Self-care matters. Let that sink in for a moment as you reflect upon all the ways you don’t adequately care for yourself. Going to bed late to fix the perfect lunch for your children, working through lunch to meet unrealistic deadlines, and satisfying hunger with boxed and processed foods are all examples of ways we think we’re doing the right thing. They are also examples of unintentional self-harm.
Breaking the cycle starts at night
Arguably, one of the most important things you can do for yourself is to get enough sleep. Contrary to an unfortunate belief held by many, sleep is not idle time. Impactive Wellness explains that your body is actually very active in the overnight hours. When you enter a deep sleep, your immune system kicks into overdrive to repair everyday wear and tear on your body. This is also when you produce the highest amount of dehydroepiandrosterone and growth hormones, which trigger cell regrowth.
If sleep is something that doesn’t come easily, you owe it to yourself to make changes to your lifestyle and environment that can help you get the rest you need. The first and most obvious of these is to swap out your uncomfortable mattress, especially if it’s past its peak of seven to 10 years old. Discomfort at night can leave you groggy and in pain when you wake, and that can lead to a bad mood and a negative outlook the entire day. Make sure your room is a sleep-inducing area by lowering the thermostat, opting for soft paint colors and adding a sound machine to help drown out external noises.
It’s all in your head
Your self-care strategies should also include mindfulness and meditation. Mindfulness is simply the practice of taking stock of the moment and giving yourself permission to control how you react to recurrent stressors. For instance, mindfulness on the road can help you take stress out of your commute, which will have the benefit of allowing you to arrive at work with a clear mind and without the stores of cortisol that can leave you distracted and irritable. Listen to music at a lower volume and pay attention to how you feel when you’re stuck in traffic. These and other mindfulness practices can help you be a safer driver.
Practicing mindfulness is a behavioral change, but one that has an impact on your physiology. When you learn how to regulate your emotions, you may even be able to change the way your brain responds to stress and fear. The University of Minnesota goes into greater detail on the connection between mindfulness and stress reduction and how it affects your entire state of being.
When it comes to taking care of yourself, you can get a helping hand from those you love the most. Spending time with your friends and family is crucial to your mental and emotional well-being. But instead of rushing around taking care of your loved ones, use you time together to forge stronger relationships.
Even your four-legged friends can have a significant impact on your health. Rover’s Casey Dickson has written extensively on how dogs can help relieve stress and anxiety. In one of the author’s most recent posts, they explain that the unconditional love you receive from your pets triggers the release of oxytocin while tanking cortisol levels. Further, as humans have cohabitated with animals for much longer than recorded history, there may be an evolutionary link where dogs help us feel protected and we, in turn, provide a pack dynamic along with food and shelter.
Taking back what’s yours
There’s only so much time in the day, and if you’re not spending at least some of it on yourself, it’s time you start. It’s very easy to get caught up with all the things you must do, such as paying bills and going to work. Allow yourself a few hours each week to do something just for you. You may have to learn to say no to carve out this time. However, as attorney and certified fitness instructor Sharita Jennings explains, “no” is one of the best tools you can give yourself when it comes to self-care.
The body balance
Additional self-care techniques to keep you healthy and happy are following a nutritious diet and prioritizing your physical health. Make time to exercise at least three times each week. More than just tightening your abs and lowering the numbers on the scales, exercise, according to Dr. Cal Robinson of the Orthopaedic & Spine Center of Newport News, Virginia, “releases natural endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and adrenaline in your brain.” These hormones are all associated with happiness and improved health.
Don’t feel guilty about putting yourself on your list of priorities. You can never be the best at what you choose to do if you don’t choose to view yourself as important. And remember, your children are watching and will learn how to care for themselves by following suit with your self-care practices.
About the Author
After years in the corporate world, Brad discovered that his real calling is helping people implement self-care practices that improve their overall well-being.