September is Self-Care Awareness Month

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In these stressful times, self-care is more important than ever. And we’re not talking navel-gazing – self-care isn’t narcissistic. Quite the opposite, in fact. You know when a flight attendant explains the emergency procedures on a plane and advises parents to put their oxygen masks on first, before placing them on their children? That, in a nutshell, is why self-care is important. You cannot be your best self and help others optimally if you don’t take care of yourself first.

So how do you care for yourself, especially with a busy schedule? A good, simple place to start is to take a few deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth, and try to focus exclusively on your breathwork. Doing this for even five minutes can calm the nervous system.

Now that you’re a bit more relaxed, make a list of ways you can show self-care for the week. Maybe schedule a massage or take a gentle-flow yoga class. Or if you want more cardio, go for a jog or brisk walk. Exercise is a great way to care for yourself and when you do it in nature, even better, as spending time in green spaces has numerous proven benefits physically and mentally. It can lower blood pressure and stress hormones as well as enhance immune system functions and cognitive functioning. It can also improve mood. In Japan, this kind of practice is so revered they have a word for it, “shinrin-yoku,” or forest bathing, where one sits quietly amongst trees, absorbing Mother Earth’s natural healing properties.

But self-care is more than that. It can be learning to think differently. For example, do you say “yes” when you really want to say “no,” putting the needs of others – your partner, a friend or even your boss – ahead of your own? While in life we all need to compromise sometimes, often a good thing, when you are constantly acquiescing to someone else’s needs at the expense of your own, that’s not healthy. And it will end up hurting the relationship in the long run.

In short, setting healthy boundaries is vital to self-care. And you’ll find that the more you do so, your life becomes a little less stressful and a little more enjoyable. Why do mental changes like this make such a difference? Because you feel more empowered, and empowerment is a key part of good mental health. But making these kinds of changes can be challenging, and you may benefit from the guidance of a mental health professional who can help you on your journey of self-care.

Another excellent way to self-care is to stop putting off that vacation you’ve wanted to take. Just book it. And if you don’t feel like going far or can’t afford to, then consider a staycation. There are many benefits, including less stress (no packing or planning), and you can leisurely visit local sites and restaurants you pass frequently, swearing you’ll get to them one day. Finally, you can.

A few other ways to self-care:

  • Sleep in – guilt free!
  • Breakfast in bed.
  • Spend an hour in a float tank aka sense deprivation tank.
  • Keep a gratitude journal.
  • Take a candlelit bath with Epsom salt.
  • Dance in your room to your favorite song!
  • Take a nap.
  • Chat with a close friend you haven’t spoken to in a while.

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