The Importance of Self-Care: Stress is a natural yet unavoidable part of life. It’s a feeling that everyone experiences and is the body’s response mechanism to stressors that occur in daily life. Stress can significantly impact mental and physical health as an individual reacts to circumstances, we deem to be the root cause. As stressful situations happen increasingly frequently as society dictates that we live in an “always-on” world, we must find ways to better manage it to maintain a healthy balance in our lives. One of the most effective ways to manage stress is through self-care.
This article will explore the importance of self-care in managing stress and the various ways to practice self-care. We will also discuss how self-care can help us to manage our stress levels better and create a more balanced lifestyle.
What is Self-care?
Self-care means caring for yourself, for example, by eating and sleeping well, exercising and getting help so that you do not become ill. Self-care promotion is a means to empower individuals, families and communities for informed health decision-making .
Taking good care of one’s self is integral to managing stress because it helps us focus on our physical and mental health and well-being. It’s about taking time for us and focusing on activities that bring us joy and allow us to relax. Self-care can be anything from spending time with friends and family, taking a break from work, or engaging in activities that make us feel good. Taking care of ourselves results in positive health outcomes.
Why Is Self-care Important?
Self-care practices act as a shield against short-term and chronic stress, promote health and aid in stress management. One of the most important aspects of self-care is being able to recognise when stress is present in the first place. This includes recognising physical symptoms of tension such as headaches, muscle tenderness, and difficulty sleeping, and emotional symptoms, such as feeling overwhelmed, irritable, and anxious. Recognising these symptoms early on can better help you to manage yourself during stressful periods, minimise the propensity to experience a burnout and prompt the practice of self-care.
Types of Self-care
Once you’ve identified that you’re experiencing stress, acting is vital. Self-care takes many forms with practices, including physical (to look after physical health), emotional (to take care of emotional health), mental (to prevent mental health issues) and spiritual (to look after the spiritual self). All the above are critical for good long-term health, enable us to de-stress and reduce stress, prevent disease, and have a longer life.
Each of us is responsible for our personal well-being and managing our needs. This is especially important in today’s digital age, where social norms are dictated by social media and the constant merry-go-round of comparing ourselves and what we have to others. Fostering resilience (which comes from good care of the self) is a prerequisite to successfully navigating modern-day society and fending off longer-term health issues like burnout.
Physical care means taking care of the body and making time to relax and recharge. It is one of the human’s basic needs; taking care of physical needs is a must and should never be ignored. Maintenance can include practising good personal hygiene, partaking in physical activity with a range of exercises such as walking or taking a yoga class, stretching muscles, seeing a doctor when required and taking medication on time.
It’s also important to try as far as possible to have a daily routine which consists of a healthy diet through eating nutritious meals. Also, creating a relaxing night-time routine will guarantee a good night’s sleep or ensure you get enough sleep as far as possible. Looking after the physical body improves general health and can strengthen the immune system, thus increasing resistance to illness and disease. Good physical maintenance can influence emotional care as, the act of caring for the body acts as a fundamental baseline for self-respect.
In addition to physical care activities, it’s crucial to practice emotional care techniques. These could include acknowledging feelings, expressing emotions in a safe environment with a close friend, family member or colleague; learning to say no, creating boundaries between self and others and finally, accepting compliments.
It’s essential to recognise the importance of compassion in self-care. Empathy is about understanding, accepting yourself, and realising that you’re worthy of love and care. Adopting this view can help you be kinder to yourself and remember when to take a break. Looking after your inner emotional self raises self-esteem and those with higher levels of self-worth often feel happier.
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Mental health is vital for positive well-being, and you shouldn’t ever overlook it, as feeling stressed can have a direct negative impact on mental health. Engaging in relaxing activities such as taking a warm bath, listening to soothing music, practising good time management, gratitude and mindfulness all reduce stressful feelings. It’s also necessary to have a sense of purpose and fulfilment in one’s life. Turning dreams into reality by setting achievable goals that prompt motivation can help prompt healthy mental well-being.
Spiritual care is often overlooked, but is just as important as other components of care. It might surprise you, but spiritual care takes the form of many guises and can be as simple as maintaining religious practice by attending a religious service. It can mean living within one’s moral compass and principles, doing right by and helping others or living as the best version of oneself. Living in harmony with the spiritual self leads to a greater sense of peace and harmony within and can lead to immense feelings of self-fulfilment.
What Not to Do to Combat Stress
Some people (especially younger people) may not care for themselves by adopting healthy ways of looking after their bodies. They may forgo partaking in exercise, with little focus on physical activity. Not everyone has family and friends close by to spend time with and rely on to give them a sense of feeling understood and connected. Also, there are many people who look at life with an empty cup rather than a glass-half-full approach to experiencing all life’s benefits.
All the circumstances cited above (and many more) can be attributed to socio-economic conditions that can result in people leading unhealthy lives. Being unhealthy and not taking care of oneself is precisely what not to do when looking to reduce levels of worry and anxiety.
Often, it’s easier to make sub-optimal choices like unhealthy eating, smoking, and excessive consumption of alcohol or legal/illegal drugs when stressful feelings are experienced rather than asking for help from friends, choosing to eat healthily, exercise or staying physically fit. These are not self-care practices, are not actions that will combat stress and you shouldn’t practice them in the quest to counteract feelings of anxiety, tension and pressure.
Often the reverse is seen, whereby these lifestyle choices play a crucial part in actually contributing to tension within the mind and body. They can even be viewed as types of self-harm. They erode the health benefits of proper self-care practices and contribute to a lesser quality of life of mind and body.
Top Tips to Minimise Stress
- Body health -The practising of good care is to look after the body through maintaining physical exercise and making wholesome food choices. Exercise raises endorphins and not only improves sleep but also contributes to positive self-image.
- Relaxation – There are different relaxation techniques that can be adopted in order to learn how to relax. Meditation (either guided meditation or mindful meditation) and the application of deep breathing techniques all help.
- Connection – Everyone wants to feel like they belong. A sense of belonging through community, with loved ones or by giving back promotes a sense of feeling grounded.
- Purpose – Having a purpose helps people feel a sense of achievement and can stimulate feelings of increased motivation and self-worth.
- Managing Emotions – Whether it be writing down thoughts and feelings through journaling or minimising exposure to trash television and social media; these can improve feelings of being in control and in balance and lead to increased self-respect.
Where Can I Get Help to Learn to De-Stress?
Help is available in many forms: from health care professionals such as stress coaches, licensed psychologists, or counsellors, to occupational health departments within the working environment. Support is out there, so there is no reason to suffer in silence.
Self-care is an integral part of managing stress and creating a balanced lifestyle. It’s about taking time for yourself, recognising when you are feeling stressed, and engaging in practices that benefit, not hinder. By focusing on self-care, you can be kinder to yourself, better manage stress levels and create a healthier and more balanced lifestyle. So, take the time to focus on yourself and practice self-care whenever necessary.
- WHO.int – Self-care interventions for health – found on 30/01/2023
Link to page on who.int