Moments arise in our lives that suddenly remind us of our extremely biological and human nature. In the midst of excitement and responsibility, we become stressed, worn down, and exhausted. Self-care is our strongest defense against the anxiety, fatigue, and depression that tend to soak into our core and cause it to sag with the remnants of life’s chaos. That type of rot can be difficult to remove but much easier to prevent. Engaging in self-care revitalizes our mental and spiritual reserves, which then leak into our bodies and manifest as a restful rejuvenation and resilience. This manual provides a working understanding of self-care, the power of the practice, and helpful ways to implement strategies into your everyday life that contribute to your well-being.
A single strategy is never going to benefit everyone in their journey of self-care. Where some respond to poetry and reading, others respond to physically doing (i.e., building crafts, hiking, walking meditatively, etc.). For these reasons, we are offering this manual to present the various methods individuals and groups can utilize for this practice. As you partake in your own journey, it will be important for you to reflect on activities and structures to which you best respond, which will require some experimenting. We encourage this!
Explore yourself and your community as you seek new ways to enhance your personal self-care plan and pursue the route to balance and health.
WHAT IS SELF-CARE
What is Self-Care and why does it matter?
When a plane suddenly begins to lose pressure and the masks have dropped, what is the first thing your flight attendants told you after you boarded the plane? First secure the mask to your face and then to your child’s. Why does this make sense? Because you must make sure that you have the resources you need to maintain your consciousness so that you are then able to take care of your child.
The same philosophy applies to everyday life.
If we fail to adequately take care of ourselves, then we are unable to give to those around us who may need our help. Caregivers operate at their best when they take care of themselves first and foremost. This is where self-care comes in.
Self-care refers to the rituals and intentional activities you do that benefit your psychological, physical, and spiritual well-being. We need regular practice of these rituals in order to maintain and promote mental welfare. Examples of self-care activities include walking, journaling, and meditation. Self-care can be as simple as waking up 10 minutes earlier than usual to enjoy your morning tea in peace. It could also mean committing to a mediation practice several days each week to improve your overall mindfulness and stress resiliency.
Unlike self-indulgence, self-care is taking the long view on overall well-being. Self-indulgence often involves a “quick fix",” such as eating chocolate or buying something for yourself. Research indicates that these actions may illicit temporary pleasure, but the feelings don’t last. Self-indulgence typically involves using the term “self-care” as a way to justify behaviors that temporarily relieve stress, such as over-consuming alcohol, turning to food for comfort, and binge-watching Netflix but provide little to no enduring benefits. These behaviors may relieve stress quickly and temporarily but could have detrimental long-term effects on one’s health. Self-care is focused on managing and preventing stress and exhaustion in ways that are beneficial to our overall well-being.
As self-care has shifted closer to the spotlight in recent years, more and more research has emerged to provide evidence supporting the benefits of engaging in this practice. For one, developing a comprehensive self-care plan has demonstrated mental and psychological advantages. Such activities has been shown to:
• Reduce stress
• Increase productivity
• Improve health
• Help one achieve work-life balance
• Prevent burnout and compassion fatigue
By regularly checking in with yourself, you’re more productive for longer periods of time, and you find that you physically feel better. Our bodies suffer when our minds are worn down. We need the opportunity to take breaks – little moments for ourselves and our families – otherwise, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the daily tasks and responsibilities of our careers and our personal lives.
Moreover, neglecting one’s own personal health and needs can result in physical imbalances. Stress also exposes our immune systems, making them become more susceptible to infection (“What Happens… Stressed Out",” 2017). So the more lunch breaks we decide to skip, the less sleep we acquire, and the more we continue to try to help people without tending to ourselves, the more likely you are to develop a cold or sinus infection, for example. Obviously other factors contribute to this, but stress and personal neglect certainly lend wield influence.
Research has also shown that those who fail to implement healthy self-care routines, may poorly reflect self-management techniques. This is particularly important for those with chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, bipolar disorder, and even heart disease. Poor routines can lead to more respiratory-related episodes and hospital visits, whereas healthy routines have been shown to reduce health-related episodes and better control chronic conditions (Patel, 2017).
The evidence from research has consistently demonstrated that good self-care and self-management practices significantly contribute to the overall well-being of the individual. For the everyday individual, it can serve as holistic preventative measure to keep your mind, body, and spirit balanced. In addition, these practices reflect in the medicinal routines of those with chronic conditions, leading to better overall health outcomes.