Stress is necessary for people to be motivated and complete tasks more efficiently, but too much of it can have adverse effects on one’s well-being. Chronic stress rewires your brain, reducing your ability to think, focus, and find motivation. It can also increase your risk of developing depression and anxiety.
Long-term stress also drains your physical vitality, which is why you get sick easily, tire quickly, and have unexplained aches and pains when you’re too stressed. Chronic stress, however, can be prevented by practicing proper self-care.
What Is Self-Care?
There are many definitions of self-care, but here’s one by the World Health Organization (WHO) that encapsulates the entire concept of self-care:
Self-care is what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health and to prevent and deal with illness. It is a broad concept encompassing hygiene (general and personal), nutrition (type and quality of food eaten), lifestyle (sporting, activities, leisure, etc.), environmental factors (living conditions, social habits, etc.), socio-economic factors (income level, cultural beliefs, etc.) and self-medication.
In short, self-care is a holistic approach to improving your overall well-being. It goes beyond drinking healthy smoothies, eating avocado toast, or treating yourself once in a while.
Self-care is also supposed to refuel you, not diminish you. It’s also giving back to yourself without taking away from others. When you practice self-care, you have more to offer and share because you have more of yourself—awareness, motivation, energy, creativity, control, and passion.
How Do You Practice Self-Care?
Self-care is not something you can do in one day. It’s both a process and a choice that you undergo and make every day. Many people are insanely busy with work, personal life, and technology, so self-care takes a back seat until they’re free from their responsibilities. They forget that their well-being is their responsibility too.
Making an effort to take proper care of yourself may be difficult at first, but it becomes a habit the more you practice it. And self-care doesn’t have to be anything fancy, expensive, or extreme, like switching to veganism or only buying organic food (although that also helps). Making small but impactful lifestyle changes can make a world of difference.
That said, here are five healthy practices to adopt in your daily routine to kick-start your journey to self-care.
Keep a Daily Fitness Routine
Everyone knows exercise is essential to stay physically healthy. It helps improve your heart health and immune system, strengthens your muscles, and builds your bones. It also lowers your risk of many diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.
Regular exercise is also good for your mental well-being. It combats stress by regulating the levels of stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, in your body. Physical activity also stimulates the release of mood-boosting brain chemicals like endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine.
You don’t need to go to the gym every day to work out. Inserting any form of physical activity, like walking, cycling, climbing stairs, lifting objects, and doing chores, works just as well if it gets your heart rate up and makes you sweat. Just remember to keep your activities regulated according to your fitness capacity and take preventive measures to avoid injury and overstraining yourself.
Eat Five Servings of Fruits and Veggies Daily
Fruits and vegetables are not only delicious but also incredibly good for your health. Avocados, apples, carrots, spinach, and kale contain a wealth of micronutrients that the body needs to be strong and healthy.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends eating five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Health experts advise scaling it up to ten servings to experience more significant health benefits.
Researchers at the Imperial College London looked into 95 studies on fruit and vegetable consumption. Their findings show that eating ten portions of fruits and vegetables have significant positive effects on people’s health. The benefits include a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and early death.
Daily intake of 10 servings of fruits and vegetables also reduces cholesterol levels and blood pressure and improves the health of blood vessels and the immune system.
Wondering what fruits and vegetables to include in your diet? Here are 50 of the healthiest foods to get all your essential nutrients.
Get Enough Quality Rest
Adults should get seven to eight hours of quality sleep every night. Lots of people get enough sleep but don’t feel rested when they wake up, which means they’re not getting good-quality slumber.
When it comes to sleep, it’s not just the quantity that matters; the quality too is tremendously important. To get better rest at night, soak up some sun in the daytime. Exposure to natural light helps regulate your body’s circadian rhythm.
Also, reduce blue-light exposure at night. That means no watching TV or using your cellphone, tablet, or laptop when you’re in bed.
Caffeine and sugar keep you awake at night, so avoid consuming anything that has an abundance of both late in the day or nearing bedtime.
Naps make for great energy and mood boosters, but when they last longer than 30 minutes, they can reduce your quality of nighttime slumber. Keep your afternoon naps short and sweet.
Inconsistent sleeping and waking times also lower the quality of your sleep. If you always wake up at 6:00 a.m. on weekdays, get up at the same time on the weekend as well. An irregular sleep pattern throws off your circadian rhythm, resulting in poor sleep.
Finally, make sure your bedroom is the perfect environment for a restful sleep at night.
Don’t Skip Your Regular Checkups
Many people only see their doctor when they get sick. It’s understandable, considering the high cost of health care in the country. However, it’s vital to get checked by a health-care provider at least once a year to make sure you’re completely healthy and free of life-threatening medical conditions.
Getting a regular checkup also saves you more money in the long run and helps you live longer. Early diagnosis and treatment reduce the cost of health care by avoiding expensive medical services and procedures later.
Annual medical checks typically include the following:
- Review of your family’s medical history
- Blood-pressure check
- Physical exam
- Body mass index (BMI) check
- Medical counseling
- Health tests and screenings
Adults at a certain age will be recommended to undergo specific health tests( used with medical equipment and sensors) to screen for age-related diseases. For example, women in their 50s should get tested for breast cancer and cervical cancer. Men in their 50s should also get screened for testicular and prostate cancer.
Take a Time-out for Self-Care
Me time is often the last thing on people’s minds when they’re already bogged down by so many things. But taking a time-out for yourself is critical in maintaining your mental and emotional well-being.
Time to yourself helps rejuvenates your spirit, reboots your brain, and restores your focus and motivation. Me time allows you to reflect on your experiences, get to know yourself again, and evaluate your priorities and goals.
Your time-out can be spent doing anything or nothing, reading a book, watching a show, making delicious matcha tea, or doing arts and crafts. The important thing is that you enjoy what you’re doing and you do it regularly.