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Basics of Self-Care

 

 

Let’s see if this sounds familiar.  You have so much to do that you can’t find time to think, much less eat or sleep. Free time?  What is that?  It’s like a mythical unicorn made of fluffy pillows, belly laughs, chocolate and a self-cleaning house. It’s doesn’t exist. So little things begin to slide.  You find yourself in a drive thru cramming down whatever ends in “extreme”, chugging an extra cup of coffee and staying up late to try to get one more thing done.  “Tomorrow” you say “I’ll do better tomorrow”, but the day dawns way too early, and the cycle begins again.  Before too long you find yourself stuck.  Too tired, no energy, maybe packing on a few pounds, irritable and less productive than before.  What is going on?!

You, my friend, have not been engaging in self-care.

I get it. You are just trying to keep up with your life, but what’s happening is you are trying to maintain a pace that’s unsustainable.  Eventually something has to give; hopefully it isn’t a relationship, your job or your health. 

Over the next few weeks we will be looking at this critical part of mental health.  If you look at things from a wide-angle lens it’s difficult to tease apart what may be contributing to the cycle. Yes, you are overwhelmed, but when was the last time you ate something? When was the last time you did something fun? There will always be hurdles, but you need the mental energy to cope with these hurdles. My philosophy is to start small. Let’s look at some simple things and see if there are simple changes that can empower you.

Today we are focusing on the basic principles of self-care and its role in maintaining overall health and wellness. Lack of self-care has been linked to increased stress level, obesity, poor job/school performance, depression, anxiety and feeling of general dissatisfaction.  Self-care is exactly that.  You focus on taking care of yourself. We do that by identifying what we have been neglecting and “fixing” it. We allow ourselves to refocus and become recharged.

6 Basics of Self Care

 1.) Recognize the warning signs.

 Are you feeling more stressed, frustrated, overwhelmed? Are you constantly exhausted? Have you forgotten what a fruit or a vegetable looks like? Do you a have a “to do” list which is constantly growing? Are you more irritable with coworkers, friends and family? Are your emotions all over the place? These are tell tale signs that you need self care.

 2.) Know your limitations.

Repeat after me. You are not superhuman. We all have finite resources emotionally, physically, mentally and financially.  These are essentially our “fuel”. If these get used up we run on empty. After enough time with no fuel, we break down. We can get sick, or may not have the energy to “deal” with what’s going on.  This can put a serious wrench in our plans.

3.) Sleep! 

Really. I cannot emphasis this enough.  Sleeping is arguably the most important element of self care, but generally is the first to be sacrificed when busy.  Focus on 6- 8 hours of sleep per night with an emphasis on maintaining a set sleep schedule. 

Lack of sleep has been linked to multiple physical issues including an increased risk in type 2 diabetes, weight gain, decreased immune functioning and heart disease. Not enough sleep also decreases cognitive performance and inhibits your ability to concentrate. Sleep deficits have also been linked to depression, anxiety and even suicide

4.) Eat!

What you put in to your body directly impacts your energy levels, your immune system and how quickly your body can heal.  Poor nutrition can impact your body’s ability to fight off viruses and can also increase your risk of chronic illness.  Stick with diets rich in fruit and vegetables, lean protein and fiber. Try to avoid excess sugar, salt and caffeine.

5.) Exercise.

Current guidelines for adults include 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a day and strength training 2 times per week. According to the Department of Health and Human services you can even break down the 30 minutes throughout the day into smaller blocks of time, with the same health benefits. The connection between exercise and mental health is significant. Exercise has even been linked with reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety

6.) Emotional Intelligence.

Being able to recognize your emotions and then take action if needed is key to self-care. This emotional intelligence can help you recognize when you are stressed, anxious or feeling depressed. This skill can also help you respond appropriately to emotional situations. If you struggle with emotional awareness, working with a counselor or therapist can help you identify how thoughts, emotions and behaviors connect. That way you become more skilled at identifying those times when you are struggling and can change the negative patterns quicker!

Check out next week when we take a look at how to identify the warning signs more closely.