Self-care is one of those terms that is used so often these days, people may hear it and roll their eyes. Bringing to mind images of bubble baths and eye masks, the term actually means far more than spa products and sleeping in (although those things can definitely be a form of self-care!). Find out why self-care is important for mental health, how to implement self-care in children’s lives, and more.
The Main Areas of Self-Care
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mayo Clinic published an article about the importance of self-care during difficult times, with simple suggestions to connect with others, journal, practice gratitude, limit screen time, and get adequate sleep.1 Dr. Monica Taylor-Desir, co-chair of Diversity and Inclusion in Mayo Clinic's department of Psychiatry and Psychology, defined self-care as “things that we can control during times in our life when a number of things are going on that we cannot control.”
While self-care practices will vary from person to person depending on their needs, we view self-care as a comprehensive concept. It should cover these main areas:
- Physical self care: Exercising, eating healthy foods, getting adequate sleep
- Emotional self-care: Practicing gratitude and self-compassion, connecting with others, journaling
- Spiritual self-care: Spending time in nature, meditating, doing something creative, volunteering
- Mental self-care: Learning a new skill, reading, seeking help when needed
Benefits of Self-Care in Everyday Life
When we take a comprehensive approach to self-care in everyday life, we make a positive impact on both our physical and mental health. Research shows that regular self-care has been linked to reduced stress, improved immunity, increased productivity, and higher self-esteem.
Benefits of self care:
- Less stress: A 2018 study showed that U.S. medical students who practiced self-care experienced less stress and a higher quality of life.2 With prolonged stress putting the body at risk for health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, anxiety, and digestive issues, using self-care to manage stress can have a whole-body impact.3
- Improved immunity: In a 2012 study, researchers proved that training in meditation or exercise were both effective at reducing the frequency of colds and flus.4
- Increased productivity: According to Dr. Russell Thackeray, a licensed clinical psychologist who consults on the topic of productivity, people who look after themselves and practice self-care have better focus and better concentration. He told Trello, “They tend to actually produce more.”5
- Higher self-esteem: In a study of nursing home residents, those who were encouraged to practice self-care had significantly higher self-esteem than those who did not.6
How Self-Care Can Help Manage Stress
When we are under stress, our sympathetic nervous system gets activated. Our bodies flood with cortisol and adrenaline, initiating the fight-or-flight response. Practicing self-care is a way to balance our sympathetic nervous system with the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps us to slow down and replenish.7 Self-care techniques that help to calm the body and mind are crucial tools in battling stress before it leads to chronic health problems. Such techniques include mindful breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, tai chi, and meditation.
How to Teach Your Children About Self-Care
Practicing self-care as a family is a great way to model healthy behavior for your children. From mindfulness meditation to healthy family nutrition, there are numerous steps you can take to show your child that self-care is important. And when it is practiced regularly, especially before times of crisis, self-care becomes a resource they can use whenever they need it. If the idea of practicing self-care as a family sounds daunting, give yourself permission to start small. Integrate a mindfulness practice into your usual routine, like taking a moment to express gratitude for something before bed or listening to a mindfulness app on the drive to school. There’s no need to overhaul your entire routine to make self-care a priority. Starting small is an effective way to ensure you’ll stick to new and healthy habits.
If you and your child struggle with stress or anxiety on a regular basis, consider taking Brillia, a non-prescription homeopathic remedy that helps to reduce stress and irritability and improve focus and clarity. Brillia offers a formulation for children and adults, and bundle discounts are available so that the whole family can benefit. Brillia contains no harsh chemicals and has no harmful side effects; if you or your child are already taking medication or supplements, you can safely add Brillia to your daily regimen without worry. When combined with healthy lifestyle factors like proper nutrition, adequate sleep, controlled screen time, and mindfulness practices, Brillia offers a comprehensive approach to reducing stress and anxiety and helping you to feel more balanced no matter what life throws your way. While bubble baths and eye masks might make you feel better for an hour or two, this well-rounded approach ensures you keep feeling better, long after the bathtub drains.
Erica Garza is an author and essayist from Los Angeles. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and a certificate in Narrative Therapy. Her writing has appeared in TIME, Health, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Women's Health, and VICE.