Self-care is important to maintaining a healthy relationship with yourself. It means doing things to take care of your mind, body, and soul by engaging in activities that promote well-being and reduce stress. Doing so enhances your ability to live fully, vibrantly, and effectively. The practice of self-care also reminds yourself and others that your needs are priority.
How Self-Care Helps
Excessive stress can lead to a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion. Burnout reduces productivity, drains your energy, and can affect your body physically. Implementing self-care allows your body, mind, and soul to reset, refocus, and decompress.
When you take time for yourself and take care of the emotional/physical needs your body requires, you will have more energy, the willingness to be more productive, and may even become more resilient to stressors.
Maintaining Healthy Relationships
By implementing self-care practice into your life, you are creating a healthy relationship with yourself and others. When you feel good within, it may be easier to create and maintain healthy relationships with family, friends, coworkers, or romantic relationships. You may also demonstrate to the people around you how to set healthy and realistic boundaries.
Types of Self-Care
Physical self-care involves activities that improve your physical health, including diet and exercise. Moving your body is important, whether it is through sports or exercise, or through entertainment like dancing or going on a hike. Feed your body healthy foods with high nutritional value on a daily basis, and get plenty of sleep. Go to the doctor when you are sick, and get rest when you need it.
Mental and emotional self-care involves developing reasonable expectations of yourself is an important part of mental and emotional health. Your goal should be to stretch yourself, not break yourself. Learning to be more accepting, kind, and forgiving of yourself can reduce stress and anxiety, and can create a generally more balanced lifestyle. You may need to remove some “shoulds” from your vocabulary, or say “no” to new tasks and obligations. Focus on improving and expanding your social supports, and create friendships with people who respect you and don’t expect you to do all of the work to maintain the relationship.
Spiritual self-care involves engaging in practices that exercise your mind and soul. Spirituality can be defined in many ways, and there are a variety of activities that can improve one’s spiritual health. Some activities that may contribute to your spiritual self-care include: prayer, meditation, mindful thinking, and attending services that agree with your definition of spirituality. Engage in self-exploration, clarify your values and priorities, read literature of your interest, and initiate meaningful discussions with others.
Self-Care Tips for Survivors
Being a survivor of abuse or going through a traumatic experience is challenging and may even seem at times unbearable. However, engaging in self-care and expressing your emotions is an important part of healing.
We are our biggest critics at times. Therefore, it is important to replace negative thoughts and judgements about yourself with positive words and affirmations. Acknowledge what you have experienced is hard and give yourself the credit that you deserve.
“Heal the Mind Through the Body”
Trauma expert Dr.Bessel van der Kolk who is the author of “The Body Keeps the Score” explains how trauma lives within our bodies and minds. He emphasizes the importance of finding at least one physical outlet for the intense emotions of grief, hurt, and rage. Such as sports, yoga, cardio, or any other physical activity that you are passionate about.
Allow Yourself to Breathe
Mindful breathing exercises and meditation are helpful with managing “fight, flight, or freeze” responses when experiencing a flashback or becoming triggered. Taking time to find a place you feel safe and engaging in mindful breathing exercises may help manage emotions and address painful triggers.
Ask for Help
Asking for help does not make you helpless or powerless. A major part of self-care after a traumatic experience is taking the time to seek help from a professional, family, or friends in order ensure that you are able to address trauma/triggers in a safe space. Know that it is up to you to determine who you feel safe with, who you would like to share your personal experiences with, and what makes you comfortable.