It’s no secret that life can be stressful, and the past few years are certainly a testament to that. When you start to feel overwhelmed and pressured, it’s important to set aside time to take care of yourself. Self-care may seem like a trendy concept, but it’s important to understand why it’s relevant, what it means for your health and how to get started with your own self-care habits.
The practice of self-care is taking time to do things that help you live well and improve your physical and mental health. Clinical evidence shows that self-care can reduce anxiety and depression, reduce stress, improve concentration, minimize frustration and anger, increase happiness, improve energy, and more. From a physical health perspective, self-care has been clinically proven to reduce heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
Most adults in later seasons of life have spent years, if not the majority of their lives, taking care of others – babies, aging parents, grandchildren and sometimes ill friends or family members. Serving as a caretaker for someone you love can be rewarding, but it can also take its toll on the mental and physical health of the caregiver. Studies show that between 40 to 70% of caregivers suffer from depression, while many caregivers also have anxiety as a result of the stress.
It’s different for everyone, but it is most important to choose practices that feel restful to you. True self-care is making ongoing choices that shape your life in such a way that you don’t need to escape from your day-to-day. Although, there are certainly seasons where that isn’t possible – maybe due to illness, job loss, a pandemic, the death of a loved one or other stressful events.
While self-care can look like curling up with a good book, taking an unplanned nap on a low-energy day, heading to the spa for a massage, or signing up for a yoga class, it can also go deeper than that. Self-care can be establishing a plan to pay off your debt, choosing to re-enroll in therapy, or setting boundaries with a difficult family member.
There is no denying that consistent sleep is critical to a healthy body, and the simplest way to care for yourself is to make sleep a priority. The average adult needs between 7-9 hours of consistent sleep, and many studies show that going to sleep and waking up around the same time each day is even more beneficial. The benefits? Better mood, stronger immune system, healthier brain, and much more.
Bodies need consistent fuel to operate well, maintain consistent blood sugar levels and ensure a steady energy source. Doctors recommend eating every three to four hours, although that can vary by person and depends on your unique nutritional needs.
Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, but it doesn’t always have to look like lifting weights at the gym or training for a marathon. Consider a daily walk around your block, setting a 5-minute timer and taking a dance break to your favorite song, park a few spots further from the door when you’re running errands, choose to take the stairs instead of the elevator. Even minor adjustments to your daily routine can help you move more than usual.
Research shows that thoughts impact your actions, and your actions determine your success. Setting aside time to practice gratitude can help you refocus after a difficult day. We recommend writing down 5 good things each day or spending a few minutes repeating positive affirmations to yourself.
Relaxation looks so different for every person. Try reading a good book, tuning into a favorite show, putting on your favorite music, calling up a good friend, spending some time with a hobby or treating yourself to your favorite takeout.
In a world that is focused on the next best thing, chasing achievements and putting your best foot forward online, it can be hard to be gentle with yourself. Try to allow yourself the space to accept your best efforts, even if it’s not perfect. While there’s certainly a time for pushing yourself, there’s also something to be said for showing yourself grace during a difficult season.
From all of us here at Science Care, we are wishing you a healthy, happy new year full of life-giving new habits.