Health Q&A

Self-care: An Essential Ingredient For A Healthy Mind & Body

February 26, 2018

To love yourself is the beginning of a lifelong romance (Oscar Wilde)

Self-care is about being mindful of yourself and supporting your own physical, emotional and mental health with appropriate methods and techniques. It is an often neglected aspect of our lives that can have a detrimental effect not only on ourselves but also on those closest to us like friends, family and work colleagues.

We’ve all been in a position where we have been pulled in every direction or spread a little too thin and yet we keep pushing ourselves to the limit – until we experience complete burnout in the form of physical fatigue, stress and anxiety or chronic depression. Some diseases, such as persistent migraines and high blood pressure, have been attributed to poor self-care.

So what is self-care?

Simply put, it is the conscious, deliberate and ongoing process by which you commit to taking care of yourself. You wouldn’t expect your car to keep running smoothly without its regular service, filling up with petrol or splashing out with the odd valet? Yet we seem to have the unrealistic expectation of ourselves as superhuman machines that can keep performing, under any circumstance, regardless of our own limitations. The reality is – even machines need an occasional oil check to function properly.

Taking care of yourself is an essential ingredient for a healthy mind and body, especially if you have the added responsibility of being a primary caregiver. If you have children or elderly relatives relying on you, if you run your own business or have work expectations from your managers, then it stands to reason that you had better be performing in peak shape and form.

So take the time for yourself. This will help you rewind, recharge or reboot. It’s not about being self-indulgent or selfish but rather about investing enough effort into your own wellbeing that you are best able to serve the needs of those who rely on your decisions and actions.

How to go about promoting self-care?

Many people are so neglectful of their own needs that they simply don’t know how to go about promoting personal wellness, which they equate to stealing time for a quick pampering session or grabbing a few drinks at the bar.

Self-care is about finding and maintaining balance in all aspects of your life. This extends to the mind, body and soul. It’s also about being organised and purposeful. Your self-care system and relevant activities are put in place by researching opportunities and booking specific dates in your calendar or diary. Self-care is not a spur-of-the-moment indulgence but rather a carefully constructed strategy that will soon become an extension of your lifestyle.

It goes without saying that following a healthy diet, engaging in regular exercise and getting enough sleep are all an integral part of self-care. But let’s unpack this concept further with some additional ideas that will put you firmly on the path of improved wellbeing.

Self-care for the mind, body and soul

1.Caring for your mind

The mind benefits best from activities that help you with improved or original concentration instead of operating on autopilot. Yank yourself out of your boring comfort zone and try something creative. Take a new route to work or try something completely different like learning a second language. Find a calming presence that promotes a brief escape or interlude from life’s daily stressors like swimming or reading. Undertake small accomplishments like having a mini spring-clean, decluttering your workstation or completing a grudge duty on your ‘to-do’ list. Start a compliments file – keep a record of the all nice things people have said about you.

2. Caring for your body

Poor self-care will leave you feeling constantly exhausted. Quick-fix power boosters like caffeine, sweets or a stiff drink will do nothing to nourish your body and will instead wreak havoc with your sugar or adrenaline levels, setting you on a proverbial emotional rollercoaster. Self-care body activities are about creating laughter, movement, connection and pleasure.

Take the time to laugh with friends at a coffee shop or host a get-together. Put away those technical devices that we’re all so obsessed with and meet real people. Move at home or the office. Some people equate movement to strenuous exercise activity, but you don’t have to go to the gym to get your heart rate pumping – take a shopping basket instead of a trolley or dance around your living room while you’re folding laundry.

Connect with your senses by getting outside and enjoying the sunshine. A natural blast of Vitamin D is an instant mood lifter. Otherwise, enjoy a bubble bath, burn your favourite incense candle or indulge in a massage.

You need to provide pleasure by treating yourself to little rewards that you can look forward to like enjoying a meal at a restaurant, watching a movie or spending time on your hobby. If you don’t have one – look into something that appeals to you like arts and crafts, dance classes or playing a musical instrument. You may even decide to join a club and expand your social network further?

3. Caring for your soul

We all have a spiritual side that also needs self-care attention. This enables us to self-actualise and grow as individuals on our personal journey in life. Nurturing your soul is about connecting with your conscience and making sure that it aligns with your values and principles.

Attend a religious or spiritual service or gathering – whether you choose a traditional faith or follow a more non-traditional practice, it will serve as food for your soul to make a connection with like-minded individuals.

Try meditation. Practitioners recommend 10 mindful minutes each day to help you focus on the present and reduce stress. There are also bountiful benefits to giving back to your community or a cause that you’re passionate about because participation validates your personal convictions. Volunteer for positive change or action at a charity or organisation that resonates with your beliefs.

Showing gratitude can be an enriching process which makes you appreciative of all the positivity and blessings in our lives. By making a concentrated effort to focus deliberately on what we appreciate, it helps minimise our tendency to obsess on the negative, which can be a horrible cause of stress and anxiety.

Remember that your self-care is an important aspect to helping you take care of not only yourself but also those around you. So take the time to refuel the mind, body and spirit so that you can operate as the best possible version of yourself. Sign-up to Topmed’s medical aid cover for you and your family. Get in touch today.

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