The Physical Side of Self-Care
Taking care of ourselves is an important part of mental and physical wellness. “Self care” is a huge buzz word that people like to throw around with little explanation or with only limited examples. Visions of soothing bubble baths, listening to music or ensuring “alone time” are what usually come to mind when the topic is brought up. Although those are all wonderful examples of what self care might look like for some people-they are not the only ways to engage it.
Within the framework of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), I was taught about another aspect of self care that is just as important-that is, taking care of physical needs in order to take care of your mental health. Especially during times of increased stress, we tend to forget to do the basics. I know, for myself, when I’m experiencing increases in my workload or other stress I tend to pay less attention to my needs. I might eat less (or more), sleep less or take more naps and I’ll usually ignore the signs of a cold or other illness that might be setting in.
Unfortunately, not addressing these physical needs can make us more susceptible to intense emotional reactions (in other words, freaking out). We’re less likely to think clearly and handle interactions with others in a sane, rational way when we’re out of balance with our physical selves. Luckily, DBT has created an easy way to remember what we need to pay attention to to remain in tune with our body and it’s needs – the acronym PLEASE
P/L : Physical illness- Take care of your physical body! See a doctor when you need to and take all prescribed medication as directed.
E: (balanced) Eating-Remember to eat regularly and don’t eat too much or too little. Avoid foods that make you overly emotional.
A: Avoid mood altering substances- Stay off illicit drugs and try not to drink alcohol or at least do so in moderation.
S: (balanced) Sleep: Try to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Keep a consistent sleep schedule, especially if you have trouble falling asleep.
E: Exercise- Doing any amount of physical exercise every day has significant mental (and physical) health benefits. Try to build up to 20 mins of exercise per day.
Now, some of these may seem fairly basic and common sense-but they are usually the first things we stop paying attention to as soon as life gets stressful. While working with clients after a significant emotional reaction to something-we can usually identify at least one of those areas that had been neglected prior to the event. It is important to keep your body operating at it’s best to maintain optimum mental health.
Are you having trouble keeping up the basics while under stress? Is self care something you struggle with? A licensed mental health professional can help you manage and learn how to create positive habits. Please call Life Enhancement Counseling Services at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced mental health counselors.