by Catherine King MSc. CSCS
Whether you believe life is like a box of chocolates or a crazy rollercoaster ride filled with ups and downs, it is vital to remember to take time out to care for yourself. Life is busy with conflicting priorities and stressors. We experience daily routine stressors from our regular responsibilities, and we can experience major stressors from negative life events. Stressors can be chronic or a one-time occurrence. Not all stress is bad. For instance, exercise is a stressor. However, long-term stress can have a very negative impact on our health.
Stress can disrupt:
· Immune system
· Cardiovascular system
· Reproductive system
Additionally, over time chronic negative stress may contribute to:
· Heart disease
· High blood pressure
At times, we may experience periods of high anxiety, stress, depression, or even negative self-talk. That is when self-care is needed most. However, if we develop a consistent practice for self-care, we can be more resilient with better mechanisms for coping with adversity.
We hear about self-care a lot, so what is it? Essentially, according to Oxford Languages, self-care is “the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.” This may mean different things to different people.
The type of self-care required will depend on your individual needs. Regularly practising self-care will provide you with a strong sense of resiliency. This will make it less likely that you will engage in negative coping mechanisms, such as excessively consuming alcohol or other negative behaviours. Negative coping mechanisms may be harmful to your health, not aligned with who you want to be, and may derail your goals.
For individuals who experience negative thought loops and negative self-talk, practising blocking negative thoughts and reframing to positive self-talk may be needed. Would you tell a loved one they are not good enough or a failure? Of course not, so why let that inner voice tell yourself such unhelpful things. The self-care needed might include reaching out for help from a professional for cognitive behavioural therapy or developing other skills to attain a more positive mindset. It is extremely challenging to change. Asking for support and assistance is always a good thing when it is needed.
If you experience anxiety, practising meditation, breathwork, or mindfulness might be what you need. Again, these can be challenging, which is why we practise them. Often, our minds will race, making it difficult to feel Zen-like, but just like with exercise, you need to put in the reps.
Other forms of self-care include adequate sleep, a healthy diet, regular physical activity, time for hobbies that bring joy, and time spent in nature.
Behaviours can be an ongoing habit or a one-time action.
Here are some possible options for self-care:
- · Download a meditation app or podcast
- · Journal
- · Practise four square breathing
- · Interrupt a negative thought by telling yourself, “this is not serving me”
- · Go for a walk outside
- · Schedule in a spa treatment
- · Exercise
- · Have a nap
- · Take a bath
- · Practise gratitude
- · Adopt essentialism
- · Implement BJ Fogg’s Maui Habit
AFTER I wake up and put my feet on the floor,
I WILL say, “It’s going to be a great day.”
When feeling really stressed and pulled in many directions, it is hard to give yourself permission to care for yourself. Listen to the flight attendant: put your oxygen mask on first. After giving yourself permission to take time for self-care, consider the type of person you want to be. Do you want to be anxious or highly stressed? Do you want to be resilient and adaptable? Do you want to have a closed fixed mindset or an open mindset? Are your current behaviours aligned with the vision of who you want to be? Habits are powerful in that they can change our beliefs about ourselves. Self-care habits can change us from someone who is stressed to someone who is resilient.
It might not be realistic to suddenly become someone who meditates for half an hour every morning. However, taking a deep breath and setting an intention for the day might be totally doable. If that is still too great of an ask, simply breathe out.
Align your habits and behaviours with your goals and desired identity. Make the new habit as easy as possible. Remember, on a scale of zero to ten you should have a confidence level of nine or ten that you can accomplish the new habit. If not, make it even easier or choose another option. Find a prompt to remind you to do the new self-care habit. The prompt in the Maui Habit is placing your feet on the floor. Experiment with different possible habit changes to find what works best for you. Discard the ones that don’t work. Change your environment to support your new habit: place a yoga mat where you plan on practising; download a sleep meditation app; or organize your room to eliminate chaos. Make one small habit change at a time, automate it, and build on your success. Feel good about the actions you are taking, and believe that change is possible.
If you have any questions regarding self-care, healthy habits, and behaviour change, contact Catherine at firstname.lastname@example.org
5 things you should know about stress. Retrieved February 16, 2021, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml#:~:text=Over%20time%2C%20continued%20strain%20on,such%20as%20depression%20or%20anxiety.
Clear, J. (2018). Atomic Habits: An easy & proven way to build good habits & break bad ones. New York, New York: Penguin Random House.
Davis, T. (2018, December 28). Self-Care: 12 ways to take better care of yourself. Retrieved February 18, 2021, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/click-here-happiness/201812/self-care-12-ways-take-better-care-yourself
Fogg, B. J. (2020). Tiny habits: The small changes that change everything. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.