By Brad Krause.
Self-care is a broad term that’s sometimes misunderstood or taken too narrowly by the very people who could benefit most from it. Properly speaking, self-care means anything that an individual does to care for himself to stay mentally and physically healthy. And yet an individual who is taken up with career advancement and impressing an employer with his work performance may consider self-care to be little more than basic health precautions, like regular hand washing and carrying an umbrella. Self-care involves anything and everything that makes you feel good and stifles negative thoughts and stressful apprehensions. From a mental health standpoint, self-care offers important benefits that can help you live a happy and fulfilling life despite the pressures of self-expectations and a 40-hour work week.
It’s a relatively simple thing to do, but observing self-care is vital where your mental health is concerned. Keep it simple and do things that make you happy. For one person, it may be a trip to the bookstore and a couple of hours spent with an excellent book over a latte or two. For another, it might mean catching up on their favorite new drama on Netflix or Showtime. If you find something that makes you happy, acknowledge its importance and make it part of your routine.
Making time to feed your soul produces a number of meaningful mental health benefits that can make the difference between an empty and fulfilling life. Inner-happiness leaves one feeling that working hard is worthwhile and motivated to keep it up. Happy, resilient people find it easier to concentrate and focus their energies on a given task and meet specific objectives if they’re happy and believe it’s all leading to something worthwhile and positive.
This one works both ways -- self-care supports good overall health, and staying healthy encourages you to pursue activities that make you feel good. A feeling of inner-fulfillment and the expectation of future happiness leaves you feeling vibrant and energetic, and more likely to exercise and pursue good physical health. Mental and emotional health naturally follows; if you feel good, your thoughts are more likely to remain positive. That’s important because a good attitude is a natural extension of someone who understands and makes effective use of self-care.
Staying healthy and feeling good about it can be achieved if you first work to improve the air quality in your home. It’s common knowledge that air pollution can result in poor respiratory health, but it can also negatively impact cognition and mood. Without clean air, you may be unable to obtain the full benefits of good health. Air pollution can be addressed, however, if you invest in an air purifier. Do your research to find one that effectively reduces airborne allergens and pollutants. Decide on one that best fits your needs; if you own a pet, for example, there are numerous pet air purifiers to choose from.
Self-esteem is a by-product of the good feelings that naturally stem from observing self-care. Doing something you love means you’re apt to do it well, whether that means playing tennis with a friend or writing poetry, which leads to a positive self-image and boosts your self-worth, an important quality when things are difficult and you’re overcome with negative thoughts. That’s why it’s important to follow the pursuits you truly enjoy.
Stress is a powerfully negative force that can ramp up the blood pressure and weaken the immune system. People often talk about working off their stress without following through on the pledge or knowing how to do it. You might be surprised at how easy it can be. Walk through a wooded area several times a week, enjoy a hot bath, or take part in the team sport of your choice -- whatever makes you feel good and keeps your mind off things you can’t control. Make sure to get enough sleep (seven to nine hours each night); eat a healthy diet emphasizing fruit, vegetables, and whole grains; and learn to say “no” when your obligations and responsibilities begin to overwhelm. There are many other benefits of stress management, such as the feeling of relaxation that comes from taking deep breaths.
Think of self-care as those things you do to feed the soul and bolster your mental health. Indulge in activities that make you feel good, even if they seem insignificant and unproductive. If they boost your outlook and attitude, they’re well worth your time and effort.
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