Many of us have so many responsibilities in life that we forget to take care of our personal needs. This is particularly true for mothers, who have many caregiving responsibilities, but moms certainly don't have a monopoly on letting life get in the way of taking care of themselves. And while it’s hard to prioritize something like taking a bath 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 already 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, soak in the tub or other forms of pampering revitalize you inside and out. Taking time out to maintain self-care has several benefits:
It Affects Your 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, which can prevent chronic stress from damaging your health, so in a sense, self-care is good for you inside and out.
It Affects Your 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 wellbeing.
It 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.
Also, sometimes people who spend their time only taking care of others can be at risk of getting burned out on all the giving, 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.
The Importance of Self-Care
There are several different ways to focus on self-care, many of which 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 and some much-deserved self-care is also an effective way to manage stress for the following reasons:
It Gives You a Break from Stress
Taking a break amidst 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.
As previously mentioned, it triggers the relaxation response and allows you to come back to the reality of your life feeling refreshed and relaxed.
It Gives You 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.
It Offers 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 like nothing else.
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 block off some time for this. Try to schedule a block where you won’t be interrupted. You need only to have a bathroom to give yourself a home-spa experience; you can put on some soothing music, and try some or all of the following self-care strategies.
- Take a Bath: Get out the bubbles, oils, and scented soaps, and soak until you’re wrinkled.
- 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 nice clay 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, and finish with rich foot cream, and perhaps 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. A coat of polish can make you feel like a princess for days afterward. (This is probably more for my female readers.)
- 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.
In addition to pampering yourself, 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 as well.