Tips and Strategies for Self Care

by Hannah Gabr

Everyone has the capacity to reach a ‘breaking point’- a moment of great strain at which someone or something gives way, whether that is physically, mentally, emotionally or all three at once. The idea of self-care is to recognize these moments before they happen, and to take a few moments to care for yourself. Effective strategies for self-care differ from person to person, and it is important for the healing process. Because each person is unique, each individual should have a “self care plan” in place, similar to how you may make “in case of emergency” plans.

There are essentially three areas that everyone should pay special attention to when it comes to self care: mind, body, and soul/spirit.

Body

The body is the physical manifestation of the human being. It contains cells, bones, organs, tissues, and many other biological mechanisms that are essential to survival. All these systems are inextricably linked, and when one system fails, the others tend to as well.

Food: Eating regularly and nutritiously: make sure your food has plenty of nutrients and will give you fuel throughout your day. Calorically dense foods (like fast food) often have the opposite effect, they tend to make you feel tired. Fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains are great examples of foods that will nourish your body.

Exercise: 30 minutes of exercise is recommended at least 5 times per week. Although it is difficult to find the time and energy to exercise, try doing at home workouts, or at least stretches and mild movements to keep your muscles active. Have you ever been sitting on the couch for awhile and feel like you just can’t get comfortable? That’s a definite sign that you need to get moving for a few minutes. An added tip is to get up AND drink water (killing two birds with one stone 🙂 ).

Sleep: Sleep is the way our brain recharges. Sleep, like food and water, is essential to optimal functioning and well being. Lack of sleep (especially chronic) can lead to health problems, like depression, over-eating, high blood pressure, and decreased ability to focus. The guideline is 7-10 hours of sleep per night. The more stress you are under, the sleep you need.

Medical Care: If your car had a flat tire, would you keep driving it? The same should apply to our bodies: if you are having health issues, you should take your body into the ‘shop’ (the doctor’s office) because driving on a flat tire can lead to many complications that could even cause irreversible damage, and turn into a problem that is even more expensive and difficult to manage.

Soul and Spirit:

I like to think of the soul as the non-physical aspect of a human being. This is the part of who we are that often asks questions, like ‘Who am I,” “What is the purpose of life?” Our souls communicate creative expression and seek out enlightenment. Just like the body, the soul needs to be “fed” to be healthy. Our spirit is similar, while some believe in a god, others may simply believe in the energy that is our universe and that is life. Each person’s spirituality is unique and individual to them, and having some form of spirituality is an essential part of self-care. Here are some tips for keeping our souls and our spirits healthy:

Find creative process that you enjoy and explore them: this doesn’t have to be composing the next 5th symphony, but expressing yourself creatively is essential for self-care. Forms of creativity are essentially anything that comes from within and is expressed: creating art, music, dance, writing, designing, building, cooking… the possibilities are endless.

Don’t be afraid to explore and embrace the hard questions in life: For example, questions like: Why am I here? What makes me happy? What are my passions? Where do I really want to be in 10 years? Often, people do not dwell on these questions for in can create a sense of anxiety and uncertainty; however, ignoring these questions will facilitate a lack of direction, as will obsessing about these questions. They are something to consider, and the answers will change more often than you think. Don’t hesitate to satisfy curiosity; travel if you can, experience new things, don’t be afraid to say yes to new opportunities, even if that could mean a radical change. Being able to adapt to change and the change that arises within yourself is essential the health of any soul or spirit.

Don’t try to fake or force happiness: We hear about it all the time; the husband that was married for twenty years and had a mid-life crisis and left his family. The company executive that dropped their career and their ‘successes’ and moved to Hawaii. All these scenarios consist of people who reached a breaking point- perhaps if they took the time to consider the important internal questions, especially involving happiness and true passions, then they wouldn’t have felt as though they needed to drop everything and start over.

Take the time to heal and to grow. In today’s society, we often feel rushed. From a young age, we are asked by our mentors what we want to do when “we grow up,” only to be told we have to do this or that by this time or we may never be successful. We encourage people to dream, but once they do, we often invalidate those dreams with “real world logic” as to why those dreams aren’t really practical or feasible. And so, as a society, we push people to figure out their entire life path by age 18 or 19; those of us that don’t already know this path feel as though there is something wrong with us. Recognize that these are simply social constructs, that time is simply days on a calendar. The time it takes people to heal and grow differs, and don’t become impatient with yourself or with those around you.

Mind

This is our mental and emotional aspect of the human being. Our minds process thoughts, ideas, emotions and feelings into memories, imagination, and consciousness/awareness.

Some tips for self-care of the mind:

Don’t try to bottle up emotions: The longer and further you push strong emotions down, the hotter and more pressurized they will become, and this could end up in a volcanic eruption, or reaching your breaking point.

Build a trusted support network: Part of self-care is also knowing that you have others you can rely on for help. Having a support network that you can confide in and depend on can relieve a great burden of stress from life’s adversity. These can be friends or family; seeking out professional help, like a therapist, can be very beneficial.

Recognize helpful and harmful coping mechanisms: Be aware that there are some methods you may use to rewind and relax that may actually be isolating yourself and adding harm rather than caring for yourself. Everything is okay in moderation, like having a drink or a piece of cake, but once it becomes a daily thing that you use as an excuse to stay at home alone or adding harm to your mental well being, then it is probably time to find a new coping mechanism that works better. Some suggestions for beneficial strategies are exercising, learning to cook healthy meals, cleaning, catching up with friends, and learning new skills. The best strategies are ones that truly (not artificially and temporarily) reduce stress and lead to a feeling of accomplishment. Everyone has different things that work for them, so keep testing the water and you will eventually find something that best suits you.

Now that you have read some of my tips, it’s best that you devise your own plan for future self-care. I recommend doing research and talking to those around you about what they do as forms of self-care, and seeing what interests you. Self-care is vital for happiness, and it is okay to be selfish sometimes and think of your own needs.

Sources: Artwork by Hannah Gabr

https://www.uky.edu/StudentAffairs/VIPCenter/downloads/self%20care%20defined.pdf

http://sanctuary.net/mind-body-soul-spirit-integration/

If you liked this piece check out: The Clarity Box

Tags: Healing, Identity