Self Care: What is it? Why is it so important to your health? – News

Self-care means taking time for things that help people live well and improve their physical and mental health. UAB experts provide advice on how to incorporate self-care into everyday life.

Mental health encompasses a person’s emotional, psychological and social well-being. It is essential to overall health and quality of life and affects the way a person thinks, feels, acts and reacts. When it comes to mental health, self-care can help people manage stress, reduce the risk of illness and increase energy levels. But what exactly is self-care? Why is it important? And how can people incorporate self-care into their daily lives?

Experts from the University of Alabama at Birmingham Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine answer common questions about self-care and the role it plays in maintaining positive physical and mental health.

“Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health,” said Sumayah Abed, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine and family medicine physician at UAB Medicine Hoover Primary and Specialty Care. “Self-care plays a role in maintaining mental health and supporting the treatment and recovery of people with mental illness.”

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, self-care means making time for things that help people live well and improve their physical and mental health.

“Self-care is important because it enhances our well-being by keeping us connected to ourselves and to what matters most to us,” said Kaylee Crockett, MD, clinical psychologist in the Department of Family and Community Medicine of UAB. “This can help prevent illness from occurring or recurring, and builds our ability to cope with stress and recover from adversity.”

Unfortunately, self-care is sometimes seen as a luxury instead of a necessity; but Crockett wants to remind everyone that self-care is something everyone needs on a daily basis, not just those who may be feeling stressed.

She recommends making self-care part of the routine and intentionally setting aside time for self-care activities. This can look like setting aside time on the calendar for self-care or setting regular dates with friends, family members and partners to connect or take time to do something you both enjoy. While engaging in self-care activities, take steps to limit distractions, such as turning on “do not disturb” on devices during times designated for self-care activities.

Below are some steps Abed and Crockett recommend everyone take to prioritize self-care.

  • Eat a balanced diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, seafood and nuts to improve energy and concentration throughout the day.
  • Drink at least 60-62 ounces of water daily and increase your water intake in the summer. Limit caffeinated beverages such as soda and coffee and limit alcoholic beverages.
  • Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day. Daily walking helps improve mood and health. Small amounts of movement are added.
  • Schedule time each day for relaxing and stress-reducing activities such as yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, listening to music, journaling, or trying new hobbies that one can enjoy alone or with others. Hobbies can help occupy the mind and are a great way to learn a new skill.
  • Get seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Avoid looking at phones or computers before bed, as the blue light from screens makes it difficult to fall asleep. Violent movies and upsetting news should be avoided before bedtime; instead, turn to inspirational books or impactful podcasts.
  • Build strong bonds with supportive family members and friends, or look for activities that allow you to meet new people, such as classes and support groups. Reach out to friends or family members who can provide emotional support and practical help.
  • Seek help from a health care provider to connect with counselors and other resources if you are experiencing worrisome symptoms or your efforts to care for yourself are not helping.

internal self-care “Self-care looks different for everyone,” Crockett said. “Talking to people in your life about some of their preferred self-care activities can be informative, but it’s important to remember that not everything that works for them may work for you. A good starting point is to spend time reflecting on activities that you enjoy, that make you feel good, and that give you a sense of meaning. From there, start setting some small goals that could easily become part of your daily routine.

Self-care activities should leave a person feeling relaxed, energized and refreshed. If certain activities make a person feel more exhausted, it’s time to try a different approach. By establishing good daily self-care habits, anyone can learn the signs that indicate they may need more self-care attention when stressors begin to pile up.

When it comes to defining positive mental health, Crockett says that feeling healthier is like a continuum — meaning a person isn’t experiencing significant day-to-day distress, has positive coping strategies that allow them to effectively cope with the stressors that occur every day, and they engage in meaningful daily activities and relationships. Sometimes circumstances adversely affect mental health, leading to greater distress that makes it difficult to function and engage with the things that matter to each individual.

When stress becomes too much for a person, it can lead to a mental health crisis. In addition to prioritizing self-care, Abed says, it’s helpful to know the signs of an impending crisis so you know when to seek help.

Some symptoms that may indicate a significant mental health concern include:

  • Low energy or fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • You feel isolated, unwilling to leave the house and be with others
  • Feelings of guilt, sadness, hopelessness or anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts and self-harm
  • Excessive drinking, substance abuse, or smoking

“If you get to a point where managing your situation on your own isn’t possible, it’s important to seek help,” Abed said. “Talk to a health care provider who can help you interpret your symptoms and connect you with the resources you need. If you are thinking of harming yourself or others, you should go to the emergency room. You can also call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Hotline at 988 for 24/7 help.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *