The Power of Self-Care: What’s in it for me?

The Power of Self-Care: What’s in it for me?

Taking care of ourselves is something we do everyday, right?  We get ourselves up in the morning, we brush our teeth, feed ourselves, get ourselves out the door, and some days we may even add in a little meditation, yoga or exercise.  We hear the words “take care” all the time, as a form of goodbye, even from strangers.  But what does it really mean, and what exactly is self-care?

Self-care is any activity that individuals engage in, as a way of promoting their own health and well-being (Omisakin and Ncama, 2011).  This can range in a variety of activities that focus on overall promotion of physical health, mental health, meets psychological and social needs, and prevents illness (Omisakin and Ncama, 2011).  Self-care is a strategy that is often used to prevent stress-related illnesses, and is often promoted in specific types of professions, where the profession is identified as being a high-stress job, such as the healthcare professions (Schure, Christopher and Christopher, 2015).   Self-care can range from someone being able to complete tasks such as activities of daily living, which include things like taking care of personal hygiene, feeding oneself, and bathing (McHugh Pendleton and Schultz-Krohn, 2013) to higher level forms of self-care such as meditation, yoga, and mindfulness (Schure, Christopher and Christopher, 2015).  Because we enjoy ease-ing stress levels and helping individuals reduce their overall stress, we’re going to focus on the impact of self-care on stress reduction.  Regardless of where you are on the spectrum of self-care, we’re proud of you for all that you accomplish each day!  Each person is at a unique place in life, and any type of self-care is a great success!

The Science Behind Self-Care and Stress Reduction

We all know that chronic stress can be detrimental to our health (see our first blog post – The Science of Stress Reduction: Facing ‘Bears’ in the Woods) and finding ways to manage our day-to-day stress can have a positive impact on our well-being and our overall health.  So, let’s take a look at how incorporating a self-care routine can reduce stress levels.

In 2008, Schure, Christopher, and Christopher studied the impact of incorporating a mindfulness-based self-care routine to graduate students in a high-stress program.  Students were to engage in a 15-week routine, which included yoga, meditation, and Qigong.  At the end of the study, students reported the effects of the self-care routine, and it may not be surprising to hear that students reported positive outcomes in many interpersonal life areas.  Students noted physical health benefits, including higher levels of physical strength/balance, and getting sick less frequently; positive emotional benefits, such as increased ability in managing negative emotions; positive effects on their belief system, including higher level of confidence in their own values; and finally, the students reported higher capacities for empathy.  This study goes to show how powerful self-care routines can be, especially when they incorporate a mindfulness-based program (see our two blog posts – Keep Calm and Ommm: How Meditation Can Ease Your Mind, Body, and Soul as well as Drop and Give Me Zen: The Power of Yoga in Stress Reduction).

Tips to Practicing Self-Care

Making a more focused effort at incorporating self-care into your life might feel like one more thing to add to the list.  And let’s be honest – you’re probably already pretty good at taking care of yourself!  But, if you’re interested in adding a little more self-care to your days, we’ve come up with a few tips that may make self-care a bit ease-ier for you!

Make Time For Self-Care – This may sound easier said than done, especially when we all have busy schedules.  But carving out specific time for self-care can have huge positive benefits – even if you start with 10 minutes per day – that’s 10 minutes more than you were doing before!

Find What Works Best For You – Self-care can be so unique for each person, so it’s important to figure out what works best for you.  Not sure what would work best?  Try thinking about the last time you felt high-levels of stress – what did you do to take care of yourself?  Did you listen to music, go for a walk, meditate, swim, treat yourself to a good cup of coffee?  Whatever it may be that works for you will be your best form of self-care.  After all, it is called SELF-care!

Remind yourself of the importance of Self-Care – Many people say that they feel selfish when they take time to engage in self-care, especially when they have many other responsibilities, such as being a caregiver to others.  Just remember – the better you take care of yourself, the better able you are to take care of others, and other responsibilities.

Stick With It – In times of stress, it may feel difficult to utilize your self-care strategies, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed.  But, if it’s something you practice daily, then your overall stress levels will be much lower, and when a highly stressful time arises, you will feel better equipped to manage the situation.

We hope these strategies will be helpful for you when you’re ready to add more self-care into your life, or even make changes to the self-care strategies you’ve been using so far. Remember, “It is not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself, and to make your happiness a priority.  It’s necessary.” – Mandy Hale

Live life lighter,

Carolyn and Steph