Why Is Self-Care Important and How Can We Practice It?
Self-care is one of those things we all know we should take care of, but neglect during stressful times. When managing daily chores, work, school, family, and friends gets to be too much, self-care is often the first thing we cut short. Add you or a loved one having a chronic illness like spinal muscular atrophy to the mix and you have a recipe for long-term neglect of you.
What can you do to improve your self-care efforts? The good news is that self-care does not have to be expensive or time-consuming. It does, however, require consistency.
Many people think self-care means a few days at a fancy spa or an exotic vacation. And yes, big treats can be restorative. But daily self-care can be as simple as taking 10 seconds to breathe and center your emotions before getting out of bed. The small, achievable suggestions that follow are meant to help you feel ready and capable to take on whatever life throws at you.
Nourish your body
The best way to prepare your body to fight whatever comes is to build a solid foundation. This means:1
- Eating a healthy diet
- Drinking enough water
- Getting enough sleep and exercise
- Seeing your doctor for an annual check-up and when you do not feel well
Even simple things like splashing water on your face, taking a bubble bath, or putting on clean, comfortable clothes may make you feel better.2
Nourish your mind
Feeding your brain can be an important part of self-care too. Try to find activities that help you leave your own thoughts and feelings behind for a while. Some examples include:1,2
- Listening to music or audiobooks
- Working a puzzle
- Taking a class to learn something new
It may also be helpful to take regular breaks from your computer, phone, and social media.2
Spend time outdoors
Medical research has proven that spending time in nature improves your mood and brain function and relaxes you. In fact, some doctors are even writing “green prescriptions” to encourage their patients to spend time outdoors.3
Your ability to spend time outside will vary greatly depending on where you live and your physical abilities. Some ideas for outdoor activities include:2,3
- Have lunch in the park or on your patio
- Take a walk in the woods or across a field
- Visit a nature center, garden, or garden center
- Go for a walk in your neighborhood
If walking isn’t possible, even sitting outside and looking at some trees or flowers can help.
Find what relaxes you
Stress relief remains an important part of any self-care routine. Common ways to relieve stress include:2,4
- Yoga or tai chi
- Gratitude journaling
- Breathing exercises
- Spending time with people who make you feel good
Movement is also a good stress reliever for many. Depending on your physical abilities and the weather, you may choose to dance, walk the dog, try a class on YouTube, or stretch after sitting for a while.4
Taking time out of your day to giggle can improve your mood and help lift your spirits longer term. Funny animal videos, a favorite TV show, or a comedy show could lead to your next belly laugh and a brighter outlook.1,4
Treating yourself will always still make the list when it comes to self-care. The options for treating yourself can be as unique as you are. Some suggestions include:2
- Take yourself out to dinner at a new restaurant or to see the latest movie.
- If you can’t make it out of the house, have your favorite meal delivered.
- Buy something small for yourself.
- Ask a friend to join you on a walk in the park or for drinks on your patio.
As long as you practice moderation and know what is feasible for you, treating yourself can go a long way toward feeding your soul.
Self-care looks different for everyone. What is restful or helpful for one person may be aggravating to another. It may take some time to experiment and find the right combination of physical, emotional, and spiritual self-care that works for you. Be open to trying new things and let yourself be surprised at what works.
Do you have a plan for self care?
Have you taken our In America 2023 survey yet?