If the events of the past two years have taught us anything, it’s the importance of self-care.
Between 2020 and 2021 alone, depression rates among U.S. adults tripled largely due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and symptoms were more intense than before the pandemic.
Self-care is an essential part of your physical, mental and emotional health, which is why it’s crucial to make it a priority by working it into your daily and weekly routines. Establishing self-care routines can be challenging for those with busy schedules, but there are a lot of little steps that can be taken to carve out a few minutes each day to prioritize wellness for a holistic approach to feeling better.
For example, you can:
● Wake up 15 minutes earlier to enjoy a relaxing cup of coffee or tea
● Break up your self-care time into five to ten-minute intervals throughout the day so they are easier to commit to and get done
● Choose a slower time of day and reserve 30 minutes for exercise
● Take five-minute breaks in between meetings or assignments to stretch or move around
● Practice an evening self-care routine that includes 10 minutes of time set aside for a calming activity like journaling, meditation or listening to soothing music
● Warm baths can be physically and mentally soothing, comforting and relaxing
No matter how packed your schedule looks, it is vital to try to take at least a few minutes to give yourself a little TLC. Below we share why you shouldn’t overlook the importance of self-care and how you can establish an effective self-care routine.
What is Self-Care?
You may be wondering – what exactly is self-care, anyway? Self-care tends to be a buzzword that is thrown around in a lot of different contexts. Put simply, self-care is when you set aside time to focus on yourself and your overall health and happiness-doing something just for yourself.
Your mental and physical health impacts every aspect of your life and the things you can enjoy. This means self-care is a critical part of:
● Maintaining healthy relationships
● Keeping your stress in check
● Lowering your risk of illness
● Increasing your energy
● Understanding the coping techniques that help you manage your mental health
● Decreasing your cortisol levels
What Are the Benefits of Self-Care?
In a 2021 survey, U.S. adults identified some of the benefits of self-care as follows.
● 64% reported enhanced self-confidence
● 67% reported increased productivity
● 71% reported improved happiness
Increased focus, positivity and concentration are also important benefits of self-care.
In general, self-care impacts three main buckets of your well-being:
1. Your physical health
2. Your mental health
3. Your emotional and sexual health
Practicing self-care has been proven to strengthen your immune system and make you less susceptible to illness. It can also reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer and stroke. Even walking just 20 minutes per day can improve your physical health and boost your mood.
The obvious foundation of physical self-care is rooted in your doctor’s office with yearly examinations, but it really extends far beyond those four walls with daily engagement of your physical body, which includes work on cardiovascular strength and endurance along with utilization of muscles to delay attenuation. This whole-body approach facilitates not only long-lasting muscle regeneration and stabilization, but also elevated and lasting endorphins that support that energy and drive we all desire.
Some activities you can incorporate in a physical self-care routine include:
● Getting regular exercise
● Eating a balanced diet
● Scheduling recommended health screenings
● Protecting your skin from damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun
● Getting enough sleep
● Staying hydrated
Establishing a skincare routine is also a great way to practice self-care and improve your physical health and appearance. Healthy skin keeps your entire body healthier, helps prevent skin problems and increases protection from the elements and environmental stressors. Enhancing the look of your skin can also promote self-confidence, which in turn elevates your feelings of joy.
Taking care of ourselves mentally is also key to our overall wellness.
Adding a mental check-in to your daily self-care routine along with physical activity works to continue to elevate the much sought-after endorphin rush. A few ways to reap the mental benefits of self-care include:
● Going to talk therapy
● Setting goals and priorities
● Keeping a gratitude journal
● Maintaining a positive attitude
● Spending time outdoors
● Staying connected to friends and family
● Adequate rest
● Listening to music you enjoy
● Reading a book
● Adopting/learning a relaxing hobby such as knitting, crocheting, sewing, collage-making, painting, drawing, playing chess, etc.
● Practicing mindfulness
Beyond this actual inner reflection and focus, taking time to care for the mind and body also can add a mental component of contentment. Engaging with products that enhance your feelings and overall mental wellbeing is vital. For me, my skincare and beauty regimes are a daily ritual that I look forward to. A morning self-care routine sets the mood for my entire day, and it also helps wind me down after a long day of work. Additionally, for me, a big element of my skincare routines besides the intended benefits of the products, is how they positively affect my mental and overall well-being when I make time to pamper and take care of myself this way.
Create A Self-Care Routine You Can Follow
Now that you understand the importance and benefits of self-care, it’s time to create your own self-care routine. I recommend writing it down to identify the specifics of what self-care will look like for you and to remind yourself of alternatives whenever feelings of stress or negativity ever start to encroach. A reminder list of activities that bring joy, friends or family to reach out to, or books or podcasts that you may be interested in or find inspirational can be helpful to reroute ourselves should we start feeling down. It is crucial to disrupt a negative loop or feelings of downward spiraling, and this process will help to keep you accountable and to instill patterns and habits of self care.
When putting together your plan, make sure it’s:
● Realistic: Do you have enough time in your day and resources available to incorporate the things included in your self-care routine?
● Comprehensive: Make sure there’s a balance of the different types of self-care, including physical, mental, emotional and sexual.
● Customized: Self-care is all about keeping YOU happy and healthy. Are the things in your self-care routine activities that you enjoy? Your routine should become something you look forward to – not another thing to just send you feelings of you “have to do” or just go through the motions with.
● Affordable and Convenient/ Accessible- it is important to find activities that bring us joy without adding extra stress to pay for or get to them. The less stressful they are to do or access, the more likely you are to stick with or incorporate them into your day.
● Moisturize your face with a gentle massage or use of a roller
● Don’t forget to hydrate your hands, cuticles and the skin on your body too!
For example, if you wanted to create a daily skincare routine, you could:
● Start or end your day by freshening up with cleanser and moisturizer
● Protect your skin from UV rays – no matter the season
● Make sure you’re using products with ingredients that provide the best quality for your skin
● Always remove make-up or sunscreen before going to bed
● Moisture dry skin after cleansing or bathing/showering
Creating an effective self-care routine takes time, but the benefits of self-care far outweigh the time commitment. Your health, body and mind will thank you for it!
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