The Importance of Self-Care for Overall Health

Self-care has become an increasingly popular topic in recent years, and it’s not surprising why. It’s important for overall health and well-being, including physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual health.

Self-care looks different for everyone, but it usually involves healthy habits that improve your overall wellness. Some examples include: Practicing regular exercise, eating healthy, and getting enough sleep.

1. Exercise

While the term self-care can be defined in many different ways, experts agree that it involves taking actions to improve a person’s physical or emotional health and overall wellness. That means it can include everything from getting regular dental checkups to exercising or even a new hairstyle.

Ultimately, it’s up to each individual to determine what types of self-care practices will help them feel better. “Self-care may look different for everyone,” says Amsellem. For example, making your bed in the morning might be a simple act that feels like a habit for some people and can help give them a sense of accomplishment early in the day.

Others might find mental self-care to be more helpful, which can include things like journaling or therapy. It can also involve challenging your mind, such as by listening to a podcast or playing a word game app.

2. Eat Healthy

Self-care is an important part of overall health, and it involves more than just exercise. It also includes a balanced diet. A healthy diet includes a mix of protein, fats, carbohydrates and fiber that provide the body with essential nutrients.

Eating healthy isn’t about fad diets or saying no to certain foods. Instead, it’s about selecting the healthiest options in each food group and eating them in moderation.

The goal is to get a variety of nutrients like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins, while minimizing processed foods, added sugars and alcohol. By doing so, you can help your body thrive and support a healthy mind.

3. Sleep Well

A good night’s sleep is essential to mental and emotional wellness. People who don’t get enough rest are more prone to stress, anxiety and depression.

Poor quality sleep can also lead to physical health problems, including high blood pressure and cholesterol. It can cause balance issues, and it makes it harder to perform physically active tasks such as exercise or sports.

Healthy sleep habits include developing a relaxing bedtime routine, using a cool, dark room for sleep and avoiding electronic devices close to the bed, and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, including weekends. Getting plenty of rest is as important as eating well and exercising when it comes to self-care for overall health. You can learn more about sleep and how to improve your quality of sleep here.

4. Stay Connected

It’s important to remember that self-care isn’t just about relaxing, but also focuses on taking care of yourself socially, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Some examples of these pillars include journaling, reading, exercising, and expressing yourself creatively.

It can be helpful to break down the different categories of self-care to see what areas you might be neglecting. That way, you can take steps to prioritize them.

For service members and their families, this might mean rethinking how you spend your time — particularly during a PTS, deployment or transition from military to civilian life. Resources like Military OneSource and inTransition can help. You might also consider reaching out to friends and family, or a mental health professional, for support. BetterHelp makes it easy to connect with a therapist online.

5. Take Care of Yourself

A large part of self-care is focused on physical health, which focuses on eating well and incorporating healthy exercise into daily routines. It can also include mindfulness practices like meditation or deep breathing to reduce stress and anxiety.

It can also be connected to social wellbeing, focusing on nurturing healthy relationships and feelings of belonging. It can include engaging with positive friends and loved ones to encourage emotional well-being and support during stressful times.

Often, people forget that taking care of themselves is essential for maintaining their overall health. It is similar to the advice we get on airplanes, “put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others.” Without addressing our own mental and physical needs, it can be hard to be a good friend or partner.

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