Taking care of your physical and emotional needs is known as self-care, which is essential for your well-being. While engaging in stress-relieving activities is helpful, it’s not enough if you ignore the basic needs of your body.
For example, meditation won’t be effective if you’re sleep-deprived, and you might even fall asleep due to fatigue. Similarly, going to the gym occasionally won’t help reduce stress if you don’t eat nutritious food regularly. It’s crucial to prioritise your fundamental needs to make your stress relief activities successful.
This article discusses the importance of self-care and its physical, cognitive, emotional, and spiritual benefits, along with tips to begin with.
What is self-care?
Self-care is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as ‘the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability, with or without the support of a health worker.’ This encompasses everything related to physical health, such as hygiene, nutrition, and seeking medical care when necessary.
It also involves taking steps to manage life stressors and maintain personal well-being. Self-care requires periodic self-assessment of physical, mental, and emotional states.
It’s important to note that what constitutes self-care for one person may differ from another, and even one’s own definition may evolve over time. What may feel like self-care on one occasion may not be applicable on another day.
Why is self-care important?
Self-care is an essential aspect of a healthy lifestyle. In today’s fast-paced society, individuals may feel pressured to prioritise productivity over personal well-being, leading to negative consequences such as burnout, anxiety, and even depression.
However, research has shown that engaging in self-care can have numerous benefits, including:
Reducing stress and anxiety
Provide a positive outlook
Improving mental and physical health
By making self-care a priority, individuals can reset and maximise their productivity while avoiding potential health risks. Moreover, practising self-care can help individuals find meaning in life and connect with their spirituality.
Ultimately, investing in self-care is a wise decision that benefits oneself and reduces the need for medical services and lost wages.
Five natural ways to care for yourself
Taking care of yourself can have a huge impact on your health. Various studies have highlighted the benefits of activities like exercise, yoga, and mindfulness, which can help improve your well-being. It’s important to develop healthy habits, such as eating nutritious foods, staying active, maintaining a positive outlook, and promoting longevity.
1Getting regular exercise
Research has shown that certain self-care practices can help extend your lifespan. Regular exercise, for instance, for at least two to eight hours every week of your life, can decrease the risk of early death by 29 to 36%.
2Set goals and have a purpose
Setting goals and having a strong sense of purpose in life have also been associated with lower mortality rates.
This study shows that Increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables can also help lower the risk of mortality, especially from heart-related issues.
4Get a good night’s sleep
A 2017 sleep study found that getting too little or too much sleep can be detrimental to your health.
5Enjoy the great outdoors
A 2019 study showed that spending time in green spaces has been connected to a lower mortality rate.
Although the long-term advantages of a self-care approach to health are still under investigation, research indicates that those with chronic conditions who adhere to a health regimen and know how to care for their health score higher in functioning assessments.
Tips to start practising self-care today
To jumpstart your self-care journey, here are some essential tips from the National Institute of Mental Health.
1. Make exercising a non-negotiable habit. 30 minutes of walking a day can do wonders for your mood and overall health. Don’t fret if you can’t do it all at once, because short bursts of exercise also do the trick.
2. Maintain a healthy diet and hydration routine. Eating well and drinking plenty of water can boost your energy and focus throughout the day. Limit your intake of caffeinated drinks like coffee or soda to reap the benefits.
3. Prioritise getting adequate sleep. Stick to a sleep schedule and limit blue light exposure from devices before bedtime to sleep better.
4. Try relaxation techniques such as meditation, breathing exercises, or muscle relaxation. Make time for activities that you genuinely enjoy, like journaling.
5. Set realistic goals and manage your priorities. Learn to say ‘no’ when necessary and focus on what you’ve accomplished rather than what you haven’t.
6. Practice gratitude by writing down or thinking about specific things you are thankful for every day.
7. Challenge negative thoughts and focus on positivity.
8. Stay connected with friends and family for emotional support.
Remember that self-care is unique to each individual. It may take some experimentation to find what works best for you. While self-care is not a cure for mental health conditions, it can help manage mild symptoms and triggers.
Is self-care selfish?
It’s a common misconception that self-care is selfish. However, taking care of oneself is necessary to help others in the long term. Engaging in self-care activities can help you become kinder to yourself by providing you with some designated time for self-care and allowing you to take care of yourself in various ways.
As you learn to appreciate and love yourself more, you can better empathise with others. Planning and scheduling self-care activities around your other commitments can create more space for your family and friends, too.
Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to self-care, and it’s important to find the best routine for you through trial and error. Although it may initially seem challenging, practising self-care can greatly benefit your overall well-being.
Sum it up
Mental health encompasses emotional, psychological, and social well-being, which affects our thoughts, feelings, actions, choices, and relationships. It goes beyond the absence of a mental illness and is crucial for our overall health and well-being.
Engaging in self-care can aid in maintaining our mental health and support our treatment and recovery if we have a mental illness. Remember that self-care involves taking the time to do things that improve our physical and mental health, helping us to live better lives.
When it comes to our mental health, self-care can assist in managing stress, reducing the risk of illness, and boosting energy levels. Even small self-care practices in our everyday lives can have a significant positive impact.
Want to learn more?
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