Self-care. It’s a term we’ve heard more and more these days, and it may conjure ideas of bubble baths, manicures, alone time in the man cave or in front of Netflix with wine. But more than just a new age buzzword, self-care has become increasingly important as the nation — and the international community — struggle in new and uncertain times. And science says it’s more than self-indulgence or a marketing pitch, it’s survival.
Self-care is generally defined as the effort needed to eat and hydrate properly, reduce stress, and build resilience for the challenges of today’s modern life. And it’s no surprise with the prevalence of technology, the need to work, and oftentimes the effort required to manage a home, finances, and child-rearing, self-care may not be at the top of your list. Typically, the time to invest into one’s own mental health takes a backseat to nearly all other obligations, but science has found out putting yourself last may be a major contributing factor to not only your sense of stress, but also your unshakable sense of burnout.
“What concerns me is that all too often, I see strong, successful professionals succumb to illness and get really, really sick and only then do they manage to get the much needed break to catch their breath or slow down and change direction,” said New York-based clinician Maria Baratta, Ph.D., L.C.S.W. “I think there’s a better way, and incorporating self care every day helps to serve as an armor to protect the energy that we need in order to survive and thrive.”
In fact, self-care can act as “emotional first aid” during particularly stressful times, explains Alice Boyes, Ph.D., author of The Anxiety Toolkit. When faced with a particularly high level stressor — the loss of a job, a breakup, or like now, a health crisis — self-care can help shuffle your focus away from the negativity. By putting well-being first, Boyes says, it can help replenish energy levels, help balance out your patience and improve your efficiency, thus increasing your ability to face your stressors head on. And don’t just think it requires a bath or alone time — it can be anything you do to step out of your current stresses, and can be enhanced by setting boundaries to avoid new ones. (Struggle with saying no? Click here to learn how to say no without the guilt).
Those moments of decompression should also take place more often than just after work, Baratta suggests. Be mindful of the cues that indicate you might be in need of a break. Have you noticed you’re unable to focus? Have you found yourself clumsier than usual? It might be time to step away. Turning down the distractions, taking a brief walk, and hydrating for even just a few minutes will help your brain pause. And don’t presume that because you are home, your stress level is lower. The temptation to throw in a load of laundry in the midst of your work-from-home schedule can be tempting, but this can also lead to an even blurrier line between work and life. Try and keep to your typical work schedule, with the aforementioned “pauses.” Then, schedule yourself daily “me time” to recharge. (If it involves wine or binge-watching your favorite show, so be it. These are the moments you can indulge.)
And now more than ever, exercise can be helpful in both building immunity and reducing stress. Given the current global climate, it may seem more daunting than ever to find the time or enthusiasm to workout. But workouts at home are readily available, with and without the addition of equipment. And with plenty of options to modify the challenges, plus scaleable workouts to fit into your schedule, exercise can be the perfect complement to your other self-care plans. Click here for workouts from home using VENT Fitness’ online library of customizable workouts, group exercise, and workouts of the day.
Regardless of how you choose to mandate your self-care, the key is to treat it as a non-negotiable. As people globally are adapting to our new circumstances, it’s more crucial than ever to be mindful of your own level of health and well-being. Now is the time to set aside a few minutes each day, throughout the day, for ensuring you are your strongest, both physically and mentally.
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