What Are Some Self-Care Practices?
Are you feeling like you want more out of life? The start of a new calendar year brings the energy of fresh possibilities and new beginnings. This is a time when many set intentions that often include taking better care of oneself. I tend to think of the idea of self-care as intentionally participating with one’s physiology, ultimately influencing well-being and health.
I have found for myself that when I consistently incorporate practices as part of a lifestyle that supports wellness and balance, I am better able to be of service to others and to fulfill my purpose. Self-care is therefore a priority because of the knowledge that we can only give to others from the energy that we have built for ourselves. If the intention is to be of service to the community, patients, family, friends, and the planet, then I must care for that self and soul that is serving. This is partly expressed by rising early and honoring the sacred time of mornings with practices such as writing, meditation, and yoga.
What is Self-Care?
I like the definition set forth by the Oxford dictionary that defines self-care as “the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s health.” It also includes “the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s well-being and happiness in particular during periods of stress.” In essence, self-care is the culmination of the choices we make on a daily basis that are supportive to one’s well-being. Often what comes to mind are choices involving nutrition, hydration, movement, rest, and managing stress. While these do largely influence well-being, there are also some subtleties that can be quite impactful as well such as speaking up for one’s self, calming the internal critic, leaning towards a mindset of gratitude, or asking for assistance when needed.
What is the Opposite of Self-Care?
When examining a topic, I find it beneficial to also explore the contrast, so in this case the opposite of self-care, which is self-harm. What is self-harm? Self-harm is the act of purposely hurting oneself. Often, we think of this as physical self-harm in the form of addiction such as to alcohol, drugs, or food as means of coping emotionally. There are also subtleties to self-harm that can impact one’s well-being such as the inability to say no, which might lead to taking on more than what one has the energy or capacity to handle. In addition, having a negative perspective or ignoring one’s intuition, can create a sense of being out of alignment to one’s true self and can also have an undesirable impact on the body.
The power begins when we slow down and start to examine our choices more closely. Do our choices align with being supportive of self-care or of self-harm? It’s typically one or the other in any given moment. If we are not working towards our well-being we are indirectly engaging in self-harm. Shining the light on our choices brings awareness, which is the beginning to living more intentionally and thoughtfully. This can be done in any moment one remembers.
How is Your Self-Care Practice?
Take a moment to think about the choices you make on a daily basis. How would you rate your self-care on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being fully engaged in a lifestyle with practices that support your well-being? Wherever you find yourself on the spectrum, let it be a compass and a guide. We can only begin where we are and that is a perfect place to begin a practice of caring more deeply for the self.
What are Some Simple Self-Care Practices?
There is an abundance of ways to practice self-care. Below are a few favorites to stimulate your own creativity. When we engage in the practice of self-care, we are ultimately reducing stress in the body and creating harmony within.
1. Positive Self-Talk
Self-talk is the way we speak and dialogue with ourselves. It’s the thoughts that are constantly commenting and giving feedback to the choices we make, often occurring without our conscious awareness. Self-talk can be a form of self-care when we recognize the impact of words and thoughts on the body. Positive words stimulate the frontal lobe in the brain, which is our motivational center and the area that moves us to action. Negative words increase activity in the amygdala, the area of the brain that produces stress hormones and neurotransmitters.
Begin the practice of observing the quality of the thoughts that dominate your mind without judgement. Notice the pattern. Then choose a positive self-talk statement to repeat silently as a way to begin the process of rewiring the mind. An example is, ‘All is Well’. Return to this statement any time you remember, find the mind complaining, or when focusing on something negative.
2. The Practice of Gratitude
This has been personally the most transformative practice. When we focus our attention on appreciation it has a positive impact on the body. Feeling appreciation creates an increase in the beneficial neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine. It also reduces inflammatory markers in the body like C-reactive protein. There are many ways to practice gratitude. One idea is to create a list of 3 things you are grateful for daily. It’s important to include the why behind what you are grateful for as this deepens the feeling of appreciation and ultimately the positive effects.
Another idea is expressing gratitude every time money is spent as you are receiving something in exchange. With money, we are able to receive services, food, and other material items. Also, the money we spend is contributing to someone else’s income. It is a flow of energy. Another idea is taking a few moments daily to express gratitude for various parts of the body, much of which is supporting us without our conscious awareness and direction. Give appreciation to the heart, lungs, brain, blood flow, legs, hands, or eyes to name a few. There may be some challenges in the body though remember what we give our attention has an impact on the body.
Take a moment to pause and take in a deep breath before responding, even if it’s to an invitation or to answer a seemingly simple question such as, how are you? When we pause and take a full deep breath, we are activating the parasympathetic, the relaxation part of the nervous system. This also brings awareness, allows for a more mindful response, and has the potential to prevent taking on more tasks than a person can handle.
Self-care with practice can eventually become a lifestyle and a way of being. It’s remembering that all the choices we make on a daily basis, the small, the large, and in between have an influence on our well-being. What is one small step you can take towards living more intentionally and how can you deliberately participate with your physiology in a way that may be of benefit?
“Take care of your body.
It's the only place you have to live”
Interested in learning more ways in which the mind-body connection can impact your health? Please contact the office at 813-644-9384 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to schedule an appointment. Reshma Patel, M.D. is Board certified in both Internal Medicine and Integrative Medicine practicing in the Tampa Bay area in Florida. She is passionate about using nutrition, mind-body approaches and lifestyle choices to help heal the body.
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