on Fri, 06 Apr, 2018
Article by guest blogger, Sheila Olson
No one expects to stay healthy by frequently skipping meals or filling up on fast food and sipping sugary sodas day after day. And we should have the same attitude about exercise, mindfulness practices, sound sleep and other essential elements of self-care. Indeed, taking the time needed for self-care isn’t an indulgence. Rather, it’s a necessity to maintaining your health, especially if you are dealing with concerns such as anxiety, depression, chronic pain, or substance abuse. Here are a few areas to consider when evaluating your self-care routine.
Regular physical activity should be part of everyone’s self-care routine, but has been proven to be particularly beneficial for those who struggle with anxiety, depression, substance abuse issues and other health concerns that impact both body and mind. Indeed, exercise can improve physical and mental health while giving people a positive way to cope with stress.
For instance, exercise releases endorphins and other natural neurotransmitters that can increase your feelings of well-being and even create a sense of post-workout euphoria, according to a CNN article. Scientists also think exercise may give the body a way to practice responding to stress in controlled settings so it can cope more effectively in less-predictable stressful situations.
Exercising can also boost your confidence as you set and attain goals and improve the way you look and feel, according to information from the Mayo Clinic. It also increases your opportunities for social interaction. For instance, you can get more active by enrolling in a group dance class or signing up for a sports league. This can also be a boon for busy people who can combine time with friends -- an important aspect of self-care -- with physical activity.
Or, if you prefer solo sweat sessions, you can take up walking, running, or exercising at home with the help of YouTube routines or other online exercise videos. These may be good options if you’re unaccustomed to working out and reluctant to exercise with an audience. Starting your exercise routine in the comfort of your own home can also reduce the urge to overdo it if you’re not yet used to regular physical activity.
Similarly, yoga can be a way to ease into physical activity while supplementing your self-care routine. Yoga has been shown to reduce practitioners’ heart rates, lower blood pressure and possibly increase the body’s ability to cope with stress and physical pain -- bonus benefits for people dealing with chronic pain, substance abuse issues, or other conditions aggravated by stress. Experts also say yoga -- and the meditation practice often integrated in it -- promotes self-discovery and self-acceptance, which can help us learn to overcome the internal and external obstacles that are a part of everyday life.
But yoga and meditation aren’t the only ways to add more mindfulness to your self-care routine. Indeed, some experts say activities such as coloring have the potential to reduce anxiety while increasing focus and mindfulness by clearing your brain and encouraging you to concentrate exclusively on the present moment.
Yoga and other forms of physical activity can also help you get a sound night’s sleep -- an essential aspect of self-care. In fact, getting the right amount of sleep can improve your memory, increase your lifespan, help you maintain a healthy weight, improve your attention span, boost your athletic and academic performance, and stave off stress and depression, among other benefits.
In addition to getting active, you can improve your sleep quality by cutting caffeine in the hours before bedtime, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, taking time to wind down before bed, and eliminating distractions including televisions and smartphones in your bedroom. As an added bonus, good sleep hygiene also lends itself to other aspects of self-care, such as implementing a nightly relaxation routine for yourself.
So self-care isn’t selfish, nor does it have to be costly or complicated. Indeed, all it takes is time and a commitment to your own mental, physical and emotional health.
Sheila Olson has been a personal trainer for five years. She believes the best way to achieve physical fitness and good health is to set and tackle small goals. She encourages her clients to stay positive and incorporates mindfulness and practices for reducing negative talk into her sessions. She created FitSheila.com to spread the word about her fitness philosophy.