When we are overwhelmed or overworked, it may seem counter-intuitive to take time away from whatever is on our minds to focus on ourselves. But being good to yourself – through the basics of sufficient rest, proper nutrition, and substantial exercise, as well as doing things you enjoy – is a vital part of maintaining your personal health. Some people call it “self-love.” Too often, depression or anxiety can overtake us until we are so stressed that we have trouble justifying the daily self-care we once did.
Why You Have to Start With You
Staying on top of our personal wellness is vital to living a happy life, but too often can feel self-centered to devote much time to “me.” Even though we long for “me” time, it’s easy to let attention to our overall wellness become just another item on the to-do list that carries over week after week when other more important (or so we say) activities arise in our schedules, such as tight work deadlines, holiday seasons, or even other people’s needs.
Regardless, you have to start with attention to yourself.
Self-love Isn’t Synonymous with Indulgence
It’s important to note that the idea of self-love can be mistaken with “self-indulgence” – and being good to yourself doesn’t necessarily mean extra purchases or pampering, as Psychology Today notes. It may be easy to justify eating a gallon of ice cream or getting weekly massages if you’re feeling down in the dumps or overstressed, but long-term, these practices will not contribute to a more positive mental state. Rather, self-love involves making daily choices that show you prioritize your health and well-being.
Discipline in any area is difficult, and paying attention to your own health takes commitment. But small daily choices can make drastic long-term impact on your health and happiness.
Start With Good Choices
The first step to improving poor wellness and practicing self-love is to make choices that nourish our minds, bodies, and spirits every day. Every day we choose how we nurture (or neglect) all three. The potential for health is in our own hands.
Here are five important ways to be good to yourself that you can justify 100%:
- Rest. 60 percent of adults say they have problems sleeping at least a few nights a week. The importance of a good night’s sleep is hard to ignore – it improves our mood and gives us better focus on our tasks.
- Exercise. Among the many benefits of exercise is its ability to increase our energy and give us a renewed look at life. Exercise releases stress hormones and heighten endorphins, which cause you to feel better.
- Eat well. Paying attention to what we’re consuming, especially in stressful periods of our lives, is an important factor in our wellness. Studies have shown that fruits and vegetables, seafood, and grass-fed meat may contribute to better overall health, while refined sugars, sugary beverages, and lots of Omega-6’s (found in cooking oils, like vegetable oil) are better to moderate.
- Manage your stress. Stress is a fact of life – so how will you deal with it effectively? Everyone deals with stress differently, but the important thing is to find what seems to work for you, whether it’s meditation, communication, taking a proactive approach to your problems, or delegating projects to others. A small amount of stress can actually be helpful, boosting your creativity,and strengthening your immune system, as health experts point out in Women’s Health. As long as your stress is managed, and you respond to it in the right way, it doesn’t have to be completely eliminated.
- Enjoy life. Take time to relax and reset your focus. Doing what we enjoy can refresh and revitalize us. If you are too uptight to take a break, schedule time to relax. Whether you enjoy reading, taking walks, visiting with a friend, cooking, or something else, work it into your day whenever possible. Burnout occurs when we’re unable to stop and take a breather.
Self-love not only benefits you, but it benefits the people you interact with on a daily basis. When you are healthy and stable, you are able to interact with and serve others in optimal ways. Feeling stressed and tired will negatively affect all your activities, no matter how you try to buck up and press on. So if you think it’s somehow selfish to devote time to improving your overall wellness, consider how having a healthy mind, body, and spirit will benefit the people you interact with on a daily basis.
If you’d like more information, the Mental Health Association of Minnesota offers a helpful resource that can be downloaded for free called “Take Charge” with advice on how to successfully manage the basics, like healthy eating, sleep, and stress management.
Seeking Additional Help
Granted, self-help doesn’t always solve everything, nor should it. Some people’s circumstances are too big to handle alone, and you might have to reach out to someone else for help.
Therapy and counseling are often important next steps when a person does not experience change or improved health by addressing the basics on their own. As Minnesota psychiatrist Dr. Allison Holt points out, even minor emotional or mental difficulties can be improved by talking with a counselor or psychiatrist. The perspective, expertise, and listening ear of a mental health professional can be a vital aid for someone who has struggled by themselves to improve their wellness.
For starters, be good to yourself, and monitor the changes you experience. It’s vital to establish habits that prioritize your health, because no one else can do that for you – just you.
Author Brooke McDonald is a professional writer and blogger in the Twin Cities. She has written about mental health and well-being for Psych Central, as well as a variety of other healthcare sites.
Photo: Annais Ferreira