Defined as the conscious effort to care for one’s self and promote well-being, self-care is an essential component of living a healthy life. Unfortunately, statistics have found that only around 6.6% of adults aged 25 years or older engage in self-care practices on a daily basis. With that, it’s really no surprise that 77% of people experience stress on a level that affects physical health.
Most people think that spending time and resources on self-care is a waste. But studies have found that engaging in self-care activities can actually improve a person’s health and sense of well-being, among other things. So if you’ve been feeling burnt out, tired, and overworked, then it might be time you took advantage of these self-care tips.
4 Practical, Science-Backed Self Care Tips
There’s a reason why you feel more satisfied and soothed by certain self-care routines versus various others. That’s because our bodies respond better to self-care practices that truly tap into our physiology, creating a stronger connection between the process that happens on the outside, and the results that it produces on the inside.
- Eat a Well-Balanced Diet
We hardly think of the quality of the food we eat as self-care, but choosing the right food can actually help you promote health and wellness. One study found that individuals who indulged in high-fat diets can actually impair their stress response, making them more prone to feelings of tiredness and anxiety.
Interestingly, other studies have found that when a person experiences high levels of stress, the body copes by seeking out fatty food. As a result, the individual is placed in a vicious cycle, where both diet and stress feed each other and result to poor health.
All of that considered, it’s important to remember the role that a balanced diet plays in promoting wellness. But more than just choosing healthy, whole food and drink, it’s also important that you avoid certain types of stress-inducing foods. These may include:
- Refined carbohydrates like white rice, white bread, pasta, pastries, and pizza dough
- Caffeine especially in strong teas and coffees
- Alcohol and energy drinks
- Processed foods like canned meats, fast food, and junk food
- Refined sugars like chocolates, candies, ice cream, and cake
Finally, experts recommend that you create a meal plan and stick to it. By mapping out your meals throughout a period of time, you eliminate the need to choose what to prepare. And this can actually help in reducing the stressyou experience during meal prep.
- Engage in Daily Exercise
Putting the various parts of the body to work releases hormones that enhance a person’s sense of well-being. Various studies have also established that regular exercise is a natural method of curbing stress. There’s also been mounting evidence that suggests that regular physical movement can prevent or ameliorate the many different health problems that result from chronic stress.
There are many different kinds of exercise, but some are better are reducing stress than others. If you’re looking for variety, or if you simply haven’t found a workout to suit your preferences just yet, then these options might be worth exploring:
- Long-Distance Running – Running in itself releases endorphins that promote a feeling of pleasure and well-being. But studies have found that combining running with fresh air and wide, open scenery can further improve the benefits that the activity provides.
- Swimming – Swimming provides the same hormones that running does but the difference is that it reduces the impact on the joints and muscles, making it ideal for individuals with aches and pains to experience the same effects without exacerbating discomfort. And because swimming causes less fatigue than other aerobic exercises, it may be more effective in reducing anxiety and stress.
- Yoga – Yoga combines both mind and body by incorporating certain principles into each movement. There’s a wealth of research that tackles the benefits of yoga for stress management, especially because it’s slow, calm, and low-impact.
- Martial Arts – Various forms of martial arts require both physical exertion and high levels of concentration, which have been found to work together to relieve stress. For individuals struggling with pent up negative emotions, martial arts can also provide an avenue to release aggression through a healthier medium.
- Take Your Time
There’s a benefit to making sure you’re on time. By maintaining schedules, you put yourself in a better position to accomplish every task on your list of things to do. But being a stickler for time constraints also comes with its risks. Deadlines, time restrictions, and time-limited tasks are some of the most common causes of stress. And because these exist in almost every school and work environment, people are exposed to stressful situations everyday.
Everyone deals with time constraints whether as imposed by employers, school instructors, or themselves. And while it might be impossible to completely eradicate time restrictions from your daily life, there are ways that you can cope with their impact:
- One at a time – Overwork can overwhelm workers and students, inducing various physical symptoms that resemble anxiety. In some cases, individuals faced with overwhelming work-related tasks might choose to abandon their responsibilities all together.
That said, it’s important to pace yourself to overcome the anxiety induced by deadlines. Focus on the most urgent task at hand and remove any items from your work area that might emphasize any other assignments. Instead of thinking of the amount of work you need to complete, maintain your attention on just one task at a time.
- Communicate your limits – There are some instances when instructors or employers provide work without knowing that their peers have assigned tasks as well. The result is that students or workers are left with more duties than their time allows them to accomplish.
In this case, it’s always best to communicate your time limitations instead of attempting to tackle the work provided. Asking for deadline extensions, or to have some tasks reassigned can help lighten your load and prevent feelings of anxiety that result from overwork.
- Be Realistic – Personal deadlines can be particularly demanding, and may cause significant disappointment when they aren’t met. While they can be helpful in maintaining your daily routines and schedules, it’s important to be realistic when setting personal time limitations.
Consider the amount of time a task will take based on your previous performance with similar work, and then add an allowance to ensure successful completion. So if you assume that it might take a day to complete a specific task, add 12 to 24 hours to your deadline to provide legroom in case things don’t go according to plan.
- Treat Yourself
It’s common for people to feel indulgent when spending money on their own wants and comfort, but using financial resources for self-care can actually be particularly rewarding. According to financial experts, a budget of 5% of your total income should ideally be allotted for self-care. But as a general rule, individuals can spend as much on self-care as they deem necessary as long as it doesn’t produce negative effects on your overall financial status.
There are many different ways to treat yourself, and these all involve spending money on services or products that might not seem necessary, but work to boost your sense of self-worth and your emotional health.
- Massage – The manual manipulation of the muscles has long been used to relieve pain, tension, and stress. Today, there are lots of various kinds of massage, and they provide benefits including immune enhancement, psychological comfort, and improved mood among other things.
- Retail Therapy – There’s no denying that spending on new apparel, gadgets, and accessories, among other things, can instill a feeling of pleasure, and there’s research that proves it. Retail therapy is the process of spending money on non-essential items to augment a bad mood.
Studies have found that retail therapy has significant benefits in terms of reversing an unpleasant disposition, and buyer’s remorse is rarely experienced with unplanned purchases intended to restore a bad mood.
- Nature Exposure – One of the most effective ways to reduce stress, anxiety, and negative self talk would be to expose yourself to nature. Research asserts that routinely taking time to experience nature can improve self-esteem, mood, and sense of well-being. Nature exposure has also been found to manage the symptoms of depression among other common mental health conditions.
Self-Care is Essential for Health
It’s time to do away with the notion that self-care is unimportant. By paying attention to your own needs and wants, you can curb stress, anxiety, and even reduce the risk of developing various mental and physical health conditions. Self-care provides individuals an avenue to unwind, relax, and take a break from the stress of everyday life to clear up mental bandwidth and alleviate aches and pains. With routine self-care practices, you can optimize your health and become your best self.
How Lighthouse Can Help
Addressing your relationship with drugs or alcohol can be a very eye-opening experience. Addiction can develop under the surface, and many may not even realize the extent of their use. If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol and are ready to take the first step towards your sober future today, Lighthouse Recovery can help find the program for you. With an array of options, from sober living to an intensive outpatient program, the caring professionals will work alongside you to find the care that can help you achieve your specific goals in recovery. Each program can be further personalized to address the coping skills, grounding mechanisms, and life skills that are most pertinent to each individual.