Self-care is very often a form of managing stress, when you're doing it right. Moving, meditating, even mindfully doing the dishes can be considered both self-care and managing stress. Self-care is so important, and unfortunately often overlooked in our busy lives.
I play many roles and in one of them I'm a healthcare marketer, and have been for most of my life. The challenge for me is to drive people to use my company's services, programs and providers. Often the way to do that is to help people stay healthy by making smarter decisions about their lifestyles. Not all diseases are lifestyle related, but honestly, most are.
Consider heart disease, obesity, gastric issues, and mental illness. Many of today's ailments are due to our habits and behaviors. And many are a part of a daily struggle - wake up, take care of the household, get everyone out the door, get to work, manage the work there, make it home, get dinner on the table, do the homework or other projects before bed, maybe watch some TV and then off to bed for sleep then repeat.
It's true, daily living can be a struggle. And as opposed to 100 years ago, our struggles are much more mental and much less physical. And it's the mental stress that leads to illness and disease. And much of our mental stress is caused by worry or anxiety.
Let's focus on worry. Imagine a working parent worrying about breakfast before school, what the kids are wearing, whether or not they've done their homework, did they brush their teeth and hair, and what is the afternoon schedule for pick up, oh and by the way, this parent has a big presentation before the board where they are asking for investment into a new and risky project. Check in with yourself, are you feeling stressed just reading this? I am!
I'm pretty sure my heart rate went up and my breathing either picked up or stopped. So much to deal with before even walking out the door. That describes a daily stress that is just a part of today's world. And what does that do to a body day after day left unchecked? It gets stored in your body and begins to play havoc with your body systems. Ongoing and unchecked stress - think of a pressure cooker - will blow sooner than later. It often looks like panic attacks, moodiness, high blood pressure, muscle aches, head aches, you name it.
How does one de-pressurize or de-stress? What does it look like? You know. It's movement and mindfulness practices or habits. It's a 3 times a week
walk or run, a workout in the gym or a regular yoga practice. And it's mindfulness meditation, time to find peace, calmness and quiet.
Exercise works like this, it elevates endorphins in your
brain - those neurotransmitters that create good feelings. It reduces the bad stuff stress creates, and often when exercising your mind is allowed to focus on something other than the daily stressors. And, it can help you feel much better, improving your mood, and allowing you to address issues much differently than when you're stressed-out! Plus it's really good for your heart and your body.
Mindfulness on the other hand offers different benefits. Practicing mindfulness allows you to become much more aware of your thoughts and it helps you to become less reactive to others. It creates space for you to increase awareness of what's happening in your body, allows you to be more aware of the emotions of others, and allows you to be better focused.
What does a mindfulness practice look like? Well, for me, it's journaling every morning and doing mindfulness exercises on my daily walks. It can be deep breathing exercises, or listing to meditation recordings. One of my favorite apps is one called "Headspace" that teaches the basics of meditation.
To de-stress, and ultimately to take care of your self (so you can take care of others) consider adding the practice of regular exercise or movement and mindfulness activities. I've heard that often the idea of adding anything to a day's activities is just too much. And I get it, however, finding the time to take care of your self is priceless. Just give it a try, you'll be glad you did!