We all spend time thinking about how best to care for others: your parents, your children, your pets. But how often do you stop to think about taking care of yourself? It’s a lot more important than you might think, and it can affect everyone around you for better or worse.
One common side-effect of dealing with every day events is stress. This can be a significant obstacle if not taken care of, and it’s important to think about your stress level throughout the day. Some physical effects caused by stress include: headaches, low energy, upset stomach, nausea, constipation, aches and pains, tense muscles, and insomnia. That’s a long list, especially since it can be avoided. The first thing to do is identify what causes you stress. Is it going grocery shopping? Maybe it’s going to events with large numbers of unfamiliar people? Once you figure that out, you can work to be better prepared for it. However, improving your physical health is a significant step toward reducing stress and improving mental health. Here are some tips from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):
- Exercise Daily – This can be as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking a little farther away to get more walking in, but daily exercise produces stress-relieving hormones in your body.
- Eat Well – Eating unprocessed, fresh foods helps reduce the risk of chronic disease, and helps stabilize energy and mood.
- Get Enough Sleep – Remember that adults need 7-9 hours of sleep, and practicing good sleep habits are an important part of getting that.
- Avoid Alcohol – This doesn’t actually reduce stress, like some think, but can actually worsen it. There are also a number of physical issues that excess alcohol use can cause.
- Practice Relaxation – This can be meditation, deep breathing, or muscle relaxation. They all contribute to controlling negative feelings and clearing your mind.
One of the most important aspects of self-care, however, is making time for yourself. Even if it’s just 15 minutes each day, setting aside personal time is the best way to make sure you’re practicing self-care. Below are some suggestions for activities you can do to promote good self-care:
- Read books or watch movies you enjoy
- Paint, write, or do something that releases your creative energy
- Start a journal
- Take a class for fun
- Light a candle of a scent that relaxes you
- Do a mini de-clutter (find a few things you don’t need and donate/recycle them)
These are just a few suggestions, but there are many ways to practice self-care. Try for yourself, and you might notice your days become a bit less stressful!