We all know the importance of taking care of our physical health. But what about the importance of taking care of our emotional health? When our emotional needs are neglected, our physical health suffers along with our well-being and happiness.
All too often, our emotional needs get put on the back burner or simply lost amid the whirlwind life that involves work responsibilities, taking care of children, partners, aging parents and friends. Although overcoming barriers to self-care can be difficult, creating the time and space for it is important and necessary for our emotional well-being and overall happiness. Simply stated, implementing daily self-care habits sets the foundation for our emotional health. Self-care habits that lead to joy and rest anchor us, increase our self-esteem, sense of efficacy, help regulate our moods, and aid in our ability to problem solve. Plus, in the long run, it’s better for those around us.
And, it’s no surprise that when we neglect our self-care we are more vulnerable to conditions such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, eating disorders and low self-esteem. Many studies also suggest self-care can also lessen stress, which increases a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease, immune illnesses and some cancers.
Below are six essential self-care tips to get you on your way for a happier and healthier the new year:
- Take care of your physical needs by getting plenty of sleep, regular exercise and eating a balanced diet. Research has consistently shown that getting seven to eight hours of sleep per night, exercising, and eating a healthy diet significantly improves our concentration, cognition, and helps to lessen depression and anxiety.
- Tune into your emotions. Developing the ability to recognize and label our emotions is a necessary skill for cultivating our well-being. All too often, we are distracted by our busy lives and rarely have an opportunity to take a moment for self-reflection. Self-awareness is key for making effective changes because from self awareness we have a true understanding of the problem. Schedule regular times for self-reflection by writing in a journal, meditating, and setting aside moments during the day for self-reflection.
- Give yourself permission to say no. You’re not alone if the word 'no' is not in your vocabulary. Too many times we find ourselves jumping right in and saying yes to a request without fully thinking it through. Give yourself permission to take the time to think about your decision before you say yes. Responding with phrases such as “I need to look at my schedule and get back to you,” gives you room for reflection before acting.
- Make your self-care a priority. Honoring the commitments we make to ourselves reinforces the notion that we matter.
- Create your own self-care rituals. Take time to define what self-care rituals are important to you and how to implement them into your day. For example, for some people, making time for silence and solitude may be at the top of their self-care list while, for others, socializing with friends is most important.
- Be mindful of how you spend your time and with whom you spend your time. The activities we choose to do and the people we choose to share our lives with is a reflection of how we feel about ourselves. As often as you can, schedule time spent doing the things you enjoy and around the people you enjoy being with.
Dr. Paula Durlofsky is a psychologist in private practice in Bryn Mawr, whose practice focuses on psychological issues affecting individuals, couples, and families. She is affiliated with Bryn Mawr Hospital and Lankenau Medical Center.