Why Self Care Can Help You Manage Stress

Woman being massaged at spa outdoors
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Many of us have so many responsibilities in life that we forget to take care of our personal needs. This is particularly true for many who have significant caregiving responsibilities. And while it’s hard to prioritize when you have so many other items on your to-do list, self-care is an important aspect of stress management.

How Self Care Benefits You

We are all less able to handle the stresses that come our way when we're depleted by physical and emotional exhaustion. Or, put in a more positive way, we are more resilient and more able to handle life's stress when we are feeling our best both physically and emotionally. A massage, a hot bath, or another form of pampering revitalizes you inside and out. Taking time out to maintain self-care has several benefits.

May Boost Physical Health

While self-pampering doesn’t always lead to major improvements in overall health the way healthy diet and exercise do, the relaxation you get from it can trigger the relaxation response. This, in turn, can prevent chronic stress from damaging your health. So in a sense, self-care is good for you inside and out.

Can Improve Emotional Health

Taking time out to care for yourself can remind you and others that you and your needs are important, too. Having a well-cared-for body can make you feel good about yourself and your life, and conveys to others that you value yourself. This can contribute to long-term feelings of well-being.

Makes You a Better Caregiver

People who neglect their own needs and forget to nurture themselves are at danger of deeper levels of unhappiness, low self-esteem, and feelings of resentment. And people who spend their time only taking care of others can be at risk of getting burned out, which makes it more difficult to care for others or themselves. Taking time to care for yourself regularly can make you a better caretaker for others.

Self-Care for Stress Management

There are several different ways to focus on self-care. Many involve making time to get enough sleep, prioritizing healthy meals, ensuring a balance of leisure time in your schedule, and making time for friends.

A simple but often overlooked form of self-care is having a self-pampering experience on a regular basis in your own home. Taking a few hours for a ​spa experience is an effective way to manage stress.

Provides a Break from Stress

Taking a break in a tub of warm bubbles or under the warm hands of an experienced masseuse can help you feel like you’re escaping a stressful reality and taking a mental and emotional vacation. This triggers the relaxation response and allows you to come back to the reality of your life feeling refreshed and relaxed.

Offers Time Alone

While different people have varying degrees of introversion and extroversion, having some time alone is important for most people’s functioning. When you’re relaxing by yourself, it’s much easier to slip into a state of quiet meditation, enjoy some self-reflection, or let your problems work themselves out in the back of your mind without taking all of your focused concentration.

Generates Soothing Feelings

Giving your body some special treatment is a natural way to relieve stress. Other than keeping your skin soft and your body in good repair, spa-related activities like massage and warm baths have been known to soothe even small colicky babies. Such activities continue to be effective tools for relaxation as we get older, but we sometimes forget to utilize them.

Self-Care Strategies That Work

Once you’ve decided it’s time to start nurturing yourself and your body, be sure to plan some time for this. Try to schedule a block where you won’t be interrupted. Try some or all of the following self-care strategies.

  • Go for a brisk walk: Exercise can be just as good for your mind as it is for your body. Though you might not always feel like you have time to hit the gym or to engage in an intense workout, fortunately, a brisk walk can be an excellent self-care strategy.
  • Engage your senses: A good way to relax and find a sense of inner peace is to engage your senses. Consider taking a hot bath, light a scented candle, listen to soothing sounds, or drink some herbal tea.
  • Get a massage: This one can be especially nice. If your budget doesn’t allow for regular massages with a professional, see if you can trade with a friend or your spouse, or use an electronic massager.
  • Take a bath: Get out the bubbles, oils, and scented soaps, and soak until you’re wrinkled.
  • Schedule social time: A big part of self-care is maintaining your social connections. Make an effort to carve out time to see friends and family.
  • Deep-condition your hair: While you’re in the tub, put on a deep-conditioning treatment for your hair, and let it work as you relax.
  • Deep-clean your pores: With a clay facial masque, you can draw impurities out of your skin and stress out of your system.
  • Care for your feet: After you soak your feet to soften calloused skin, use a pumice stone to slough off dead skin. Finish with rich foot cream and perhaps nail polish.
  • Nourish your skin: Rich, luxurious creams smell wonderful and feel smooth, especially if you exfoliate your skin in the tub before putting them on.
  • Tend to your nails: Correct the beating your nails probably take from your busy life (especially for those of you who bite your nails) by filing and buffing.

More substantial forms of self-care involving healthy lifestyle choices are important, too. Consuming a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and being sure you get enough sleep are all important for long-term health and stress management.

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