Reap the Benefits of These Often Overlooked Self-Care Practices

To welcome in the New Year, I’m offering this very appropriate guest post from Cheryl Conklin of

Are you taking proper care of yourself? While much is made of self-care these days, many people don’t understand it. Self-care is more than getting an occasional massage or indulging in a good bar of chocolate now and then. Self-care means tending your physical and emotional essentials so you can be your best.

Stress takes a toll

We live in a culture that not only provides plenty of stress, but in some ways we embrace it as a matter of life. Unfortunately, we pay for chronic stress with the toll it takes on our bodies and minds. Stress is linked to cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity, and chronic stress appears to often correlate with the development of mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and depression. Chronic stress in the workplace can cause employees to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drinking alcohol or abusing drugs. If you’re constantly feeling stressed out because of work, be sure to find healthy strategies that will help you handle stress, such as getting enough sleep at night, setting boundaries and participating in healthy hobbies. If you have a dog, spend some time playing or hanging out with your pooch. Although you already know how special your four-legged friend is, you may not realize just how much dogs can relieve stress and anxiety in their human companions, particularly if you are suffering from a mental health condition like depression.

Joyful woman in woods

Get sufficient sleep

Sleeping may not seem like part of a self-care plan, but without good sleep your mental wellness suffers. Thrive Global points out insufficient sleep is linked to anxiety, depression, negative thought patterns and emotional vulnerability. Basically, your brain goes into a mode of wariness, leaving you punchy and compromising rational thoughts and behaviors. If you suffer with sleep deprivation, improving sleep hygiene is important and simple. Start by setting a schedule for when you go to bed and when you get up in the morning and stick to it. Your body will start regulating itself with the routine. Avoid exercising four hours before bedtime since invigorating activity can keep you awake.

Set boundaries

Do you have trouble saying “no”? Sometimes this little, two-letter word can make a big difference in our mental well-being. The Mighty describes setting boundaries as the “ultimate test in self-care.” There are many reasons people struggle with saying no, from a fear of disappointing others to avoidance of hassles to a dislike of conflict. Whatever your reason, learn to take up for yourself. Instead of sacrificing your time and energy when it’s at a premium, exercise your right to say no.

Enjoy a hobby

Time spent on a hobby might seem like a frivolous endeavor, but a well-chosen pastime can be a boon to mental health. Consider a healthy hobby including gardening, which can help lower stress levels, boost self-esteem and increase dexterity and strength. Or take up cooking and focus on finding nutritious, delicious, budget-friendly recipes. Engage in a mindfulness-oriented exercise program like meditation and yoga, both of which can improve your coping skills, help reduce stress, and build strength and energy. You can even set aside a place in your home that’s distraction-free where you can practice in peace. Whatever hobby you choose, just make sure you set aside sufficient time so you can make it a normal part of your self-care routine.

Do for others

Another important part of self-care many people miss out on is volunteering. Even if it sounds counter-intuitive, doing for other people can play a vital role in taking care of your own needs. Whether it’s helping with a fundraiser, assembling care boxes for people in developing countries or walking dogs at the animal shelter, performing charitable acts is good for you. Volunteering can lower stress levels, reduce feelings of depression and lower blood pressure. It can even improve your outlook on life and it doesn’t seem to matter what charity you choose, so select something you’re passionate about.

Good self-care is pretty simple, yet many important points are often overlooked. Get enough sleep, set boundaries, participate in a hobby, and do things for others. You’ll feel better embracing these paramount aspects of self-care.

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2 Responses to Reap the Benefits of These Often Overlooked Self-Care Practices

  1. AntholNax says:

    You probably expected this entry to show up on the list. Much ado has been made about mindfulness in recent years. The hype is well deserved. Mindfulness practices such as meditation have been shown to relieve stress, improve our ability to be compassionate, bring clarity to our lives, improve focus and concentration, and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. What is especially great about meditation is that it continues to benefit us even when we aren’t actively practicing. Dedicating just five or ten minutes a day to a meditation practice can help you reap lifelong benefits in the form of improved emotional and mental well-being.

    • Administrator says:

      Hi, I quite agree! I’ve had a regular mindfulness meditation practice for many years and draw it in my Counselling work. I’ve also written about it on this blog, notably the value of mindfulness in nature. The research on mindfulness continues to grow and I keep an eye on the latest findings.

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