SELF CARE SERIES
All the stress relief activities in the world won’t help if you aren’t taking care of yourself. Meditaion won’t do you any good if you aren’t getting adequate sleep. In fact, when you try to meditate, you might doze off because you aren’t taking care of your body’s need for sleep.
Similarly, hitting the gym once in a while won’t relieve much stress if you’re only fueling your body with high-processed junk food. You need to take care of your basic needs first if you want your stress relief activities to be effective.
Self-care is vital for building resilience toward those stressors in life that you can’t eliminate. When you’ve taken steps to care for your mind and body, you’ll be better equipped to live your best life.
It’s important to assess how you’re caring for yourself in several different domains so you can ensure you’re caring for your mind, body, and spirit.
Self-care isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy. Your self-care plan will need to be customized to your needs :a self-care plan for a busy college student who feels mentally stimulated all the time and has a bustling social life might need to emphasize physical self-care. On the other hand, a retired person may need to incorporate more social self-care into their schedule to make sure that their social needs are being met.
Self-care means to me: making sleep a top priority, having a healthy feeding pattern, exercising regularly and so on.
Finally, realize that by caring for yourself, you care for this world. Your actions have a ripple effect on others. Below are areas of our life’s that needs adequate self-care
- Physical Self-Care
You need to take care of your body if you want it to run efficiently. Keep in mind that there’s a strong connection between your body and your mind. When you are caring for your body, you’ll think and feel better too.
Physical self-care includes how you’re fueling your body, how much sleep you’re getting, how much physical activities you are doing, and how well you are caring for your physical needs. Attending appointments, taking medication as prescribed, and managing your health are all part of good physical self-care.
When it comes to physical self-care, ask yourself the following questions to assess whether there might be some areas you need to improve:
- Are you getting adequate sleep?
- Is your diet fueling your body well?
- Are you taking charge of your health?
- Are you getting enough exercise?
- Social Self-Care
Socialization is key to self-care. But, often, it’s hard to make time for friends and it’s easy to neglect your relationships when life gets busy.
Close connections are important to your well-being. The best way to cultivate and maintain close relationships is to put time and energy into building your relationships with others.
There isn’t a certain number of hours you should devote to your friends or work on your relationships. Everyone has slightly different social needs. The key is to figure out what your social needs are and to build enough time in your schedule to create an optimal social life.
To assess your social self-care, consider:
- Are you getting enough face-to-face time with your friends?
- What are you doing to nurture your relationships with friends and family?
- Mental Self-Care
The way you think and the things that you’re filling your mind with greatly influence your psychological well-being.
Mental self-care includes doing things that keep your mind sharp, like puzzles, or learning about a subject that fascinates you. You might find reading books or watching movies that inspire you fuels your mind.
Mental self-care also involves doing things that help you stay mentally healthy. Practicing self-compassion and acceptance, for example, helps you maintain a healthier inner dialogue.
Here are a few questions to consider when you think about your mental self-care:
- Are you making enough time for activities that mentally stimulate you?
- Are you doing proactive things to help you stay mentally healthy?
- Spiritual Self-Care
Research shows that a lifestyle including religion or spirituality is generally a healthier lifestyle.
Nurturing your spirit, however, doesn’t have to involve religion. It can involve anything that helps you develop a deeper sense of meaning, understanding, or connection with the universe.
Whether you enjoy meditation, attending a religious service, or praying, spiritual self care is important.
As you consider your spiritual life, ask yourself:
- What questions do you ask yourself about your life and experience?
- Are you engaging in spiritual practices that you find fulfilling?
- Emotional Self-Care
It’s important to have healthy coping skills to deal with uncomfortable emotions, like anger, anxiety, and sadness. Emotional self-care may include activities that help you acknowledge and express your feelings on a regular basis.
Whether you talk to a partner or close friend about how you feel, or you set aside time for leisure activities that help you process your emotions, it’s important to incorporate emotional self-care into your life.
When assessing your emotional self-care strategies, consider these questions:
- Do you have healthy ways to process your emotions?
- Do you incorporate activities into your life that help you feel recharged?
- Reflect on your personal mission statement.
If you don’t have a personal mission statement, create one. Having a mission statement does not make you over ambitious. It only helps to put you on the right track. For instance, having one would definitely help you:
- Do away with friends that are not pushing you forward.
- Get rid of materials, i.e songs or books that are messing with your mind.
- Align yourself with things of value
- Accept and embrace every learning ground or opportunity that will help broaden your intellect.
- Help you prioritize yourself over everything, because, you matter!
7. Developing goals for recovery
It can be tricky, especially if you aren’t sure what it is that you want to accomplish. Consider your interests, things that bring you joy and things that keep you motivated. Also, think about the things you want, like where you want your life to go or what you would do more of if you could. Having a deep investment in the goals that you set will increase the chances of completing them
Once you have set goals for yourself, you need to figure out what things are necessary to accomplish those goals. Be clear about why you set this goal and how your life will be different once this goal is achieved. You should also consider the strengths and skills that you possess that will help you achieve your goal. Try to involve necessary support systems and resources that can help you through the process if and when you need it. Finally, remember to stay focused on the goal and not on the difficulties you might be having. Keep an open mind, and know that you may hit barriers along the way. Recovery is no easy task, and focusing on the negative experiences will only make things harder.
8. Connect With Yourself
It is important that you check in with yourself periodically. If you do not then you may not realize that things are changing or getting out of control. Checking in with yourself allows you the opportunity to evaluate where you are in your recovery. You may find that you need to readjust what step of your action plan you are on or try different coping tools.
If you have had low times in the past you understand how hard it can be to get out of those places. Learning all that you can about your mental health condition will help let you know that your hard times are not your fault. Making a list of accomplishments that you have achieved is a good resource to turn back to when you are feeling low.
Another tool that may help you is to journal about your experiences. Keeping a journal is a great way to learn about yourself. Being completely honest in your journal is important; in your journal, you should feel free to let your guard down. This will help you discover how you really feel and vent your stress in a non-threatening manner.
Another method of connecting with yourself is to become an advocate and share your story. There has been a lot of research that explores the power of storytelling as a form of therapy. Sharing your own experiences through writing or talking is an important stage of recovery. Just as you are supported by reading the thoughts and experiences of others you can also be the person that helps lift another.
9. Create Joy And Satisfaction
Living with a mental health condition can be taxing emotionally, physically, and mentally. Experts have found that good feelings can boost your ability to deal with stress, solve problems, think flexibly, and even fight disease. Taking care of your body emotionally, physically, and mentally through creating joy and satisfaction is an important part of living with or without a mental health condition.
Studies show that:
- Laughing decreases pain, may help your heart and lungs, promotes muscle relaxation, and can reduce anxiety.
- Positive emotions can decrease stress hormones and build emotional strength.
- Leisure activities offer a distraction from problems, a sense of competence and many other benefits.
Research shows that meditation offers not only calm, but also helps with anxiety and depression, cancer, chronic pain, asthma, heart disease and high blood pressure.
To get started, all you need is a few minutes each day. Later you may want to work up to 10, 20, or 30 minutes. You can find one of many meditation options in a book or CD, online, or in a class. Or you can try some suggestions below. If one doesn’t work, stay calm…and try another.
Types of Meditation:
- Deep breathing: Sit or lie down comfortably. Rest your hands on your stomach. Slowly count to four while inhaling through your nose. Feel your stomach rise. Hold your breath for a second. Slowly count to four while you exhale, preferably through pursed lips to control the breath. Your stomach will fall slowly. Repeat a few times.
- Mindfulness Meditation: Focus on your breath. Notice anything that passes through your awareness without judgment. If your mind starts to tackle your to-do list, just return to focusing on your breath.
- Close your eyes, relax and imagine a peaceful place, like a forest. Engage all your senses: Hear the crunching leaves, smell the damp soil, feel the breeze.
- Repeating a mantra: Sit quietly and pick any meaningful or soothing word, phrase, or sound. You can repeat the mantra aloud or silently. Experts say the repetition creates a physical relaxation response.
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