The Importance of Self-Care and How to Get Started

Self-care is a phrase that you might hear frequently, but you might not know exactly what it means, why it is important, or how to get started if you have been neglecting this important part of your life. Many people believe that self-care is mostly about caring for one’s physical needs. While this is a vital part of boosting your overall health, there is so much more to it. Read on to learn more about self-care and why you should begin making small changes to achieve a healthier you.

What Is Self-Care?

Self-care is when you take an active role in caring for your overall well-being. While many of us consider physical health to be the most important part of staying healthy, caring for your mental, emotional, social, and spiritual needs are just as important. Having a holistic mindset means focusing on all of what makes you healthy in all aspects of life.

Many times, people who are going through stressful times get busy and put self-care, particularly the non-physical parts of self-care, on the back burner. This can apply to busy teenagers, parents, working adults, caregivers, and anyone who is dealing with stress, anxiety, or depression. Identifying ways that you can meet your own needs can lead to greater satisfaction and fewer negative effects from the daily and extenuating circumstances that lead to stress and a feeling of unease.

Why Is Self-Care Important?

If you have ever flown, you have heard the advice to secure your own oxygen mask before helping someone else should an emergency occur. When you are dealing with any type of stressful situation, whether it is daily stress or some traumatic event, it is important to take care of yourself so you can better deal with the situation. When you don’t take care of your physical, emotional, or mental health, any stress that you experience will affect you more and can seem much worse than it would seem if you were taking care of your whole self.

Self-care also helps you to get to know yourself better. As you become more in tune with your own needs, you will begin to automatically take actions that allow you to feel healthier and better able to cope with adverse events that come up. Remember that getting started with self-care is a process; rather than overwhelming yourself with a list of things you must be doing, start small and with just one or two lifestyle changes. As those become more natural, you can add in more small changes. Over the course of several weeks, months, or even years, you will see that you are getting healthier in all aspects of your life.

Caring for Your Physical Self

Meeting your physical needs and caring for your physical self is an important part of not only staying physically healthy but also boosting your mental and emotional health. Many people choose to start with conscious decisions regarding their physical health when they are just starting out on the self-care journey. Here are some lifestyle changes to consider making that will help you be more physically healthy.

  • Get enough sleep. During times of stress, it is easy to neglect your sleep needs. Unfortunately, not getting enough sleep can lead to a host of other physical and mental health issues. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep if you are an adult and nine hours of sleep if you are a teenager. Talk to your doctor if you are suffering from insomnia or sleep disturbances.
  • Eat healthy foods. When life gets stressful, it is easy to depend on fast food, junk food, and convenience food. Instead, make the conscious effort to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy sources of protein. Make it easier on yourself by purchasing small containers of yogurt, granola bars, and pre-cut fruit if it will make you more likely to turn to these items rather than chips or candy.
  • Go for a walk. Even if you don’t have time for a daily workout, you can still get in short walks throughout the course of the day. Exercise will help you out both physically and mentally, so strive to get in at least 30 minutes of activity each day.

Caring for Your Mental Self

If you are struggling with your mental health and have signs of anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, it is important to address them. Meeting your physical needs is one way to make yourself more mentally healthy. You can also try relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga, journaling, or guided imagery. Take some time each day to relax and breathe. If you are still struggling, talk to your doctor; counseling or medication can make all the difference in the world when it comes to coping with stress.

Caring for Your Emotional Self

Your social and spiritual needs are important parts of your emotional happiness. Carve out some time to take care of yourself in these aspects. Depending on your beliefs, you might enjoy going for a walk in nature, attending worship services, singing, going to discussion groups, or finding some other way to connect with yourself and a higher power, if you believe in one.

If you are feeling isolated socially, try volunteering, attending a book group or another type of community group based on your interests, or simply making the effort to talk to your neighbors. Connecting with other people can help you improve your emotional and mental health; it can also allow you to get support for some of the stress that you are dealing with.

Self-care will help you to be healthier in all parts of your life and will also help you cope with the stress that comes up in everyone’s life. If you find that you are struggling, try just one or two of the lifestyle changes suggested above or reach out to a therapist, a support group, or your physician for more help and guidance.