7 Ways to Practice Self-Care


Stress can really take its toll--and that's an understatement. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), stress increases risks of headaches and migraines, heart disease, obesity, sleep problems, gastrointestinal problems, and even premature death. In other words, it's pretty important to devote time specifically to you and your well-being. Self-care is not a buzzword or trend, it is a vital part of your health.
Here are some ways to take care of you and dramatically lower your stress levels.

1. Go On Vacation!

Every year, over 100 million people visit Florida. This year, why not count yourself among them? In the U.S., we go on vacation markedly less than any other industrialized country, and it's evident from our stress levels and reported levels of burnout. According to a Gallup poll, 23%--nearly one quarter--of Americans describe themselves as exhausted or showing symptoms of burnout all the time. Forty-four percent feel burned out or overworked sometimes.
A vacation is the answer to your troubles. Travel does wonders for your mental health. A vacation has the potential to foster gratitude, lower stress levels, and even lower your risk of having a heart attack. To maximize the benefits of travel, make time to engage in an activity that comforts you. Whether you enjoy reading, writing or coloring in adult coloring books, set aside time to do it. As much as possible, do what you can to stay present. Avoid checking work emails and exchanging texts with colleagues. Keep those worries at home. Finally, plan something new--something to challenge yourself or push your boundaries. If you are slightly scared or anxious to do it, go for it. Chances are, you'll be glad you did!

2. Schedule A Mental Health Day

That's right. Do not simply take a mental health day on a whim, actively plan one. Your mental health is important and neglecting your mental health can ultimately weaken your immune system and increase your chances of getting physically ill. Plus, germs from the common cold can linger one to three days after you are exposed to them, possibly making you sick several days later.
Stop worries and illnesses in their tracks with a well-planned mental health day. When is the best time to take a mental health day? Licensed psychologist Dr. Ashley Hampton describes it to Healthline this way: "If you think about your life as a plate with sections for work, family, life, and things you like to do, and the plate is overflowing in all areas but the things you like to do, it is time for you to take a break and participate in self-care." It is important to treat a mental health day like any other sick day. Prioritize things that will improve your overall mood and mental health. Avoid making the day about errands and things you have to do instead of things you genuinely want to do.

3. Prioritize Sleep

It is all too common for Americans to neglect sleep--and with dire consequences, too. According to SleepFoundation.org, adults need seven to nine hours of sleep every night. There is no such thing as making up for missed sleep. Sleeping longer on the weekends can be helpful, but it does not undo the damage of sleeping just five or six hours some nights. People who neglect sleep are more likely to get sick, be overweight, have an irregular heartbeat, hypertension, and/or heart problems, have difficulty concentrating and be quick to anger.
"Our bodies all require long periods of sleep in order to restore and rejuvenate, to grow muscle, repair tissue, and synthesize hormones," SleepFoundation.org writes. To enjoy all the benefits of good sleep, establish a regular sleep schedule, keep bedrooms temperate and cool, and get screens out of the bedroom.

4. Treat Yourself To A Massage

Back pain and neck pain are just about an epidemic. Back and neck pain plagues one in three adults. That's 75.7 million people! With numbers like that, it is safe to say that--for the overwhelming majority of U.S. adults--a massage is very much in order. A massage improves blood circulation, reduces pain (like the aforementioned neck and back pain!), boosts immunity and wellness, improves sleep, reduces swelling associated with injury or surgery, and reduces stress, depression, and anxiety levels.
According to the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), 88% of those surveyed believe massage is very effective in treating pain, and 24% specifically use massage to treat their pain. Whatever your primary reason for getting a massage, know that it packs several benefits, including mental and physical benefits. Make it a strong contender for your next self-care activity.

5. Clean Up Around The House

Clutter stresses us out. Literally. According to a study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, those who described their homes as cluttered have high levels of the stress hormone cortisol and are more likely to report symptoms of fatigue and depression. Similarly, Princeton University shows that a messy room can distract us from important tasks and result in problems concentrating.
Conversely, picking up helps bring order and helps us maintain a greater sense of calm. Clean your house to remain focused and to enjoy simple activities that promote staying present or mindfulness, activities like sweeping the floor or doing the dishes.
Cleaning can mean anything from these small, day-to-day activities like washing dishes to tackling big projects, like replacing carpets. A well-maintained carpet traps allergens and provides noise insulation. As carpets age, they may permanently trap harmful particles and act as a stain on your home. Replace carpets at least once every 10 to 15 years to enjoy their surprising benefits to your health.

6. Do Less

It may sound counterintuitive, but--in a society that is obsessed with being perpetually busy--it is important to slow down every once in a while. Being constantly busy is not helping. According to the New York Times (NYT), near-constant busyness is increasing instances of anxiety disorders and stress-related illnesses. Take regular breaks throughout the day, and make a point of scheduling time to do nothing. Research shows doing nothing can ultimately boost productivity, not hinder or distract from it. Taking breaks renews your energy levels, and being idle or still promotes creativity and problem-solving skills.

7. Reframe Regrets

Unfortunately, many of us make poor decisions worse by constantly obsessing about them and fretting over them or--on the opposite side of the spectrum--doing whatever we can to banish these memories altogether. It turns out, neither coping strategy is particularly healthy. If you want to process regrets in a way that will help you and not harm you, consider viewing them as opportunities for growth and change.
Regret "signals [that] improvement is possible," according to professor Neal Roese. If possible, try to distance yourself from poor decisions and view them critically. What can you do better next time? Ask yourself: Is there a lesson here?
Self-care is a must for your mental and physical well-being! According to The Atlantic, Americans continually boast of their busyness, while exhibiting blatant signs of stress and working more hours than employees abroad. Devote some time to you and reap all the benefits.

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