or self-medicate emotions. Using chemicals to self-medicate can increase avoidance.  Avoiding problems or circumstances that need to be dealt with can often causes smaller problems to grow into bigger ones. So, escaping feelings or circumstances we don’t like can be a short term relief with greater pain and suffering later.

Sleep 7 to 10 hours – an adequate amount of sleep can dramatically impact our mood and overall health.  Sleep also effects our energy and concentration during the day.

Exercise at least 20 minutes – exercising can be anything including walks, lifting weights, yoga, etc. It’s important to establish a routine that works best for us and our schedules. Simply spending time outside like going for a short walk can have a positive impact on our mood while also reducing depression and stress.

Daily – making sure we actively take steps to practice at least some self-care every day.

Self-care helps us achieve and maintain a healthier lifestyle and increase long-term health. Furthermore, it is really hard to care for others without taking good care of ourselves first. Brainstorm and explore more self-care ideas online and with friends that might work best for your unique life and circumstances.  Then build them into your daily routine for maximum physical, mental, and emotional benefit.