Self-care is one of those buzzy, trendy words we hear a lot about at the start of the new year. But it’s about far more than just taking a day off of work or curling up in front of the fire for a snooze (although taking breaks or naps definitely can be part of your self-care routine).
Today, we’ll break down the importance of self-care and what these pillars are. Then, in the coming days, we’ll focus on one pillar each week and provide practical, easy ways to add that week’s pillar to your self-care regimen. Once incorporated, these seven pillars will provide you with the proper foundation for a more well-rounded approach to self-care that bolsters and supports your health and wellness — and not just physical wellness, but also the health of your spirit and mind.
Why is Self-Care Important in 2023?
Taking care of yourself is one of the most important things you can do for your overall well-being, and it’s especially crucial after the social upheavals, economic uncertainties, and evolving changes brought about by 2022. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, last year’s social and political issues — including political divisiveness and widespread inflation — have left Americans’ mental health at historically low levels.
Self-care, when done right (and we’ll get into the seven pillars of self-care later in this article), can create a buffer against all these external stressors and help you navigate life with more confidence, health, and calmness. That’s why so much research shows that self-care can help reduce stress, improve mental health, and encourage a positive outlook on life.
The Benefits of Self-Care
Self-care is an essential part of maintaining good physical and mental health. “As a practicing psychiatrist, I’m no stranger to treating mental illnesses like major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety, or PTSD,” says Gregory Scott Brown, MD. “But the past two years–as the coronavirus pandemic changed the way we live, work, and navigate the world–has allowed me to understand both personally and professionally the importance of self-care for mental health.”
It can reduce stress levels, improve mood, boost self-esteem, and even reduce the risk of developing chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure or heart disease. Regular self-care activities—such as exercise, healthy eating, taking time off from work or school—can also help improve sleep quality and provide energy boosts throughout the day.
Incorporating Self-Care into Your Routine
Creating a regular self-care routine doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. It can include simple activities like meditating for 15 minutes each morning or taking a long walk during your lunch break. Even small acts like stretching or drinking more water throughout the day can have beneficial effects on your overall well-being. Furthermore, carving out time for yourself in order to nurture relationships with friends and family is just as important as physical self-care activities!
Making Time for Self Care
“So why is it that even though we know that it’s important to take care of ourselves, we can’t find the time or energy to do it?,” asks psychotherapist F. Diane Barth, L.C.S.W. “Why do we so often have trouble not just taking care of ourselves, but being kind to ourselves?”
She says it’s because we don’t prioritize it. “A major problem for many of us, of course, is time,” she writes. “We’re too busy with our very full, often very rich lives, and we simply don’t have time to pamper ourselves. Besides, with so many other things to do, self-care sometimes feels like an indulgence, or worse, a selfish act. Never mind that we all know, as the airlines tell us, you have to put on your own oxygen mask before you try to help someone else.”
It’s easy to let other responsibilities take precedence over self-care when we are feeling overwhelmed by our lives. But making time for yourself is essential if you want to stay healthy and productive in both the short term and long term.
Try setting realistic goals for yourself each week that will allow you to make progress without sacrificing other aspects of your life; this could mean scheduling 30 minutes each day for some form of exercise or taking fifteen minutes before bed every night to relax with a book or podcast instead of scrolling through social media feeds on your phone. By creating achievable goals that are tailored specifically to what makes you feel good, you will be able to gradually incorporate more self-care into your life over time!
The 7 Pillars of Self-Care
As it states on its website, the International Self-Care Foundation has “developed a framework for self-care around seven ‘pillars’ or ‘domains.'” Using the foundation’s clinical background as a jumping off point, over the next few weeks we’ll expand on their basics and discuss a few different pillars for you to consider, why each pillar is important, and how you can incorporate it into your life.
But for now, we’ll leave with a high-level outline of these pillars and the self-care journey you’ll embark on:
- Mental well-being and self-awareness: Are you checking in with your mental health and engaging in health habits that support mental wellness?
- Physical activity: Are you making physical movement, such as exercise and play, a regular part of your routine?
- Healthy eating: Are you enjoying a balanced, nutritious diet that fuels the lifestyle you want?
- Risk avoidance: Are you taking steps to reduce risks to your physical and mental health?
- Spiritual health: Are you connecting to things that inspire your inner sense of self, raise your vibrations, and help you to feel like your best self?
- Nature: Are you actively finding ways to connect to the natural world around you, stay in tune with the earth, and spend time in nature?
- Natural health supplements: Are you using supplements (such as our best-selling BioPro-Plus 500) and other natural remedies to support your spirit, mind, and body?
We’re excited to explore these pillars with you in this new article series from Alternative Health Concepts!