We all have day-to-day responsibilities that tend to require immediate attention and have noticeable consequences when put off — not the least of which is our own self-care.
The year 2020 was difficult to predict and drastically affected the living situations of many, if not all. The inability to go out and see others, the need to stay secluded in your home along with the rest of your household, and the impact it had on employment all created additional responsibilities while altering existing ones.
It’s so easy to be swept up in everything going on in the world and at home, that we lose sight of what matters: ourselves.
Think about it this way: When you ignore washing dishes, they start to pile up until you feel forced to wash them. If you put off taking out the trash, it’s hard to avoid the smell so you probably take it out immediately.
But what happens when we forget to take care of ourselves?
The signs of letting self-care fall by the wayside may not be as readily noticeable to us as say a sink full of dirty dishes, but that doesn’t mean the signs aren’t there. In fact, it’s probably one of the most important responsibilities you have and one that affects you more than you realize.
When you’re not focused on prioritizing your own wellness, it’s easy to think that the signs might be difficult to diagnose short of a huge meltdown. But the reality is that there are clear signs to look out for that can help you navigate stress and stay healthy.
How Stress Can Affect You
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), stress can physically affect your body as well as mentally. Some of the physical signs include:
- Low energy
- Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
- Aches, pains, and tense muscles
Stress affects everyone differently. While it’s important to understand how stress impacts you, it’s equally as important to identify what situations are causing you to feel that way.
Certainly, the pandemic has added another layer to this. Anxiety caused by large groups of people, concern for loved ones who are considered high-risk, or sending your kids to school are all factors that you may have to consider now when recognizing what causes you stress.
Even working conditions have changed. Work from home has become a coping mechanism for many businesses. And while that allows for work to continue as needed, it can also blur the line between home and your job, making it hard to set boundaries between the two.
Just as businesses and organizations worldwide have had to cope with COVID-19 fallout, we too must cope — not only with the pandemic but with our day-to-day stressors.
How to Improve Your Self-Care
The essence of self-care can be broken down to physical, emotional, and mental wellness — all are key aspects that affect one another for better or for worse.
Your mood, thoughts, and behaviors are affected by your emotional and mental health. If you find yourself struggling to deal with adversity or are getting easily frustrated with tasks or the people around you, that may be a sign for you to look inward and take care of yourself first.
Here are several coping methods that can help you improve your emotional and mental wellness:
Reach out to others.
We’re all dealing with a post-pandemic world, so odds are you aren’t the only one dealing with stress. Listening to the people you trust about their anxiety and how they deal with it can help you learn new ways to cope or give you an outlet to vent.
Spend time with yourself.
Introvert, extrovert — it doesn’t matter. There are varying degrees of introversion, but time alone is important, nonetheless. You don’t necessarily have to close your eyes and breathe deeply, but a little isolation can help you meditate and relax.
Take a break.
There’s such a thing referred to as “grind culture” where the only way to achieve success is through constant hard work. While it’s true that hard work can lead to accomplished goals, not taking time off can exacerbate minor day-to-day stressors and can even make you less productive.
One way some of us cope with stress emotionally and mentally is by masking it — pretending it isn’t there and powering through. But we don’t have to be superheroes. It’s OK to be vulnerable.
Physical stress on the other hand — that’s a bit more difficult to hide. Additionally, boosting your physical health can improve your mental health as well. Here are some things you can try:
- Routine exercise: Exercise is probably one of the first things people associate with improving their physical health. Where misconception comes in is “What constitutes exercise?” It doesn’t necessarily mean lifting weights or running a 5K. A brisk walk outside, at-home yoga, or even stretching can all count as a form of exercise. Find what works for you and develop a routine — consistency is key.
- Healthy eating: Diets are well-known to boost physical health and there are plenty to keep track of. But not all of them work for every individual. And while it’s true that avoiding processed foods and eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are good for the body, there’s no rule that says you must go from 0 to 100. Monitor what you put into your body and incorporate healthier foods — but do so at a pace that works for you. And, most importantly, consult a physician before beginning any diet or exercise plan.
- Sleep more: Easier said than done. You might wish for more hours in the day to get things done, but don’t sleep on sleeping — it’s more important than you think. Sleep deprivation can have negative impacts on both your physical and mental health. It can also affect your quality of work throughout the day. Occasional 30-minute naps can help you recharge, and according to the Centers for Disease Control, adults typically need 7 or more hours of sleep per night.
The Importance of Self-Care
As a healthcare educational institution, Ultimate Medical Academy understands to the importance of care for one another.
Whether you’re a student, healthcare worker, parent, or all three, taking a step back to reflect on what causes you stress and how you can best cope is key as it can affect several aspects of your everyday life.
Jenna Sage, UMA’s Dean of Career Readiness and Workforce Solutions, recently spoke about self-care among fellow team members to destigmatize discussions about mental health and seeking help.
“It’s okay for negative thoughts to enter your brain,” Sage said. “It’s not okay for them to live there … Self-care is not selfish.”
Last month we asked current UMA students what mental health questions they have, and Jenna will be answering them in a Mental Health Q&A session on May 24 on Facebook and Instagram!
When we can take care of ourselves from an emotional and physical standpoint, we can better handle the stresses that come our way in life.
And there are plenty of ways we can do it! Check out at these other helpful resources related to stress and overall wellness. And remember, always look to professional help for medical advice and input.
Other Helpful Resources:
- Why Self Care Can Help You Manage Stress
- What Is Self-Care and Why Is It So Important for Your Health?
- The Importance of Self Care for Health Care Workers
- Wellness Tips: Improve Your Well-Being by Occupying Positive Environments
- NAMI HelpLine – This is a free, nationwide peer-support service providing information, resource referrals, and support to people living with a mental health condition, their family members and caregivers, mental health providers and the public.
UMA does not endorse any vendors, products, or services presented in this blog, and UMA bears no responsibility in any capacity as it relates to such vendors, products, or services. The information on wellness or related services is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional advice. Please contact the vendor or service provider for answers to questions regarding its content, products, or services.