The Importance of Self-Care for our Health
- May 20, 2021
- by Diane Duvall
Self-care can be an important part of our personal health and well-being. Although professional healthcare can play a vital role in prevention and health promotion, a strong focus on self-care can help us to build resilience and lessen the need for “sick-care” through our healthcare systems.
Self-care means giving attention to and supporting one’s own physical, spiritual and mental health. The more we are able to protect our personal health the less of a burden there is on society and the more effective healthcare is. Healthcare does not solve all problems. A lot of health problems are a result of lifestyle. When we receive a diagnosis, it is often a wake-up call to take personal action. For example, when a patient learns they have high cholesterol and is put on medicine they should also start taking better care of themselves. They can increase physical activity, practice stress management, eliminate fast foods, increase non-starchy vegetables, add fiber rich foods, etc.
Regularly taking care of ourselves can strengthen our immune system, improve our ability to handle challenges and reduce the risk of getting burned out from life’s responsibilities. Let’s look at the role of self-care in terms of protecting and promoting overall health for our mind and body.
Nutrition: Although you may correlate things such as massages and walks by the sea as self-care (and they are wonderful aspects of self-care), mindful eating is an important facet of self-care. Mindful eating isn’t about always making perfect choices but of being aware of how you feel as you eat. It can help you to slow down, turn away from distractions and enjoy your food and the experience of eating. Listen to your body for hunger cues and the sensation of feeling full. Focus on foods you can add that nourish you rather than what must be restricted. Find balance with the 80/20 rule in which you eat nutritious foods 80 percent of the time and save a serving of your favorite treat for the other 20 percent. Fuel your body with real, whole foods from nature and fill your plate with colorful plant foods. Remember to keep a water bottle nearby. Even mild dehydration can affect a person’s mood, energy level and ability to think clearly. Avoid cravings and the need to grab unhealthy foods by being prepared with meal and snack planning.
Supplements can play a role in assuring adequate nutrients and filling dietary gaps. Consider a daily multi-vitamin, a probiotic and a fish oil supplement. Vegan sources of omega 3’s include chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds and spirulina and chlorella. Consult your healthcare provider for the best supplements for your personal needs.
Quality Sleep: Sleep is extremely important to our health and quality of life. Poor quality sleep can leave us feeling sluggish, moody, unsociable, and with an increased appetite for high calorie foods. Establish a regular bedtime and wake time that allows for 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Have a wind-down routine that includes limiting screen time, relaxing activities such as reading, prayer or light yoga, and being in a cool, dark room.
If racing thoughts prevent sleep it can help to focus on breathing. Take several deep, careful breaths and focus on your heart while inhaling and exhaling. To help prevent racing thoughts try to eliminate stress for a few hours before sleep with a relaxing routine and incorporate stress relief practices into your day (see below). By allowing yourself time to address stress during the day and spending time relaxing before bed you can help assure a better night’s sleep.
Take a Break from Stress: Listen to your body and watch for signs of too much stress. Muscle tension, headaches, stomach distress, frequent illness, overeating or difficulty sleeping can be signs of stress overload. Big chunks of self-care like vacations and spa days help us to recharge and refresh but remember to also fit in small bits of daily self-care. Deep breathing techniques and incorporating aromatherapy and music can be therapeutic and restorative. Movement and fresh air can help our well-being. When you can’t get outside add movement such as small bits of exercise or stretching with yoga.
Journaling can help us process our thoughts and balance our emotions. Examine your thoughts. Are you feeding your mind with hope, truth and love? Harness the power of optimism. Stay positive and practice gratitude, acknowledging the good things in your day and life. Find what replenishes you. Even activities such as decluttering a room or making your bed can be acts of self-care when they help you feel more productive and calmer.
Physical Activity: Incorporate physical activity into each day. Stand rather than sit, take the stairs, stretch, garden, go for a walk, play with your children. Exercise improves our health, increases our energy levels, improves brain function and lifts our overall mood. As a general goal aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise daily. Setting a goal is a great way to get started with physical activity. Set positive goals such as, “I will walk for at least 20 minutes after dinner each weekday.”
Social Connections: Make time to be with friends and family. Social connections are important to our physical, mental and emotional health. Family, friends, co-workers and community connections can be a lasting source of emotional support. Social connections are vital for combating loneliness, dealing with stress and increasing happiness. While face-to-face interactions are most meaningful, phone calls, text messaging and video chat can also keep us connected.
Self-care is a holistic approach to personal health. It is a personal matter and everyone’s approach may be a little different. For each category above develop a self-care plan that is individual to you and supports your personal well-being. Prioritizing self-care can be challenging in our busy lives. We invite you to call us today to learn more about how our 12-Week Lifestyle Program or our Balanced Living Program can help you develop a self-care plan that is right for you.
-Diane Duvall, Life Coach and Certified Health Coach for the Lifestyle Medicine Practice of Dr. Geni Abraham, Board Certified, American Board of Internal Medicine. Our Internal Medicine Practice is an integrated medical practice with a focus on Lifestyle Medicine. We offer health coaching sessions to help you reach your personal goals. Dr. Geni Abraham, Medical Specialists of the Palm Beaches, Inc., 205 JFK Drive, Atlantis FL 33462. Phone: (561) 432-8935, Visit DrGeniAbraham.com and Follow us on Facebook: @DrGeniAbraham