Taking the time to focus on yourself — stuff that benefits your mind, body, and soul — is what self-care is all about. Although the health benefits of proper self-care are well-documented, many fail to prioritize a self-care regimen. Often, we find ourselves busy with work, family, and other priorities — so much so that we feel like taking the time to truly focus on our own care is a total waste. However, don’t think like this. Self-care protects you, your family, and your career. Here is how you’re likely failing and what you can do about it.
You’re Not Eating Right
Nutrition plays a huge role in your physical health, but it’s just as important for your brain. What you put into your body determines how you feel, and the wrong foods can make you feel worse. Fried and sugary foods increase the risk of depression, while caffeine can contribute to panic attacks associated with anxiety disorders. Skipping meals can cause fatigue and make you feel like you have “brain fog.”
Focus on foods that are good for your mind and body. Foods high in folate, such as leafy green vegetables and whole grains, can lower the risk of depression. Fatty fish contain high amounts of vitamin D, and omega-3s can be found in oily fish, both of which can also keep depression away. For a quick and easy option to help you get the right nutrients, buy an immersion blender to turn your fruits and vegetables into smoothies. This blender is also highly versatile, affordable, and stored easily.
You’re Surrounding Yourself with Clutter
Studies have shown time and time again that there is a strong link between clutter and stress. If you surround yourself with chaos — either at home or at the office — it’s going to negatively impact your mental health. One act of self-care to prioritize is taking time to organize and declutter your life. Start by optimizing your home to reduce stress. Take a day to downsize — donate and throw away items you simply don’t need. You can even hire professionals to come in and do a deep cleaning. In Morgan Hill, cleaning services will run you $110 - $237. Once your home is free of clutter, you might try introducing some nature (house plants) and stress-busting elements to the mix, such as aromatherapy, scented candles, oil diffusers (which can be purchased for less than $20).
You’re Not Actively Relaxing
True relaxation doesn’t come from the simple absence of activity. You can stop working, sit down on the couch, and still not feel completely relaxed. The weight of our responsibilities doesn’t just fall away without active encouragement. That’s why you need to prioritize active relaxation — doing things to specifically destress.
One way to do this is to do something you love — something that’s just for you. Take a bath or read a book. Zone out with your favorite album. Another way is to purposefully elicit the relaxation response (a quasi-medical term). This can be done through muscle relaxation, focused breathing, and meditation — try this five-minute technique.
You’re Always Putting the Needs of Others First
If you have a spouse and/or children, there’s a good chance that you sacrifice your own well-being to ensure that of your family. Even if you don’t you may be doing the same thing with your friends, family, or work responsibilities. It becomes ingrained in your worldview that taking time for self-care is selfish in many ways. The fact is that it’s not. What’s more, you will be a better friend, mother, father, lover, partner, and coworker if you take time for self-care.
First and foremost, learn how to say “no” when it’s appropriate. It’s difficult to let people down — even if it’s the right thing for your own well-being. But learning how to distance yourself from the ever-present helper role is a must for true self-care. When telling your friends and family “No, I can’t or won’t do that” (because you need to take time for yourself), you don’t have to offer an explanation. You should, however, offer alternatives.
Once again, learning to put yourself first is the ultimate act of self-care and will, in turn, positively affect your relationships. As Happy Free Lifestyle blog points out, it’s kind of like what they tell you on an airplane: “Put the oxygen mask on yourself first in an emergency situation before helping others.” You can’t be there for others if you’re not there for yourself first.
Don’t delay. If you want to boost your overall well-being (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health), the best thing to do today is to break down the barriers preventing you from prioritizing self-care.
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash
Guest author Harry Cline