Self-care is so much more than just taking a minute to relax (though it involves that, too)! At the risk of sounding reductive, self-care is taking care of yourself. This includes relaxing, eating right, following a healthy sleep schedule, and making time for socializing, exercising, and other activities that you find soothing and enjoy . The best self-care also involves prioritizing your own “hierarchy of needs” and practicing self-compassion and self-calming behaviors [2, 3].
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People neglect self-care because, when you consider other responsibilities like working, and taking care of family, taking care of yourself first often feels indulgent and selfish . That’s because society views self-sacrifice (putting others above yourself) and over-exertion as signs that someone is dedicated, a morally upstanding person, and a valuable asset to their friends, family, and employer [9, 10]. That’s why the vast majority of adults ascribe greater meaning and value to activities requiring them to experience more significant pain and put forth more considerable effort . This “distress effect” is also why almost one-quarter of working adults work so much/so hard that they report feeling persistent burnout, and an additional 44% sometimes work to the point of mental, physical exhaustion, or both .
Chronic stress causes a considerable amount of physical problems. Tension can cause musculoskeletal pain and headaches, respiratory distress, heartburn, stomach pain, and appetite loss . What’s more, elevated levels of stress hormones increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack or stroke, or impaired immune responses that lead to chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, metabolic disorders like diabetes, and insomnia .
Self-care reduces physical tension and lowers stress hormone levels. Consequently, the best self-care doesn’t just make you feel relaxed; it also makes you physically healthier and improves your long-term health outlook.