Written By Miracle Hawkins, Contributing Writer
“Self-care means taking time to do things you enjoy, and taking care of yourself. When used consistently, self-care can reduce stress, relieve uncomfortable emotions, and improve physical health” (Therapist Aid, 2020). Self-care has always been important, but is now even more necessary in the unprecedented times we are currently living in. We are experiencing increased stress, feelings of uncertainty, and intense anxiety. All of these things can have a huge impact on not only our mental health but our physical health as well. Much research has been done on the impacts of stress on physical and psychiatric functioning.
“Researchers have examined a range of stressors from acute, high-intensity events to chronic, moderate-level challenges, and found a consistent pattern of immune alterations” (Larzelere & Jones, 2008). Ultimately, this means that stress weakens our immune systems. This is a major concern right now because we are in a worldwide health crisis! Stress also has well-known effects on the cardiovascular system, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure. In addition, stress causes changes in our health behaviors. This includes substance use, overeating, not eating enough, sleeping too much, not sleeping at all, and living inactive lifestyles.
In order to protect our health and overall well-being, it is important to recognize what mechanisms or strategies we are using to cope with the stress in our lives. Stress is inevitable, and this is especially true in a global pandemic. With that being said, we cannot expect to live completely stress-free lives. Instead, we must find ways to cope with and reduce stress.
As mentioned earlier, taking care of ourselves and doing things that we enjoy can reduce stress and improve our physical health. For example, having a nighttime routine that you engage in consistently. In times of stress, our brains crave consistency. A nighttime routine is therapeutic self-care and helps to give us consistency. The following tips on how to create your own nighttime routine can help with decreasing stress:
- First, choose a time that you want to begin your nighttime routine and then set an alarm so that you will be reminded each day when to start your routine (consistency is key!)
- Next, use a journal to write down any racing thoughts or feelings you are experiencing at the end of each day. Getting your thoughts and feelings out on paper will help eliminate overwhelming thoughts and help you gain more control of your stress and anxiety.
- Write down a to-do list of any tasks and plans you have for the following day. This will also allow you to reduce any overthinking or negative thoughts.
- Incorporate a skin-care regimen (use cleansers, moisturizers, and soothing face masks)
- Next, decide what will help you wind down at the end of your day?
- Read a book
- Take a hot shower or bath
- Listen to music
- Burn a candle or incense
- Do 15-minutes of stretching or yoga
- Practice breathing exercises
- Engage in prayer/meditation. Meditate on the good things that are happening in your life and demonstrate gratitude for what you do have versus what you don’t. Expressing gratitude helps improve our moods and overall mental health.
- Have a bedtime! Set a specific time you will lay down for bed. Remember, rest is very important as it allows our minds and bodies to recover.
- Lastly, write your routine down and place it in your room or bathroom until you become consistent with implementing it into your daily routine. Remember to be patient with yourself as you work towards incorporating new ways to cope with stress!
Therapist Aid. (2020). Self-care tips. https://www.therapistaid.com/therapy-worksheet/self-care-tips
Larzelere, M. M., & Jones, G. N. (2008). Stress and health. Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice, 35(4), 839-856. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pop.2008.07.011