By Patrick O’Neil, Group Facilitator, CAST Centers
Self-care can be defined as the actions we engage in that allow us to ensure and maintain our best selves, mentally and physically. Self-care is taking care of ourselves through nourishment, personal hygiene, sleep, and exercise. Self-care can also include activities that relax us or help our emotional well-being, such as meditating, therapy, yoga, and journaling. If we don’t engage in self-care our mental and physical health can decline. We are more prone to suffer from depression and anxiety. Isolation and avoidance are common byproducts and there’s a greater chance that we can become ill and possibly hospitalized if we don’t take care of ourselves.
There are a ton of articles and studies regarding self-care, most of which pertain to the medical and therapeutic methods prescribed by doctors and therapists. But here are:
5 Unexpected Ways To Engage In Self-Care
1. Laughter: Self-care is serious business, but you don’t have to be serious all the time. In fact, medical studies have found that laughter boosts your immune system by decreasing stress hormones and increasing your immune cells (infection-fighting antibodies), all of which improve your resistance to disease. Laughing relieves physical tension and stress, increases your blood flow, and if you’re laughing it’s difficult to stay angry. Laughter releases endorphins, which make you feel good. If you’re with a group of people laughter instantly connects you all with communal spontaneity. And lastly, which is probably the most significant self-care aspect, laughter can increase confidence, self-esteem, positivity, and creativity in your life.
2. Volunteer: Self-care doesn’t mean being selfish. Volunteering to help others helps you as well. A recent study has discovered that people who volunteered experienced a greater sense of purpose and were happier. When you are empathetic and generously volunteer your time, your selfless actions increase the levels of oxytocin in your brain. Oxytocin is the hormone associated with trust and intimacy, it reduces stress and promotes a sense of tranquility. Another study found that people who volunteered on a regular basis were less likely to develop high blood pressure, which greatly decreases the risk of serious health issues, such as heart disease and stroke. Volunteering can also create a healthy connection to your community and allows you to engage in a social network you might never have experienced, both of which can boost your self-esteem and sense of self-worth.
3. Unplug: Our lives are fast-paced. Everything is now. You buy something online and if it’s not delivered the next day as promised your day is ruined. You text a friend and if they don’t respond immediately you think they don’t like you. You practically live on social media, telling yourself that’s how you keep up with all your friends. But it’s a false intimacy and not reality and you end up comparing yourself to the exaggerated images that everyone posts to portray how amazing their lives are. Technology is awesome, but unless you really make an effort, it’s hard to stay present and overuse can lead to depression and anxiety. You might tell yourself that you can’t live without your phone, but if you try leaving it at home when you go out to eat you’ll probably have a much more rewarding experience, compared to looking at your phone instead of enjoying the people you’re sharing a meal with. Instead of checking your emails the minute you wake up. Try drinking your morning coffee at the kitchen table and talking to your partner about what a wonderful day you’re planning to spend together. The more you disengage from all the screens you constantly look at all day, the better you’ll feel. All your emails, social media posts, and text-messages will still be there when you return, but you’ll feel more relaxed and in a better mood.
4. Setting Boundaries: If you are like the rest of us you have negative people in your life, and some of them may even be family. You can feel obligated to these people and inadvertently allow their negativity to influence your emotional well-being. If you only interact with friends and family that are self-absorbed and obsessively concerned with their own needs, you end up feeling exhausted, anxious, and depressed. By setting boundaries with these difficult people, limiting your time with them, and communicating what behaviors you are willing to accept, and those that you are not, you establish and recreate those difficult relationships into manageable and possibly supportive relationships. Healthy relationships help you maintain a positive frame of mind and you’re able to focus on your much-needed self-care.
5. Spontaneity: Routines are awesome. You schedule your self-care activities and you don’t even have to think about it, you just do it. But then there are times you can possibly feel like you’re in a rut. It’s the same old same old and what had once been so rewarding and healthy can now feel repetitive and dull. Instead of completely rejecting everything that has been working, switch it up and be spontaneous. A friend asks if you’re up for a midnight movie and you’re thinking, “that’s too late,” but you say yes, and end up having a ton of fun. Work is getting you stressed? How about a spontaneous unscheduled weekend get-away? Spontaneity can be exciting, stimulating and an absolute unexpected way to engage in self-care. So be spontaneous and go out there and discover what works best for you.