What does your self-care plan look like? Many of us have misunderstandings about self-care, thinking it’s something automatic or that it’s the little indulgences we enjoy to feel good in the moment. However, a well-thought-out self-care program is actually much more, and many of us miss some important basics that can be keys to good mental health.
Misinterpretations abound when it comes to describing self-care. There are those who feel it’s a selfish concept, those who believe it is just something that happens naturally, and those who think self-care is the occasional manicure or trip to the theater. Psychology Today explains that self-care as the practice of taking care of yourself in a way that promotes your well-being, helping you to avoid burnout and living a healthy, balanced lifestyle. It’s the actions you take each day to maintain your wellness, both now and long-term, and you might be surprised at the big impact some seemingly small actions can have on your mental health.
Tend Your Gut Health
Did you know your body is home to trillions of bacteria? There are tiny microorganisms which call your gut home, and when they get out of balance, your overall health can deteriorate. You might think your digestive system is doing fine as long as you feel okay and aren’t running to the bathroom too often or too little. Since your body and mind rely on the world of bacteria living inside your gut to pull nutrition from your food, your health, outlook, and quality of life depends on it. Becoming familiar with various microorganisms and the roles they play in gut health can help you conclude whether you need to adjust your eating habits or take a supplement. Bacteria such as bifidobacterium, which protects the lining of your intestine, and akkermansia,which can impact your metabolism, weigh heavily on your wellness. Foods that are especially beneficial to gut health include high-fiber selections like beans, bran, and berries, as well as fermented selections such as kimchi, kefir, miso, and yogurt.
Get Sufficient Shuteye
Enjoying sufficient sleep is an often overlooked, but crucial component, in any well-balanced self-care plan. Some studies indicate sleep deprivation is linked with several unhealthy concerns, such as reduced immune function, higher risk for depression, irritability, anxiety, forgetfulness, difficulty focusing, and a 33 percent higher risk for dementia. Conversely, Healthline notes that getting sufficient, good quality slumber has important benefits, such as better productivity, improved concentration, enhanced athletic performance, lowered risk for depression, and a more positive, happier outlook. What’s more, better sleep can even help you manage your weight by keeping cravings in check.
Improved slumber can often be achieved simply with natural methods. Keep your bedroom quiet and comfortable, and avoid stimulants in the evening, such as caffeine or nicotine. You should also set aside time before bed for relaxation, such as a period of meditation or reading.
Enforce Your Limits
Everyone should establish healthy boundaries, but for some people, this can be as challenging as other important facets of self-care. In order to establish or maintain good self-esteem, setting appropriate values for how you are treated is a must. If you find people routinely make you uncomfortable or take more from you than you receive from them, there is a chance you need to enforce better boundaries. While it’s impossible to control the behavior of others, you can control your responses to people. Think through appropriate consequences in the event others overstep, communicate about behaviors you want to see changed, and then follow through on the consequences. If setting healthy boundaries is challenging for you, or if you aren’t sure where you stand, Oprah offers an online questionnaire to help you assess your situation.
Examine your lifestyle to decide if you’re participating in a balanced self-care plan. Ensure you have good gut health, get enough sleep, and set healthy boundaries. Many people miss these simple opportunities for a better quality of life, but you don’t have to.
Research by Brad Krause.
Brad created SelfCaring.info to share his own knowledge and the many great resources he has found on his self-care journey.
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