What Is Self-Care and Why Is It Important?
Updated: May 26, 2020
According to WebMD, 75-90% of visits to the doctor are stress related ailments and complaints. I can say the underlying reason for most visits to my office are for the same thing. Through the Rolfing process, I suggest my clients take the time early in our work to identify and become aware of some resources for themselves so their “issues don’t stay in your tissues” and they can become resilient and regain their vitality that was once taken away by stress. What I would like to do is encourage you to explore some things you can do for yourself to minimize your levels of stress through a concept known as self-care. Self-care has become more mainstream in the past few years for good reason. There's an epidemic of anxiety, depression, work stress, keeping up with technology's text messages, emails, social media, etc. People are burned out, feeling lonely, unable to wind down and relax. If you take the time to help yourself, it will be easier to alleviate your strain and pain as well as offer a myriad of other benefits to your well-being. My question to you is, what do you do to take care of yourself? You might think to yourself, “That’s an odd question Elias. Can you just dig your elbow in my back?” Not so fast! Let us explore what I mean.
What is self-care?
Self-care is any activity that we do consciously to take care of our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health. In theory, it is a simple concept. It is something we very often overlook. Good self-care is important to improved mood and reduced stress. It is also key to a good relationship with yourself and others.
Self-care is also anything we do to recharge ourselves or fill our energy cups. It is not something we have to do rather it is something we enjoy doing. Self-care requires checking in with yourself. Ask yourself, "How am I doing," " What does my body want?" Wait for the feeling or answer to emerge and see what the first thing to come up is. Self-care might mean something different to each person and each person's self-care practices will differ. Your personal practices might differ from one day to another as well. Whatever your definition of self-care is, doing it often and consistently will help be at your best no matter what is going on in your life.
What self-care is not?
Self-care is not selfish. Look, if you work a lot, have plenty of responsibilities, care for elderly parents, have kids, etc., trust me, doing something for yourself is not selfish. If you have kids like my nephews who always want to play “Let’s beat up Uncle Louie” (my nickname is Louie) for 2 hours every time I see them, I’m pretty sure you deserve a coffee with your best friend and taking a walk in the forest preserves. Self-care does not have to cost you anything. Luxurious spa treatments are nice if that's what you define as self-care but I encourage you to explore a variety of options at a cost and no cost.
Self-Care as a Key to a Balanced Life
At first, you can focus on creating a routine and over time you can add new things you would like to do or try. Start with something simple and sustainable.
Pay attention to how it makes you feel. Your feelings about what you are doing will guide you and give you feedback. If you are not deriving joy or benefit from it, do not do it. Find something else and choose with conscious effort. Ask yourself, “what am I curious about that I would like to try,”"what brings me satisfaction?"
Self-care is something you plan and schedule ahead of time. From this time to this time, I am doing (___________). Put it in your calendar.
Types of Self-Care: Physical, Emotional, Spiritual
Eating balanced, nutritious meals. A healthy diet has all the necessary biochemical raw materials to produce hormones, neurotransmitters, healthy thoughts, and emotions. If you need help identifying what is the appropriate diet for yourself, you can read the blog post titled, 'Ask a Rolfer: What Are Your Personal Tools for Workout Recovery.' There you can find a list of practitioners I have consulted with over the years to help me stay sharp, strong, energized, and productive.
Sleeping enough. 7-8 hours is recommended by health professionals. The most under-rated thing we can do to build health and process our day. And it is free!
Take a nap. 20 minutes is all you need to re-energize.
Movement and Exercise: Movement is essential to life. Being stagnant is detrimental to our health. Just get moving. Find something you enjoy whether it is dance, weightlifting, swimming, running, martial arts, yoga, hikes or walks in the neighborhood. It must be something you enjoy.
Use a dry heat or infrared sauna regularly. Studies show 20 minutes at 4x/week are enough to promote health benefits. Extreme heat temperatures are excellent at challenging the body making us more resilient to stress.
Jump into a cold body of water or take a cold shower. It is the same concept as the sauna. Extreme temperatures challenge the autonomic nervous system and train it to adapt more easily to these types of stressors. The benefits are well documented for our immune, hormonal and circulatory system.
Spend time with your family, friends, and pets. We need each other and human interaction. Hugging, handshaking, high-fiving, and touch in general has a beneficial effect on our immune system and it helps us feel calm, connected, supported, relaxed.
Catch up with a friend from across the street and take a walk or grab a coffee. Call a friend who lives in another state or country. I am sure they will be glad to hear from you.
Hire a counselor who practices holistically. Someone who promotes well-being. These professionals are well-versed and aware of self-care being in the helping profession. This is a great resource for helping you find self-care tools as well as help you transform unresolved conflicts into lessons helping you to grow.
Take dedicated breaks throughout the day.
Catch some comedy and start laughing. In Chicago, there are more than 65 open mic nights every week (last I heard) not including some of the larger venues for well-known comedians. See what is going on in your city or try a laughing yoga class.
Catch some local music or grab tickets to your favorite artists who will be coming to your town.
Join a meetup group for a book club, running club etc. Explore different groups to see what works best for you.
Check out an art fair or go to a neighborhood art walk.
See if your city museum has special theme nights.
Take an open drive on the highway.
Take a mindfulness course or find a meditation group to sit with regularly. Meditation, mindfulness, and concentration exercises are well-documented to be beneficial.
Attend a religious service.
Spend some time in nature.
Volunteer for an organization you believe in.
Write in a journal and think about what you are grateful for.
Other Self-Care Resources
Get your health and dental check-up. It is good to know where you stand here and if you need to improve on anything.
Schedule a Rolfing® session. Long-held stress can store itself in the body and affect your posture and alignment. Watch your vitality increase in just a session or go through the Ten Series to transform your body.
Schedule a massage, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, or any health-related service that’s relaxing. These are all wonderful options for helping you feel amazing.
This is not an exhaustive list, but they are some ideas. Explore the things you can do regularly. Let me know if this has helped you. I would love the feedback. Share with your family and friends. If you have any questions or would like me to write about a topic, I am here for you, send me a message. If you are interested in a Rolfing session, feel free to reach out and connect with me at one of my locations in the Chicagoland area. Have fun exploring!