How often do you make self-care a priority? If you are like most people, self-care often gets put on the back burner. You may find that other people and things are higher up on your priority list than spending time on yourself. Of course, there is also a damaging belief in society that taking time for self-care is selfish. But that isn’t true! In fact, a lack of regular self-care may be contributing to those nagging, chronic health issues you’ve been dealing with.
The number of people experiencing chronic health issues has been a growing for decades. Many have been struggling with nagging health issues for years. And many others have been to see multiple doctors and haven’t gotten the answers or the relief that they are looking for. But what is the number one cause of the health issues that the majority of people deal with daily?
Stress plays a bigger role in your health than you may be aware of. 70-90% of all doctor’s office visits are the result of stress. But most people not aware of just how damaging chronic stress is on their health. They don’t understand the health risks stress creates. Because of this they do not include regular self-care in their daily lives to better manage stress. Stress is so damaging that approximately 77% of all Americans experience either physical or psychological symptoms related to the stress they deal with daily.
Stress may get a bad rap, but it wasn’t designed to be bad. It is the natural way that a body protects itself from threats. The threats may be real, or they may be imagined. Threats may be physical, mental or emotional. When we encounter a stressor, the nervous system releases a variety of chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol, which bring a burst of energy to the body.
The heart begins to beat more quickly, the muscles tighten, blood pressure begins to rise, the breath begins to speed up and become shallow, and all of the senses sharpen. These reactions help to increase stamina and strength, increase focus and speed up reaction time so that a person can face the threat or run. This is known as the fight or flight response.
The link between chronic stress and illness
But it’s chronic stress that is causing the health problems that are becoming so common these days. And this stress comes more from perceived threats and the mental and emotional response than real, physical threats. This type of stress is long term and can last for weeks, months or even years. It is this form of stress that wears people down and creates serious physical and mental health issues. It shouldn’t be a surprise that money and work are the two top sources of chronic stress followed closely by relationship issues.
The biggest problem with chronic stress, however, is that you can become accustomed to it. It becomes such a normal part of life that you no longer recognize that it is there. That is where the harm is done on a person’s health.
If you are looking to rebuild your health, then managing stress must be a priority. And that means putting self-care first!
Helping others by helping yourself
One of the biggest obstacles to regular self-care is the guilt that is so many feel when taking time for themselves. We have been conditioned to believe that we should always put others first. And in this day and age, people are repeatedly given the message that taking time for yourself is selfish.
But the truth is that a lack of self-care is impacting your health…and not in a good way! Your energy is a finite resource. Think of it like the food in your kitchen. You use that food for energy. But if you continue to use it without getting more groceries and replenishing your cupboards, soon you will have nothing left. And if you use that supply to also help others, there will be nothing left for them either. Your body cannot continue functioning at its best unless you take care of it! And if you don’t it will break down and you’ll have nothing to give to anyone, including yourself.
Taking time for self-care is about taking time to renew your body’s needs. One of the best things you can do for those you care about is to be your best, and healthiest self!
You cannot rebuild your health without regular self-care!
These are a few of the basic things you should be doing regularly as part of your self-care practice. These things are an important part of rebuilding and maintaining great health!
Eating healthy food
In order for your body to thrive, it needs the right nutrients to help it run efficiently. The best fuel is high quality, healthy, whole foods. Healthy, whole foods contain the nutrients your body needs to rebuild and maintain health. Eating healthy foods may require you to spend a bit more time in the kitchen, cooking from scratch. But avoiding highly-processed convenience foods as much as possible is better for your body.
Exercising regularly is an important part of any self-care practice. The recommendation is that you get 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least 5 days a week.
While more intense cardio and strength training exercise can actually raise stress and stress hormone levels, exercise such as yoga and Tai Chi are wonderful ways to reduce stress levels. Walking is another great option!
Get good sleep
Do you ever stay up too late trying to get more done? That practice may be causing your body more stress!
Making sleep a priority is actually a form of self-care! Since sleep is restorative, it is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. So setting specific times to go to sleep and getting at least 7-9 hours of sleep regularly should be your goal.
Time with friends and family
Spending quality time with friends and family away from work is important. Social connection is important for increasing longevity. Studies have shown that having social connection reduces stress.
Being connected to others who can give you support, encouragement and love is good for your health! So a fun night out laughing with friends is a great way to practice self-care!
Stress management techniques
You can also add specific stress-management techniques to your self-care routine. Meditation, deep breathing, mindset work, spending time in nature, taking a break from technology, practicing gratitude, journaling, taking a long bath, and laughing all can help to lower stress levels.
If you are serious about being the healthiest you can be, then taking care of yourself each day is a necessity, not an option. And self-care is one of the best gifts you can give not only to yourself, but to those you care about as well.