Learning to Care for Yourself – Holistically
By Contributing Author, Ainsley Lawrence
Life is full of stressful transitions. Some of these are at least partly predictable, such as the first time you move out from your parent’s house or if you go through a divorce that has been years in the making. At other times, it can be completely unpredictable. The coronavirus pandemic is a good example of this, as it led to millions on unemployment as well as countless premature deaths of friends and family.
Whether it’s unexpected or not, if you’re dealing with a stressful time in your life at the moment, you don’t have to resign yourself to anxious misery, nor do you have to run to modern medicine for a solution. Here are some tips to help you address the stress in a self-empowering holistic manner that takes into account your body, mind, and spirit.
Cover the Self-care Basics
Self-care involves purposefully making an effort to improve your physical and emotional health. As such, the first thing you should do is consider your basic needs. In other words, the first step in proper self-care is to consider:
Anxiety and stress can make it difficult to sleep.
That’s why it’s important to make an effort to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each day and make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and set up for quality rest.
Transitions can upset normal routines.
Make sure that you’re both eating regularly and that you’re choosing healthy foods.
Exercising can feel superfluous, especially during busy times. But the simple act of going for a hike or jogging each morning can help to reduce adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones) and increase the production of endorphins which kill pain and elevate your mood.
While there are many other self-care considerations to keep in mind, covering those essentials found at the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a good start.
Meditate or Pray
One of the best ways to address mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness is through meditation and/or prayer. These activities are geared towards being in the moment and can enable you to shake free from obsessive concern over past trauma or future anxieties.
By meditating and praying you can:
⦁ Cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
⦁ Remember things that you should be thankful for.
⦁ Gain a healthy perspective on your situation.
⦁ Avoid pitying yourself as a victim or a martyr.
And most of all, Accept who you are while still striving to improve yourself.
Journal and Be Creative
If you struggle to express your feelings at times, either internally or verbally, you may want to consider writing your thoughts down.
Journalling allows you to check in with your mind, body, and emotional state. It enables you to consider what you’re really experiencing, how you’re processing said experiences, and if you need to take further self-care steps to help alleviate your situation.
Study Coping Strategies
Now, it’s important to point out that coping is not the same as numbing your feelings through something like busyness or alcohol.
If you’re in pain or going through a stressful event, it’s important that you take the time to process and understand your feelings.
However, if you’re feeling frazzled, coping mechanisms can help you return a sense of calm to your situation. You can do so through three different coping methods:
⦁ Distractions: Rather than eliminating or reducing pain, coping through distraction focuses on distancing yourself from pain in order to better process it.
⦁ Soothing: Whether through positive internal dialogue or external activities, coping through soothing strives to restore your emotions to a standard calm.
⦁ Balancing: Coping through balancing involves trying to bring a sense of logic into your thinking. This can come through making a list, reaching out to a friend, or simply being honest with yourself.
Finally, if you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to communicate your feelings. Asking for help does not equate to being a burden.
Sometimes this communication can be as simple as actively listening and communicating with a friend or family member regarding inner struggles that either of you are experiencing. For instance, if you’re in a relationship with someone in which either of you is struggling with anxiety or depression, it’s important that you keep up a two-way line of communication throughout their struggle.
However, if your situation is bad enough, you may want to consider seeking professional help as well. Whether you see your doctor, a therapist, or a counselor, looking for advice and help from a professional can be an excellent way to curb the ill effects of a stressful situation.
In addition, you don’t have to be dealing with a physical issue to have your care covered or at least subsidized by insurance. Many providers, such as Medicare, specifically cover mental health treatments, making it easier for those who don’t have physical symptoms to still find the help that they need.
Caring for Your Whole Self
From eating well and exercising to sleeping, meditating, journaling, and communicating, there are many ways to look out for yourself during a difficult transition. The essential piece of the puzzle is that you take that first step and begin to analyze what you need right now.
How are you holding up in your current situation? Are you finding the time to properly rest and recuperate? If the answer is no, it’s time to review the list above and begin making an effort to address your stress wherever possible.