Self care is important for overall health. By taking time to take care of ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally, we can feel rejuvenated and ready to tackle our goals. This has probably never been more true than during this pandemic, as COVID-19 has increased feelings of stress and anxiety in many people.
A recently published review summarized some of the adverse psychological effects of quarantine, including post-traumatic stress symptoms, confusion and anger. Longer duration of quarantine, fear of infection, financial loss, inadequate supplies or information, frustration and boredom were identified as specific triggers.
What is self care?
Practicing self care can help lessen or alleviate the psychological distress and anxiety caused by the pandemic, and can help prevent lasting adverse psychological outcomes. The World Health Organization defines self care as “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.”
So, self care is the act of refueling ourselves and attending to our needs. It’s a simple concept, but for many of us, the thought of doing something exclusively for our own pleasure may leave us with feelings of guilt. In a society that values self-reliance and putting others first, it can be difficult to justify taking the time to nurture ourselves.
If we notice we’re feeling stressed, running low on energy, and lacking balance in some areas of our lives, it may be time to work on developing a regular self-care practice. Although it may seem that finding the time for self care is an impossible task, the many benefits indicate it might be worth a try.
What are the benefits of self care?
• Lessened emotional reactivity
• Improved relationship skills
• Increased well-being
• Increased optimism and hope
• Better physical health management
• Improved mood • Improved quality of life
• Decreased stress levels
• Increased ability to maintain a work-life balance
What can you do?
Studies have shown that lack of self care isn't something new. One hair care company conducted a study involving 3,000 women. While a whopping 84% admitted they let their appearance slide, over 94% revealed that they feel better when they take measures toward their own self care. So, if we feel better when we take the time to care for ourselves, why don’t we make it a priority?
Many people don’t know where to start. Starting small and making a few minor changes may encourage you to make a few more alterations in the right direction. Here are a few ideas you can try.
1. Exercise – walk, run, go for a bicycle ride, practice yoga, dance. Find something you love and do that.
2. Read a book, take a walk in nature, listen to soothing music, watch a funny movie.
3. Donate your time to an organization you resonate with.
4. Clean out your closet – anything with rips/holes/stains, either fix or toss.
5. Get a long overdue manicure, pedicure or haircut.
6. Take a long bath, go for a walk, call a friend, clean out a drawer, donate gently used toys/clothes.
7. Shop at your local farmers' market, try a new vegetable, buy organic produce or start a vegetarian night.
8. Schedule a “date night” with your partner.
9. Connect with others (however you can these days). Share your concerns and how you are feeling with a friend or family member. Maintain healthy relationships.
10. Turn off the news. Avoid excessive exposure to media coverage that negatively impacts your mood (e.g., COVID-19, politics).
Believe it or not, these minor changes encourage you to take better care of yourself because they make you feel better. Then you may want to eat better, exercise, find healthier outlets for stress control, etc. By taking care of yourself, you are making yourself stronger, more resilient, and also better able to care for others – which is exactly what we all need right now.
Photo from here, with thanks.