Do You Know What It Means to “Take Care of Yourself?”
What does it mean to “take care of yourself?” Do you consider it important to give yourself personal time for rest, relaxation, exercise, and doing things that you simply enjoy, but don’t “have” to do? Let me ask you these questions:
Taking Care of Yourself Is Vitally Important to Your Overall Health
If you can’t answer the questions above, or if the idea of taking care of yourself seems completely foreign to you, then my best advice is to approach incorporating the practice of self-care into your life the same way you would approach changing your diet if you were diabetic, or had a heart condition. Cutting out the doughnuts and bacon are both incredibly important if you’re dealing with these health conditions, aren’t they? Well, taking care of yourself can have just as big an impact on your health and well being. Self-care needs to be taken as seriously diabetes or heart problems, but few people realize this – or give themselves the permission to do what it takes. Why?
Why We Fail to Utilize “Self-Care”
In this society, there are a number of reasons we don’t want to – or feel we can’t – adopt self-care as an important focus in our lives. First – people haven’t become aware of what a major impact this can have on their health. Next, we have a tendency to feel that “taking care of yourself” is indulgent, selfish, and self-centered. Also, with our obsessive focus on productivity and getting the most done in the shortest amount of time – any practice that takes time and seemingly “produces nothing” is seen as unnecessary, an “extravagance,” and a waste of time. Finally, the idea of doing “something fun” or something “just for yourself” is seen as childish and immature, e.g. – “spoiled.” In short, “self-care” has a number of negative associations that can make it seem like a character weakness, rather than the potential health benefit it really is.
Practicing Self-Care Benefits Your Family and Friends Just as Much as It Helps You
The truth is that a dedicated practice of self-care can not only vastly improve your health, it increases your well being on virtually all levels – personal, physical, and emotional. Studies show that people who are in a position where they must see to the needs of others – like parents, teachers, and doctors – are far better at caring for others when they have a solid foundational practice of taking care of themselves first.
This means that, in effect – taking care of yourself is ultimately just as beneficial to your family as it is to you. In observing how people handle intimate interactions with loved ones, it was amazing how much more positive they became after engaging in a short period of “self-care,” e.g. – meditating, taking a nap, or getting a massage. These parents and spouses reported feeling calmer, more loving, more patient – and more willing to help their spouse or their child get what they needed.
As a Medical Practioner – Why Do I Advocate Self-Care?
Why am I writing an article on self-care? Why do I feel its so important? As is often the case, I become interested in any area of self-improvement when I have direct, first-hand knowledge of how it affects my patients, and their ability to heal and recover from the injuries, pain, and/or illnesses they come to me for. What I’ve seen is that after a patient has suffered an injury, and we have commenced on a treatment plan designed to relieve pain and heal, once they have started to improve – my patients don’t allow themselves any “down time” to let the treatments continue working. They don’t seem to feel comfortable taking the time to rest or relax, or make a point of engaging in either the therapies I advise, or any other activities that might restore their emotional energy, which would also help them to heal. When this happens, their recovery time can extend far beyond what it would – or should – take if only they could grant themselves a little compassion, and let themselves “rest and recover.”
Chiropractic Care is a “Holistic” Medical Practice – Physical, Emotional, Mental, and Spiritual
Chiropractic care is one of the “holistic” medical practices. Holistic medicine doesn’t simply look at the physical symptoms of a disease or injury, it will take into account the whole person, and make sure that the mental, emotional, social, and psychological factors are taken into account as well. Treatment plans are based on dealing with all aspects of a patient’s life, and addressing other areas in addition to the physical ones. When I develop a patients treatment plan, it means I am looking not just at their injury and how to heal it, but how to heal it from all aspects and areas of their life.
What Is Holistic Medicine?
Human beings are not divided into separate and distinct physical beings, mental beings, emotional beings, or spiritual beings. A person is very much a connected “whole.” What they are feeling emotionally will affect their physical and/or spiritual health, and what they are feeling physically will impact their mental and emotional well being. Also, studies have shown that the spiritual aspect of a persons life – whatever form it may take – will affect what they are experiencing on their physical, mental, and emotional plane and have a definite positive – or negative effect. This total approach to health care is what we call “holistic” medicine, which is the practice of treating the whole person, and making sure that mental, social, and spiritual factors are taken into account just as much as the physical symptoms of a disease or injury. This is what I try to do with my patients and in every area of my practice.
Women Often Have a Difficult Time Practicing Self-Care
This may be a sweeping generalization, but it does still seem that women are more uncomfortable with the idea of “self-care” than men are. They tend to feel that they are the ones most responsible for their family’s welfare, from cleaning and feeding to overall health and happiness. This is especially true when they have children. Even with today’s focus on the importance of sharing responsibilities evenly between both parents, women still tend to have more of a sense of “duty,” and the idea that – if they don’t do it, it won’t get done. Thus, they often take on more than their fair share of “guilt” about their family’s needs, and deny themselves the time and energy needed to practice their own self-care.
How Do You Start Practicing Self-Care – Baby Steps
As you have seen many times, my approach to integrating positive changes into your daily life relies on simplicity. Baby steps. Change is challenging, and making new practices a normal part of your daily routine will take time, energy, and focus. The thing to remember is to start small, and don’t try to make a number of changes all at once, just focus on one. Remember that consistency is more important than quality or quantity at the beginning.
Turning Self-Care into a “Habit” is a Great Idea
Making a change in your life entails turning a new practice into a habit, and habits take time to build. Right now, there is incredible interest and focus on the practice of “building habits.” It’s become one of the new waves of “self-improvement,” and it’s gaining many followers. This is a very useful attitude to take when it comes to self-care, because turning a self-care practice it into a habit is an excellent idea.
How to Build Habits of Self-Care?
There are many “gurus” teaching many ways to turn a new practice into a habit – so that it sticks. In fact, they’ve even done studies on various aspects of building habits. For instance, the research shows that it takes 66 days of consistent, daily practice to turn something into a habit. At least, that’s one of the “magic numbers of days.” The specific numbers don’t matter as much as the key goal – which is to do something for yourself on a regular basis for a certain number of days until it becomes automatic. It can be 2 days a week, 3 days a week, 5 days a week – or even 7 days a week. Just start with something you truly enjoy that you feel is easy to do.
Here are some suggested steps for turning positive practices – like taking care of yourself – into a habit:
Examples of Simple Self-Care Habits You Can Start Today:
A great daily way to relax and is as simple as just taking a walk. You can start with a very short and easy distance – say – halfway around the block, and increase it gradually. Healthwise, walking improves all of your physical functions and lowers stress, particularly when you set a good time for it, like walking first thing in the morning to boost your mood and energy. Walking during the day is good too. It helps to take a break from what may be stressful; if there’s a particular time in your workday that’s difficult for you, taking a walk will definitely help. If you take a walk after dinner or before bed it can help you let go of the events and tensions that may have built up over the day, and improve your sleep. Taking a walk will improve virtually any part of your day.
Interestingly, the importance of reading has been seriously overlooked as a means of self-care. Innumerable and excellent research studies show that reading an actual, physical book – not a kindle or a magazine – is an incredible way to boost overall health and well being. Scientifically, the benefits of reading is huge. Reading reduces stress, and that affects virtually every aspect of your physical health. Mentally, reading improves everything from analytical thinking to community involvement to your intimate relationships. Mentally – it can stave off Alzheimer’s, enhance memory, and even boost your autoimmune system.
It’s well documented that a dedicated exercise practice is one of the best and most effective ways you can take care of yourself. The benefits of exercise don’t even have to be listed anymore, as it is now common knowledge how much it improves both your mental and physical health. Finding an exercise program that enhances structural and muscular strength and improves flexibility is excellent, and can start at a very low level. Simple yoga videos are available to help you start very short stretching routines in the morning – as little as 5 minutes a day is great. Joining a health club, gym, or the YMCA will provide the option of a number of exercise classes you can take. Joining one of these will also usually give you a free session with a trainer, and you can ask them to give you a short and easy weigh routine to try. Finally, of course – swimming is one of the best exercises on the planet, so if you can gain access to a pool – it’s a wonderful method of self-care, even if you only swim up the length of the 2 or 3 times.
These are only 3 suggestions for self care. More suggestions are everywhere, and its important for you to do your own research in this area because you are the one who is building the habit of self-care. The most important thing to remember is to find something simple, easy, and enjoyable that you feel you can do not just consistently – but one that you want to do. Also – don’t try to do too much at first. Deciding to exercise, read, meditate and join a gym all at once is likely to set you up for failure. So be kind, be gentle, allow yourself to fail, but most importantly – do it. Do it – and keep doing it. Remember that its not just for your benefit – it will benefit every single other person in your life as well!