Self-Care is More Than a Trend
Though the concept of self-care can be found throughout human history, it’s fairly new to the mainstream scene. In fact, the Oxford English Dictionary only added self-care to the dictionary in 2017, defined as:
- The practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health
1.1 The practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.
So why is self-care grabbing so much attention lately? As national stress levels rise and social movements flourish, many of us are seeking autonomous solutions to reclaim our health and happiness. And with access to abundant information from diverse sources with which we can personally identify, we have countless resources to show us the way right at our fingertips.
While self-care may at first seem like a self-centered Millennial craze, investing in self-care offers a return on investment with far-reaching benefits. Here are five solid reasons why self-care pays off and simple strategies to start investing in yourself today.
Self-care can help reduce the negative effects of long-term stress.
Stress is part of the universal human experience. From the positive stress of landing a promotion to the negative stress of getting into an argument, our brains and bodies have a built-in system to respond to and rebound from stress (via the autonomic nervous system). One side of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) amps us up (called the sympathetic nervous system) while the other side chills us out (called the parasympathetic nervous system).
But with the high-octane speed and pressure of modern living, our sympathetic nervous system response (known as fight-or-flight) can get stuck in overdrive, while our parasympathetic nervous system response (known as rest-and-digest) gets left out of the race. If we don’t come down from being revved up, stress can become chronic, leading to a broad range of symptoms and health consequences. In fact, stress-related ailments account for 75 percent of all doctors visits in the United States, while chronic stress is linked to the top six leading causes of death.
While we can’t eliminate all of life’s challenges or stressors, we can take an active role in managing the negative side of stress. Many self-care practices center on developing simple, yet effective strategies to help you take the reins of your brain, shift your perspective, and increase your resilience. In addition to regular exercise and time in nature, studies have shown that simple relaxation techniques, like mindfulness and deep breathing, can help you effectively calm down and reduce the impact of stress.
Self-care can boost your productivity.
Work is a central aspect to most of our lives. It’s also the top cause of stress for most Americans. While some stress on the job is to be expected, high levels of stress at work can put you at risk for serious health conditions and zap your motivation, focus, and creativity. As stress creeps up, many of us check out on the job (disengagement), avoid going to work (absenteeism), and leave our current employer altogether (quit!).
To counterbalance the effects of stress on the job, add self-care to your list of daily work tasks and priorities. Simple and subtle self-care solutions, like downloading a mindfulness app or taking a short walk, can help you to reap the stress-busting benefits of movement, fresh air, and deep breathing on and off the job.
Self-care can improve your relationships.
All of kinds of relationships, from friendships to marriages to motherhood, can suffer if your tank is running on empty. While relationship difficulties, like divorce or conflicts, can cause stress, stress can also interfere with your relationships by increasing or causing irritability, anger, depression, and social withdrawal.
Intentionally taking care of ourselves through self-care can help to refill our cups, which can increase our patience, understanding, and openness to others. Self-care also offers us a time of self-reflection, which can help us gain clarity and make decisions that support our short- and long-term well-being.
Engaging in self-care to improve your relationships can take countless forms, such as journaling, treating yourself to a day at the spa, prioritizing sleep, and connecting with friends and loved ones.
Self-care can help you achieve your best health.
While stress can impact your health on multiple levels, self-care allows you to own and direct your health. With an emphasis on what people can practically do for themselves to establish and maintain their health while preventing and managing illness, the International Self-Care Foundation developed Seven Pillars of Self-Care to empower people to own their health:
- Health Literacy—increasing your capacity to seek, understand, and interpret health information and health services.
- Mental well-being, self-awareness, and agency—nurturing one’s mental health and increasing one’s self-awareness by engaging in health screenings.
- Physical activity—enjoying moderate physical activity.
- Healthy eating—nourishing the body with healthful foods and eating habits.
- Risk avoidance—engaging in behaviors that reduce health risks, like seeking preventative healthcare and dental care, quitting tobacco, and using sunscreen.
- Good hygiene—including washing hands and brushing teeth.
- Rational and responsible use of products, services, diagnostics, and medicines—being aware of risks and using responsibly.
Self-care is a form of healthcare. As the practice of taking action for the betterment of your overall health, self-care can take multiple forms, such as researching your options for health services, visiting your dentist at least twice a year, and even wearing UV-protective sunglasses!
Self-care can boost feelings of gratitude.
In the end, self-care is all about intentionally taking the time to rejuvenate yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. In addition to soothing stress and calming anxiety, self-care can give you the space you need to experience gratitude for the good in life, which is a beneficial self-care practice in its own right. Gratitude lifts our self-esteem, improves our sleep, increases our mental resilience, and boosts our physical and psychological health.
We are thankful to be a part of your self-care practice and healthcare routine. We invite you to consider each dental appointment as an opportunity to kick back, relax, and invest in your oral and overall health. Schedule your next dental visit and invest in yourself today—–you absolutely deserve it.