It’s the age of the millennials, and the world is becoming a very place indeed. Desks getting piled up with multiple files, household chores adding themselves to our list, multiple relationships demanding to be balanced, and the constant pressure of trying to measure up to our peers leaves us feeling super stressed. And we all know that stress can have some terrible health consequences.
Enter self-care. A practice of taking time out to pamper yourself which can help manage mental and physical health. But self-care, in a wider context, is not all about self-indulgence but choosing specific behaviors that counter the negative impact of emotional and physical stressors. This sounds like a pretty positive concept, right? So why is it that so many of us continue to ignore ourselves and proceed to push ourselves till our health suffers a massive blow?
Emotional Health Is Real And Vital
Ever wondered why most people suffering from disorders of the mind such as anxiety and depression display tendencies of denial, withdrawal, or even complete isolation? This is because we, as human beings, worry that upon admittance to feeling emotional pain, we appear weak not just to the people around us, but also to ourselves. This is the main reason why men are so hesitant to admit to their feelings because it has been fed into our brains for so long that being sensitive is not a very ‘macho’ quality. Likewise, as more and more women become fiercely independent, they tend to hide their feelings in the fear that they will seem emotionally weak and not competent enough to do their job well.
For this reason, emotional discomfort ends up being sidelined so often. In other words, the need for self-care is considered as a sign of weakness, when in reality, it is a natural and completely essential part of maintaining human health and overall well-being.
Self-Care Is A Symbol Of Independence
The main thing to keep in mind about self-care is that it focuses on you as an individual. Not you as a sister or brother, as a husband or wife, or as a friend or partner. Playing various roles throughout the day makes room for excuses to neglect your true self. So in order to truly care for yourself first, you need to understand you’re doing it for yourself alone. This way, by paying attention to your needs and your wants, you acknowledge the importance of your existence and your wholeness to yourself, rather than to others who give you labels and expect you to stick to that role.
However, this does not mean that good self-care makes you selfish and therefore, can’t coexist with healthy relationships. Self-care doesn’t demand you to place yourself on an island by yourself just because it has the word ‘self’ in it. Rather, it encourages you to nourish your social life by visiting your parents instead of visiting the cleaners (which can wait for a few days) or by calling your friend and having a good chat instead of working on that assignment which is due next week.
How To Start Taking Care Of Yourself
Now that we’re clear about the importance of self-care and have clarified that it does not make you selfish, we can get down to talking about how you can start a good routine that focuses on your well-being.
1. Establish A Healthy Foundation
Start by sticking to some of the commandments of good health.
- Get at least 8 hours of sleep and stick to your sleep schedule
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables
- Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated
2. Get Some Exercise
Exercise has numerous benefits on your mental health and physical well-being. Exercise doesn’t let your body fall into an unhealthy slump. It keeps you at a healthy weight, makes your heart healthy, and makes you feel good about yourself. This way, you get strong and fit and you will be less likely to worry about aching bones, obesity, and a weak heart in your old age.
Include a healthy mix of the following activities in your daily routine.
- Do some simple stretches first thing in the morning to boost your blood circulation
- Go for a brisk walk or a jog
- Join a yoga class or try following yoga videos and doing some exercises at home
- Join fitness classes like kickboxing or aerobics
- Join a dance class
- If you’re into sports, enroll yourself into a community sports team like softball or football
3. Avoid Stress
Most of the times, we end up dealing with stress because we can’t say ‘no.’ We keep pushing ourselves even when our day is already packed with things to do and then we reach a point when we realize that we can’t live up to those expectations. In addition to stressing you out physically and mentally, it also makes you feel like you’ve failed and that makes matters worse.
Know that it’s okay to take a step back and acknowledge your limitations. This is an important part of self-care. Once again, this doesn’t make you selfish – just more protective of your health. Therefore:
- Know your trigger points and make a conscious effort to avoid them
- Take occasional breaks from your phone, computer, or social media
- Learn to say ‘no’ to taking on extra commitments when you know your hands are already full
4. Treat Yourself
You spend so much time doing nice things for someone you love. Why not take some time to do the same for yourself? After all, you love yourself too, don’t you?
Go ahead and indulge yourself. You could:
- Buy yourself something nice
- Take yourself out for a massage
- Treat yourself to a hot bath at the end of a long day
- Make yourself your favorite snack or dessert
- Order your favorite junk food once in awhile and binge-watch your favorite TV show
5. Reconnect With Nature
Spending some time alone with nature and greenery is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. Nature is calming to our senses and the uncomplicated nature of endless stretches of greenery in parks and gardens helps draw your attention away from what’s bothering your mind to the trees and flowers around you. So try the following:
- Go for a short walk in a nearby park by yourself
- Ride a bicycle around your neighborhood
- Try taking your lunch to a nearby park or garden when you’re at work
- Plan a trip to the beach over the weekend
- Take a short hike
6. Be More Social
Sometimes, being with the people we love serves as a reminder to ourselves that we are special and deserve to be loved. Take some time out to reconnect with old friends, friends, and family and you’ll automatically find yourself so much happier!
- Plan a meal with your friends
- Call an old friend from school
- Visit the theater with your family
- Set one evening in a week aside to play board games with your friends or family
- Plan a weekend trip with your friends and family
7. Find A Creative Outlet
Art has healing properties on the mind because it gently brings your attention to the activity you’re involved in and keeps you focused for hours on end. Taking up a hobby is, therefore, a good way to de-stress and distract your mind from stressful thoughts. Watching your art come to live in front of you also triggers feelings of happiness and pride in yourself. This way, having a hobby is very helpful in re-instilling feelings of positivity and making you feel more confident about your talents.
- Drawing, sketching, or painting
- Adult coloring books
- Try a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) project
- Cooking or baking