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This following is a guest post written by Brad Krause, the writer and owner of selfcaring.info. If you enjoy this article, be sure to check out his blog for more on self-care!
Self-care is often shunted aside in a world where many people still judge themselves by the number of hours they work and the amount of money they make. The old-fashioned Protestant work ethic runs deep in the American psyche and, though it’s understood by many to be an unhealthy and unsustainable lifestyle, there’s still a tacit acceptance among Americans that you have to sacrifice certain things to get ahead in life. Unfortunately, too many people sacrifice their health and sense of well-being. Consequently, self-care is often mistakenly thought of as a luxury rather than an absolute necessity. After all, what’s the use of all that hard work and sacrifice if you’re sick, depressed and stressed out all the time.
Self-care covers a lot of territory, from getting enough sleep to taking time out for a little innocent fun now and then. And it really does matter. If you ignore activities that leave you feeling refreshed and reinvigorated, your energy level and self-confidence suffer. You’re more likely to feel fatigued, get sick, or turn to unhealthy habits. If you’re still not convinced, try thinking of self-care as a form of preventive medicine.
Let’s be clear: Practicing self-care doesn’t have to mean spending two weeks at an expensive health spa. You can benefit physically, mentally and emotionally by doing little things that don’t take a lot of time or money. Everyone needs a little down time, even if it’s just a half hour, to separate mentally from the demands of the day and focus on your thoughts. Self-reflection can be a powerfully beneficial mental practice, and all you really need is a quiet space. If contemplation isn’t your thing, make a little time each day to read a book or to watch one of your favorite movies, even if you’ve seen it 50 times. Maybe your mental health break involves taking a brisk walk around the neighborhood, or spending a relaxing hour at your favorite coffee shop. Find something you really enjoy doing and commit to it consistently.
Self-care is about more than coffee with friends or a bowl of popcorn while you binge-watch Star Wars. You can’t consider yourself truly healthy if you don’t get 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night or maintain a healthy, balanced diet. In fact, the basics of self-care are the simplest to follow but often get overlooked or dismissed. For many people, alleviating stress is a very difficult thing to do. Thirty minutes of exercise a day, of any kind, can lower your blood pressure and heart rate and help manage other symptoms of stress. Exercise activates pleasure-inducing endorphins in the brain, which make you feel good and encourage you to seek more exercise.
Just for fun
The next time you think about doing something just for fun, don’t feel guilty about it or worry that you’re wasting valuable time. In fact, you need time to indulge yourself. It’s a way of rewarding yourself. Try taking a class just for fun, something you’ve always been interested in but never had the time for. Maybe it’s a class in French literature or the origins of Celtic civilization; it doesn’t matter as long as it’s something you want to learn more about. It’s something you can do at a local community college, or online. Many colleges and universities offer online classes for free, which takes the stress of a financial investment out of the picture.
Remember, self-care can be a relatively simple thing, as long as you practice it faithfully. It can mean relaxing with a book, taking a nap, or taking time to process your thoughts and emotions. It’s a necessary and enjoyable way to take care of yourself.