Guest Post provided by: Brad Krause
Have you been experiencing stress lately? Do you feel like you never have enough time to breathe? Do you awaken feeling as if you hadn’t been asleep at all? If so, you may need to focus a little more on your self-care routine. Self-care refers to the process of checking the box of each basic need over the course of a day to take better care of yourself, ultimately improving your mental, physical, and emotional health, not to mention your spiritual health and your relationship with God. Here are a few key facets of self-care.
General Benefits of Self-Care
When you aren’t taking care of yourself, you may experience higher levels of stress even at rest, a hair-trigger temper, anxiety, depression, and a decreased ability to balance your personal, social, and spiritual work lives. At its core, self-care is about your basic, most fundamental needs, such as eating healthy meals, drinking enough water and getting enough sleep each night.
Keep this passage from 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 in mind: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
It’s also not enough to practice self-care intermittently. In order to reap the mental health rewards of a well-rounded self-care routine, you should find time to practice it each day. Many people have found it useful to keep a small checklist on their phone. If you have difficulty finding time for yourself, try organizing it into your schedule. Part of self-care is the process of becoming comfortable with yourself, whatever that looks like. If you need to actively plan time in your day to not have something planned, do it!
Eat and Sleep Well
On busy days, it’s often easier to eat out or heat up leftover junk food for dinner. However, the power of nutrition cannot be overstated. Eating well not only is good for you physically, but also has great effects mentally. Eating regular healthy meals balances your blood sugar levels, keeping your mood more stable throughout the day. Dark, leafy greens are packed with vitamins and nutrients that improve the flow of your blood while boosting cognitive functions like memory and creativity. Certain herbs and spices help regulate blood pressure and boost brain activity. Finally, your digestive system is strongly linked to the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates moods, memory, and sleep.
Of course, it goes without saying that following a well-balanced diet and eating healthy foods will also benefit your dental health, but that doesn’t mean you should skip out on check-ups with your dentist. Since dental health has been linked to ailments such as depression (which, in turn, can lead to further oral issues), it’s important to take that trip to your dentist’s office instead of pushing it off until there’s a serious problem.
By eating well, you’ll help yourself get to sleep. Sleep is a critical part of general health as chronic sleeplessness can lead to a litany of health problems, including diabetes, depression and cardiovascular disease. Part of self-care is making time to get as much sleep as you need. Each person requires a different amount of sleep. Some people may wake up feeling well-rested after six or seven hours, while others may need eight to nine hours. It’s important that you know yourself well enough to determine how much sleep is right for you.
Knowing Your Limits
One of the most healthiest things you can do throughout the day is to set aside some time to spend by yourself. Taking time to relax and be alone is rare in the modern world. Relaxation is a skill that requires practice. Start off trying to be still for small increments of time such as five minutes a day and then gradually increase it as you become more comfortable. This will help reduce the amount of stress hormones in your body and increase feelings of overall contentment.
Another way to reduce stress is by learning to say no. It is always tempting to accept every engagement — regardless of whether it’s some work, personal or church-related — and offer that comes our way, however, saying no can prevent burnout and make you more present when you do say yes. It can also make it easier to provide time for your self-care routine.
Minimize Stress with Your Dog
To continue to minimize stress, try relaxing with your dog. Due to the joint benefits of active play and having a stalwart companion, pet owners tend to have lower blood pressure, heart rate and heart disease risk than people without pets. Petting your dog releases endorphins, feel-good chemicals that improve moods and mitigate stress.
Self-care is a process that continues from week to week. In order for it to become a regular habit, though, it must be learned. Start by taking a little time each day to demonstrate some self-care - then, once you begin experiencing the heightened awareness and better moods that will result from your routine, start experimenting with other ways to take care of yourself. Before long, you’ll experience better moods, greater energy, and an improved relationship with yourself and God.
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