By Candice Chaloupka, Mental Health Therapist, Master Certified Health Coach and
Nicole Hutchison, Owner, CEO, Physical Therapist, CSCS and Health Coach
Self Care is defined as an activity deliberately done to take care of one’s mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. It’s usually considered something we do above and beyond the basic needs of eating, sleeping, hygiene, and grooming. For some people though, even the most basic needs of adequate sleep and nutrition are neglected. We make everyone and everything else a priority and then wonder why we are mentally, emotionally, or physically exhausted later.
When we are overwhelmed and stressed and don’t make the time to take care of ourselves, we may develop health issues such as depression, high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, and ulcers. This is known as a negative feedback loop. Poor stress management leads to health issues, which leads to more stress. Learning to better manage stress and therefore lessen the ill affects of chronic stress includes allowing ourselves to practice self care. Self care is not a luxury, it is a necessity.
Why don’t we practice self care? Usually we tell ourselves it’s too expensive or we don’t have the time, or we are too busy taking care of others. The truth is that you will be less effective, less productive, and less helpful in the long run by failing to take time for yourself. We get run down, catch more colds, and may even get resentful or bitter toward the very people we are caring for.
Self care does not have to be expensive. It does not have to be a massage every week or extravagant vacations. It does not have to be time consuming. Some days, self care could include going for a hike or a bike ride just to be physical and out in nature. Other days, self care could be curling up in a favorite chair with a good book and cup of tea. Some days are so busy that self care may just be taking five minutes to slow down while practicing mindful breathing and gratitude.
Another part of self care is taking care of the basics: nutrition, sleep, hydration, and physical activity. These are basic needs that must be met if you want to enjoy health and wellness. They are not just for your physical health, but your mental and emotional health as well. What you eat and drink, and how you sleep directly impacts your mental health and your ability to manage stress.
Nutrition: Start by improving your nutrition with eating the rainbow! Strive to get as many different colors from fruits and veggies as you can throughout the day. Avoid processed foods with chemicals and preservatives. Choose whole foods, shop the farmer’s market, and eat at home more. I often hear from clients that dine out because they think it’s quicker and easier. But is it? When you factor in the time it takes to drive there and back home, you could have cooked a simple and healthy meal. We convince ourselves it’s easier, but when we take the time to really question it, we realize it’s not.
Hydrate: Drink plain water or add fresh fruit or herbs to it. Avoid sugary drinks that negatively impact your mental and physical health. Even partial dehydration affects your ability to focus and contributes to fatigue.
Sleep: This is another fundamental need often taken for granted. Even if you exercise and eat healthy, if you don’t get restful and adequate sleep it will impair your health. Prioritize sleep by establishing a bed time ritual that includes making an hour before bed a digital-free time, turning off the TV and lowering the room temperature.
Physical Activity: Are you stiff and sore, moving more slowly, struggling with bending down? The more you move, the easier it is to move! Any amount of physical activity is better than none and will have health benefits. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommends doing one of the following for substantial health benefits:
• 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) each week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity (such as brisk walking or tennis)
• 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) each week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity (such as jogging or swimming laps)
• An equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity
Even ten minutes of aerobic physical activity (activity that gets your heart rate up) a day is beneficial. Exercise can be going to a gym and working out, but it can also be just moving more and sitting less. Walking is the simplest activity that has a positive impact on health.
How can Statera Integrated Health and Wellness Solutions help? At Statera we value health and wellness mind, body, and spirit. We have an integrative team of experts available to work with you to develop and implement a self care plan unique to you and your special needs. Having a support system greatly improves our rate of success with anything we do in life... we are here for you!
Self Care Action Plan
Easy things to get you started:
Make a list of things you enjoy and could do to rejuvenate or rest, depending on what you need. Try making two lists: one for when you have a little time and one for when you have more time. Keep the list handy and use it often! You will be amazed at how good you will feel and how productive and effective you will be when even making small commitments of time to self care!
Some ideas include: reading a book for pleasure, walking your dog, walking on a trail, bike riding, drive in the country, call a friend (not text), write a letter, journal, read some poetry, guided imagery, deep breathes, find a new recipe, cook or bake, draw or color, take a nap, find a new recipe.
These basic things are crucial to our vitality and so are the things most taken for granted. Practice self care to enjoy health and wellness and remember: If you don’t take the time to be healthy now, you will have to make time to be sick later.