Secrets to Self-Care

by Elisa Turney

nervous breakdown comicSelf-care. The buzzword has been circulating in areas of mental health, but everyone has a slightly different definition and idea of how to execute it.

In short, self-care is any activity that adds to or replenishes you. Self-care can be having your hair cut, or something physical, like receiving a massage or exercising. It can even be renting a kayak for the day or taking a weekend trip.

The key to self-care isn’t to only do it when you’re overwhelmed; you have to use self-care daily to prevent overexertion.

Here are ways you can incorporate self-care:

sleep; everyone needs a different amount of sleep for optimal function. Some of us need four hours, some require eight. Make sure to give yourself enough time!

get the right kind of rest; use a blue light filter on your electronics at night. Avoid watching TV or using your phone within an hour of bedtime to help your body produce the melatonin necessary for restful sleep. Avoid sleeping with the TV or any music on, as these disrupt REM. Avoid eating within two hours of going to bed; this prevents difficulty sleeping, poor digestion, and weight gain.

disconnect; set aside time daily when you aren’t using electronics. One study showed that browsing social media can cause negative stress reactions, anxiety, and PTSD. The National Institute of Health has linked Facebook, depression, and low self-esteem. Give yourself a break from your Newsfeed, Tweets, and Insta posts and do some self-care.

skip the hustle and bustle; a study at Stanford University found that those who strolled through nature versus crowded city streets showed less activity in the brain region associated with depression. The study cited that city-dwellers are 20% more likely to develop anxiety disorders and 40% more likely to develop mood disorders; those born and raised in a city are two times more likely to develop schizophrenia. Do something in nature, like hiking, bike riding, walking, bird watching, or climbing!

eat well; what are you eating, especially when life becomes hectic and stress rises? While it’s easier to grab a Snickers bar or snag your meal at the drive thru, opt instead for fresh produce or a home-cooked meal. Always on the go or work long/weird hours? Consider crock-pot meals that cook during the day or use one night to prepare meals for the week.

find a hobby; whether you enjoy reading, painting model cars, or crafting with cat hair, have an activity that makes you happy. Consider joining an interest/hobby group. Meetup.com has a variety of activities and opportunities.

use your support network; call a friend, find a therapist, or tell your pet about your day. Venting about your stressors can be helpful in reducing stress and promoting well-being. A study by Harvard and the University of Rochester found that suppressing emotions leads to a higher risk of heart disease and cancer. Bottom line: show, don’t stow!

Want to see how you’re doing with self-care? Use this self-assessment. You might find new ideas!

 

 

 

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