Stress is a normal part of life, and we actually need a certain amount of stress in order to experience emotions like joy and excitement. However, when we’re struck with high levels of stress, the body tends to respond negatively. Once you’ve identified your stressors, the next step is addressing them. One way to greatly reduce your stress is to practice self-care. I teach self-care as having four components: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. I believe you must nourish all four to fully reap the benefits which include reduced stress, increased self esteem and well-being.
The physical aspect of self-care is making sure your body is functioning optimally. This can include getting enough sleep each night (six to eight hours), drinking plenty of water (at least eight 8-ounce glasses per day), eating a nutritious diet and exercising regularly.
It’s important to always let your emotions out rather than bottle them up. This means that it’s perfectly okay to cry, write in a journal, vent to friends, see a therapist, scream into a pillow, punch a punching bag, or listen to music loudly. Spend quality time with family and friends who are supportive and don’t criticize, minimize, or judge you. Also, engage in hobbies or passions, because we can’t always depend on others to nourish us emotionally. Whatever fills you up – find it and do it.
It’s just as important to take care of your mind as it is your body. Find things that challenge you and your brain! If your job doesn’t stimulate your mind enough, try picking up another hobby or activity that challenges you to think critically. You can try reading a book, playing a game or puzzle or learning something new like a second language or a sport.
Even if you don’t practice a faith, it’s possible to practice spiritual self-care. Spirituality is about finding both faith and meaning in life. Find what it is in life that gives you purpose. You must connect with something that is bigger than you, whether it’s God or religion, nature or even the universe. Other great ways to nourish ourselves spiritually could include prayer, studying scripture, having engaging, deep and meaningful conversations or volunteer/give back to others.
When it comes to self-care, I especially love mindfulness and meditation because it hits all four components. Meditation can reduce stress, improve concentration, encourage a healthy lifestyle, increases happiness and awareness, slows aging and boosts immunity.
I also use an acronym with my patients, and myself, to “check in” with self-care called “HALTDAFUSS.” I also like to add an additional two letter at the end – “SH” It’s difficult enough to experience one or two of these, but experiencing three or more of these on a daily basis would make it extremely hard to focus, function and feel good about ourselves. Ask yourself how you can alter your daily routine to minimize these common triggers.
H – Hungry
This one is a big trigger for me when I’m “hangry!” Hungry refers to not eating enough or eating unhealthful foods.
A – Angry
If you’re angry, be aware of why and, most importantly, get it out! If you can, punch a pillow, go on a run or play a sport that allows you to blow off some steam. Think about what emotion(s) are behind the anger that’s causing you to feel that way.
L – Lonely
Feeling lonely? Nourish yourself emotionally and connect with others who are close to you.
T – Tired
If you feel exhausted, check in with your sleep routine. Are you getting at least seven hours of sleep each night? Is something waking you up or are you having nightmares?
D – Drugged/Drunk
Excessive use of drugs or alcohol can be used as coping mechanisms for a number of problems including stress. If you are taking prescription painkillers for an injury, maybe it’s time to seek other methods of treatment and healing.
A – Attitude
Your attitude and perspective on life can weigh on your stress. If you’re holding onto negative beliefs, try some meditation to help you address what’s causing them.
This one is totally subjective and pertains to how you feel about your body. Check in on proper exercise, a healthful diet and steering clear of comparing yourself to others.
U – Ugly
This is also subjective, so if you’re not happy with your self-image, be sure to check in on hygiene or even changing up your skincare routine. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Consult with a nutritionist, clothing or hair stylist. When I was in middle and high school, I used to be self-conscious about my hair, skin (acne and dry skin) and eyebrows – so I consulted with a hair stylist, dermatologist and esthetician.
S – Sad
Feeling down? Ask yourself why and let it out!
S – Sick
An illness is never fun. Be sure to see a doctor, get plenty of rest and take extra good care of yourself until you feel better.
Again, ask yourself why. Trust your gut and let yourself feel what needs to be felt. Do whatever you can to help yourself feel safe, soothe yourself or get comfort.
S – Space
Your environment is so important – is yours healthy and supportive? Good vibes or bad? This is one of the top things we have control over, especially as adults.
H – Hormones
This one is a little self-explanatory – is it almost your period or are you on it? Pay attention to any possible changes to your hormones.