Everybody Can Get Real Self Care from One of These 5 Methods.
While there are quite a few ways to achieve self-care, there’s a big discrepancy between what is truly self-care and what is just self-gratification. For example, people often look to spas for self-care, and while massages, saunas, pools, etc. can be a great form of relaxation for the mind and a benefit to the body, other spa treatments such as facials, manicures, etc. have little bearing on long-term mental and physical self-care. They may feel satisfying in the short term, but you have to keep in mind that real self-care doesn’t always come with immediate results. It generally takes some time to accomplish.
Here are the five most effective self-care methods curated by Michael Lodish, our Tru Whole Care Stress Management Counselor. Keep in mind that there is no “one size fits all” in self-care, so try and find the one(s) from this list that will fit YOU the best.
Mindfulness is about making time in your day, before bed for even just 5 to 10 minutes midday to focus on letting go of worrisome thoughts, and focusing on a positive image, a happy memory or simply paying attention to your breathing. As you slow down your breathing, you release tension from the body. Meditation is one of the primary vehicles for setting up a structured mindfulness practice, but there are many other ways. “I recommend to my clients using one or more of the thousands of mindfulness apps available on smart phones,” explains Michael Lodish. “It’s not important which one(s) you choose, but rather that you use it consistently so it becomes a routine like brushing your teeth. It’s a great form of self-care that is affordable, effective, and can be done almost anywhere.”
Getting enough sleep every night is arguably the most important thing we can do for our self-care, yet so few of us actually do it. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recommends 7-9 hours of sleep each night. If that sounds too ambitious, try for at least 6 hours to start and work towards the “gold standard” of 8 hours. Also, naps are highly underrated so embrace them when time allows in the middle of the day, especially if you’re not able to get enough sleep consistently each night.
Exercise is an invaluable way to reduce stress, and enhance the chemicals in the brain that combat depression & anxiety. Today there’s such a great variety of exercise options beyond the traditional treadmill & weights at the gym. Consider group work-out classes such as dance, barre, cycling or boxing. Also, consider participating in a sport which is a fun & social way to get exercise. There are plenty of opportunities to join a recreational league in almost any sport you can imagine. Yoga is always a good option too because it provides exercise AND mindfulness – a great combination!
Food has the power to bring us joy and energize us. However making poor food choices can depress us, increase anxiety, and cause fatigue. The connection between self-care and nutrition may not seem obvious, but cognitive ability, endurance, patience, and a host of other traits can be strongly influenced by diet. Willow Jarosh, nutritionist at Tru Whole Care, explains that, “Self-care can start by learning the right diet for you that is healthy, energy driving and of course, tasty.”
Vacations are an important part of self-care in order to insure you have proper work-life balance. Vacations should ideally take place twice a year, and you should make best efforts to truly disconnect from all work and obligations during that time. Vacations don’t just have to only be sitting on a beach or going on a retreat. The goal is to lower your stress level and relax. One way to add to your “vacation” time is to make sure you have healthy boundaries from work at night and on the weekends. Also, consider taking a vacation from social media and all electronics to read an actual paper bound book or engage in a hobby. It’s important for our brains to disconnect from the internet, and it helps with sleep by not staring at screens as much, especially at night before bed.
A Note re: Instagram-friendly Self-Care
Why would Instagram be bad if we’re having a good time doing something? Vacations are a particular area in which we like to go onto Instagram and show our friends and family the amazing things we’re experiencing. But, this innocent pic or two can sometimes run counter to self-care. As Michael explains, “I ask my patients to limit their posts to 1 a day and “likes” should not be checked until the following day’s post. Why? Because that hit of dopamine keeps us coming back for more. For example, you are on vacation and you take a photo of something you like and post it. You check back and the post doesn’t get the likes you expected. It then starts to shape your behavior. Next picture you take, you’ll consider how it will be seen on Instagram and that small amount of stress is detrimental to your overall purpose of the vacation and self-care. You should take photos for pleasure-for yourself and your family, not for the wider public. Plus, being on your phone can take you out of the present and disconnects you from you are the experience having.”
Self-care Doesn’t Fit who I am
Michael Lodish concludes with this thought, “There is a perception among people that if my peer group doesn’t do it, or if I don’t know much about it, then I shouldn’t do it. Acupuncture and meditation are two examples where I often see people are hesitant to try it because it may not be what they think is ‘for them’. This is not dissimilar to therapy where many people associate counseling with only those with people with serious problems. At the end of the day, you should feel comfortable using whatever self-care technique you find most relaxing and helpful, even if it means trying something new.”