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Stress stinks! Self-care works!

Let’s face it, modern life is stressful. Between work expectations, social obligations, chores, and a litany of other responsibilities, it can feel as though there is never enough time. While not all stress is bad, (low to moderate levels can actually improve performance and increase attention) high levels can have negative impacts.

When highly stressed, you may experience physical and emotional symptoms including fatigue, appetite change, fear or panic, irritability, and difficulty sleeping. At times, stress can be so overwhelming that it prevents you from focusing on what you need to do, and turn to distractions instead. Common distractions include alcohol, excessive internet / video game use, or binge watching television.

The good news is that developing a self-care plan can be a powerful tool to help you manage your stress. Self-care is engaging in activities that contribute to an optimal level of overall health. This refers not only to physical health, but also to psychological, emotional, social, and spiritual components of well-being. Regular self-care has been found to prevent disease and illness, improve mood, and help individuals to be more productive, engaged, and connected. Examples of self-care activities include exercise, journaling, and engaging in a hobby. What will work for you is highly individualized to your personal needs and preferences.

Barriers to Self-Care

“I don’t have time.”

Although many have heard of self-care and understand how it could be beneficial, I often hear folks say that they don’t have time for it. This is often stated when people believe that self-care has to be something large and time consuming. While it would be great to go on that vacation right now or to head off to a week-long retreat, self-care can be much simpler than that.

Quick Self-Care Ideas

These are just a few ideas for incorporating self-care, even when time is limited:

  • Take a moment to step away from the computer to do some stretching

  • Go outside for a few minutes to get some fresh air

  • Bring a nourishing lunch and remember to eat your lunch

  • Look out the window on your morning commute

“Self-care is selfish.”

Another common barrier I hear is that taking care of oneself is selfish and undeserved. This often occurs when someone has been told growing up that having personal needs is a limit or weakness. Or, perhaps, they learned that their life is supposed to be in the service of others, and there isn’t room for self-care.

However, as humans we all have needs and limits, and acknowledging this does not make us weak or defective. Since stress can wreak havoc on one’s ability to be productive, engaged, and emotionally stable, engaging in self-care actually helps individuals be more effective in their various roles as employee, relationship partner, and friend.

If you find that you struggle with figuring out how to develop a self-care plan that works for you or if you struggle to overcome that voice saying you don’t deserve it, talking to a professional could help.