Why is self-care so important to our over-all being?
It allows our bodies to return to base-line and even produce positive feelings of well-being, which improves confidence, self-esteem and can even improve energy levels. Self-care is important because it effects not only ourselves but those around us; due to our behaviors and reactions to external stimuli before and after.
The title “self care” may sound like a strange term, but it’s just a way to describe various healthy habits that are important to our most basic functioning. In our individualistic society, most of us grew up believing that the more you sacrifice, the bigger the reward, but this is not the case;
Take this example; You’re overwhelmed with your daily life. You have a ton of projects piling up at work and home, and your day-to-day is packed full with different events and projects. Eventually you try to tackle all of these things by ‘improving’ time during the day, this leads you to sleep less at night, skip meals during the day and neglect your social life. Does this sound familiar? We have all been there at one point or another.
When we are stressed, we end up in fight or flight mode and these anxiety inducing chemicals can lead us to neglect self-care first and foremost. This only makes things worse as our minds become increasingly jumbled and hurried. I was not diagnosed with ADHD until I was 28 years old, so I can think of many examples where I was put into a position where I was forced to rush something while I was backed up on different tasks for that week. I have had to learn to prioritize tasks and slow down in order to make time for self-care to prevent burnout. However, even for neurotypical individuals it is easy to take the “hard work pays off” mindset too far to the point of burning out. Burn-out occurs when your mind and body are exhausted because they haven’t had enough time to recover. This leads to feelings of exhaustion and fatigue and in some instances even depression, which can sometimes become chronic if it isn’t resolved. This is counter productive as it leaves you unable to be as productive as you once were.
Self Care is crucial for our mind and body:
Doing small things for ourselves often feel like a luxury, especially when we are busy and overwhelmed. That mindset as we touched on, typically backfires. Self care helps you speed through tasks at a much faster rate. For example; I find math to be extremely daunting, but, when I was in my last math course in college I became increasingly frustrated after weeks of working through statistical data, to the point of tears sometimes. I finally took some time away from my work, and then made it a point to take a 15 minute break every hour or so into my homework. This helped my brain recharge enough to come back and look at the problems in a different light, and it would result in me working through problems faster, on a much larger scale. This happened for a few reasons;
*Self care reduces the negative effects of stress on the brain. Small scale stress can serve a purpose and help with motivation for different tasks, but it does release fight or flight chemicals into the body such as adrenaline, that effect the central nervous system. During times of stress our heart rate increases, oxygen levels change, blood pressure goes up. Stress that is left unchecked can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity.
* Self care helps you re-focus: Studies have shown giving your mind time to decrease those stress hormones helps you gain a new perspective of the situation, amplifying creative thinking and problem solving.
Some ways to improve self-care:
*Treat self care as a must rather than a reward
Self-care should be a respected as part of the process and not something you continue to put off. We don’t want to forget about taking care of our bodies and as well as our minds.
*Try prioritizing tasks in order to leave extra time for self-care
If you have a large paper due at the end of the week, and you also need to take your children to their appointments and have a career; plan out how long each task takes and find 10 minutes here and there to let your brain rest. Even if you have to sit in your car for a few extra minutes, before picking your child up from daycare, for example. Don’t feel bad about this. Self-care is part of the journey and it is just as important as your career. Your will be happier around your children, partner, friends and end up more productive at work.
*Make sure to eat right and get some exercise into your daily routine:
It’s easy to neglect exercise when you’re overextended, but even walking during your lunch breaks, work breaks, walking to work, parking further away from the entrance of stores helps if even just a little. Studies have shown that increasing physical activity helps motivation, sleeping habits and can help cut down on brain fog.
One simple method of self-care I learned about during my peer support training course was called ” Relaxation-Response”. I will attach a link below to my favorite video of this. It is scientifically proven to help decrease fight or flight hormones and help us re-center ourselves. It is similar to walk-through meditation. If you are similar to me, you find it difficult to either find time to meditate or sit still long enough to do so. Not everyone can sit through meditation practices. This method is something you can do directly before you go to sleep at night. You can turn on the youtube video and work your way through it until you fall asleep.
It is wonderful. It helps me wake up more rejuvenated in the mornings and helps recenter my over-stressed mind.
Guided Relaxation Response Video:
Self-care is a wonderful tool for personal growth and self improvement. It helps mood, physical well-being and even productivity. Have you worked on self-care today? What are some methods you use to recharge your mind?
Jeanine Comstock is a graduate student,artist, mental health worker, mother of two high needs children and a life-long student of personal growth and development.
QMHA, PSS, MSSW Student