4 Ways to Up Your Self Care Practice - Functional Medicine Austin

Feeling Stressed? 4 Ways to Up Your Self Care Practice

When you’re feeling stressed out, and the weight of the world feels like it’s on your shoulders, it may seem like the least practical time to think about self-care.

But I’d argue that it’s actually the most critical time.

When stress is building up, that’s the time you need to up your self-care game.

You see, stress is one of those often-overlooked causes of disease.

High levels of stress have been linked to a host of negative health outcomes, from heart disease to diabetes. It’s even been known to trigger autoimmune conditions.

It’s one of those things we really need to get a handle on, but often don’t. 

While our modern lifestyle revered overpacked schedules and busyness, we’ve had a minute to rethink that paradigm, haven’t we?

And then other kinds of widely accepted stress began to creep into our lives. The stress of having kids at home all the time. The stress of looking nice for zoom meetings. The stress of actually having to cook at home. 

For many, stress is a habit and a way of life that’s really hard to change…

But it’s possible that thinking about it in terms of focusing on “increasing self-care practices” rather than “reducing stress” may be helpful in rewriting the stress narrative. 

Here are a few of my favorite ways to work on adding more self-care into your life (and hopefully reduce stress levels in the process).

1. Create your own sacred space 

Now that your home is super crowded, with everyone sharing the kitchen table for distance learning and your spouse is driving you crazy, it’s time to carve out a space that’s all your own.

You don’t suddenly have to claim the entire bedroom as yours, but a corner will do. Or maybe you’ve got a walk-in closet that could work. Just carve out an area that’s all your own, a place you can retreat to when you just need a minute.

Sacred spaces can be different for each individual, but the basic idea is to have a few things that make you happy in this area. Something in your favorite color. A scent that evokes pleasant memories. Or music that helps you find a sense of calm. Bring any of these items into your sacred space so that when it’s time to retreat to it, you’ll instantly be reminded of what makes you happy.    

2. Take A Break

It’s easy to work all hours of the night and day when you’re working from home. 

This is why it’s crucial to actually take a break.

Try setting a timer so you can focus on your work at hand, and then actually listen to it and take a break. Ideally, take a minute and head outside to sit in the sun. You’ll miss the ability to that once you head back to the office. Plus, the extra bit of Vitamin D will help your immune system stay strong.

Or, take a few minutes and head to your sacred space for some journaling or meditation. 

These kinds of habits serve to make your day flow more smoothly, yes, but they also help you develop a sense of peace that makes it easier to deal with all of the demands on your time and attention right now.

3. Hydrate

Proper hydration is an easy self-care practice to institute.

Keep your favorite cup by your side as you work and sip on it throughout the day. Try to drink enough so that you aren’t running to the restroom every few minutes but you’re consciously consuming more than you usually do.

Dehydration can cause cortisol levels to rise — and has been shown to inhibit stress response in animal studies. 

So, if something as simple as drinking more water can help you mitigate stress, it makes sense to make it a priority, right?

4. Create A Support System

If you’ve had some people in your life that bring you stress rather than support, now may be a great time to start re-evaluating who you let into your inner circle.

Choosing your social support system wisely is the ultimate act of self-care. Studies show that having the right people in place to lift you up when you need it most is critical for developing resilience to stress.

If you need a laugh, call up a friend who’s always cracking jokes. If you need to vent, call that friend who always listens. 

And if you need help with the chores, don’t just fume while you’re unloading the dishes all by yourself again. If the people in your life don’t know that you’re frustrated, they won’t change their behavior. You can even try creating a chore chart for the family and make sure everyone sticks to it. 

Self Care Isn’t Selfish

There’s a common misconception that making self-care a priority is kind of selfish.

I’d like to challenge that line of thinking.

After all, you’ve got to take care of yourself and your health first so that you can be there for others. Especially now. 

Let’s not forget how powerful keeping your health at the top of your priority list truly is. 

And if you’d like to chat with me about becoming your healthiest self, you can schedule a free 15-minute consultation with me here.

References:

“Psychological Stress and Cardiovascular Disease – NCBI.”

“Stress and diabetes mellitus – PubMed – NIH.”

“Stress as a trigger of autoimmune disease – PubMed.” 

“Hydration State Controls Stress Responsiveness … – NCBI – NIH.” 6 Apr. 2011

“Social Support and Resilience to Stress – NCBI.”

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