Moving into the New Year in Better Health: Self-Care Strategies for Mind, Body, & Spirit
As the year closes and we move toward an opportunity to begin anew in 2020, many of us can find ourselves feeling the pressure to make some major personal changes. You don’t have to look far to see some of the influences out there– gym and fitness campaigns are everywhere. It can be easy to fall into the trap of placing more pressure on oneself to achieve bigger and better things. While self-improvement is an essential part of human growth, it can become overwhelming and stressful if we aren’t careful to find some balance. High levels of stress can cause one to abandon new goals, or worse, wreak havoc on all areas of health.
One of the best ways to find balance when making goals for change, is to also create goals for self-care alongside the tougher stuff. Self-care is anything positive we can do to take care of ourselves. Having effective self-care strategies in place can help to reduce the risk of engaging in unhealthy stress management strategies, such as drug or alcohol use, overeating, or other risk-taking behaviors. Surely, not all self-care strategies appeal to everyone, so finding what works for you is key. Let’s take a look at some options for each of the domains, including mind, body, and spirit!
A body running on empty can’t keep going full speed, so we must be sure to take care of our physical selves. This means accounting for things like adequate sleep, proper diet, and the physical activity needed to keep the body feeling it’s best.
To get a feel for where you’re at with physical self-care, consider the following:
• Sleep: How much sleep am I getting each night? Is the sleep uninterrupted, quality rest? Is anything getting in the way of me getting enough rest?
• Nutrition: How have I been eating recently? Over-eating, or not eating enough? Am I drinking enough water, and eating a well-balanced diet?
• Activity: Have I been active recently? How often am I making it to the gym, or doing something physically active?
• Maintenance: How have I been doing with staying on top of my medical needs? Have I been getting to my check-ups and taking my medications?
When it comes to taking care of the body, there are lots of strategies for making sure you’re well taken care of. Physical self-care may look different for each person, so feel free to consider these options or think about some others that might make the most sense for you.
• Abide by a sleep hygiene plan to minimize disruptions to restful sleep
• Get motivated for healthy eating with some simple meal prep to make things easy
• Get outdoors when possible and find creative ways to get active if you aren’t into the gym. A walk with a pet or friend, yoga, and dance are all good ways to destress.
• Call and schedule your medical appointments and find shortcuts for health maintenance. For some, health apps are a useful strategy for staying on top of things.
Although it may look different to each of us, getting connected with people we care about is essential to our health. Enjoying time with friends and family in a way that makes sense with your needs and lifestyle is key to finding balance. Unfortunately, when life gets busy it can also be one of the first things to go.
Check in on your social health:
• Am I connecting with friends and family? Do I feel like I’ve pulled away from spending time with others, or feel like I’ve put my relationships on the back burner?
If you find yourself falling short and needing more time to connect, that’s okay—it’s not too late to reach out. Here are some ways to get connected:
• Find a time for a standing visit, if possible, with friends and family. This will help to prevent social time from falling to the wayside.
• Join a club, league, or team doing something that you enjoy that won’t add stress to your schedule. Think weekly game night, volleyball league, or book club that’s low maintenance and fun.
• Be spontaneous when you can! Enjoy a night in or an easy coffee or lunch date with a friend when you find yourself feeling drained or stressed.
• Practice healthy boundaries and only engage socially with those that are kind and supportive to you.
Mindset can be everything! We know that our thoughts have a significant impact on our behavior, and in turn our emotions, mood and mental state. Make sure to also include some strategies for managing emotional needs.
Check in on your mental health:
• How have I been feeling emotionally lately? Have I noticed any shifts or changes in my mental state? Have I noticed any shifts or changes in any mental health symptoms I have experienced, past or present?
To practice better emotional self-care, consider one of the following strategies below:
• Keep a daily journal, BE HONEST ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS!
• Reach out and connect with a therapist; Remember, counseling doesn’t have to be long-term. It can be helpful to have an outside person to process with, even if it’s just to tackle a specific issue or stressor or if you want to work on yourself in general.
• Laugh or cry when you need to—expressing emotions constructively is healthy and necessary!
• Seek out music or other forms of art that help you connect to how you’re feeling.
Spirituality is a very personal part of us and can look very different from person to person. For some, this may reflect religious or spiritual beliefs, however, it doesn’t have to. Spirituality may instead mean connecting with our innermost values and sense of purpose in a way that makes sense to us individually. It can be easy to find oneself feeling lost in times of stress, and spiritual self-care is a great way to find yourself again.
Check in on your spiritual health:
• Am I connecting with my deepest, inner self? Have I been participating in the spiritual practices I find most meaningful? Have I recently begun to struggle with feeling lost or a diminished sense of purpose?
To stay connected to your spiritual self, consider the self-care strategies below:
• Engage in daily mindfulness or meditation practices
• Attend a spiritual service or gathering.
• Use positive affirmations.
• Get creative—through writing, art, photography, or other outlets
• Do some reading that makes you feel spiritually reconnected, whether it be poetry or religious text
Making a Plan
Now that you have some insights into your self-care needs, it’s a great idea to look toward highlighting the self-care strategies that work best for you. Having a self-care action plan will make those bigger goals feel more doable, and help you to become a happier, healthier you.
If you feel that you could benefit from some guidance on creating a self-care plan as we move into the new year, feel free to reach out to Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced Orlando mental health counselors.
Source: Scott, E., Gans, S. (2019) 5 Self-Care Practices for Every Area of Your Life. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/self-care-strategies-overall-stress-reduction-3144728