The NSTEP Blog

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Written by: Emma and Stacey

Greetings NSTEPpers!

As the summer pace sets in, it is an excellent opportunity to reflect, refresh, and renew. This month we are looking at tips for incorporating self-care habits that everyone can adapt to fit their lives and goals. These tips can help support your overall well-being. The more we understand our self-care needs and how we can meet them, the greater our ability to adapt and manage life the way we choose.

The term self-care is straightforward; it means ‘caring for yourself’. But there are many ways to do this, so what is the best way to take care of you? And how can you maintain a routine of self-care that makes you feel like the best version of yourself? Though it’s an easy concept, establishing self-care practices can often feel daunting. It may also be an afterthought during busy, demanding, or overwhelming periods (1).

In a world where productivity is highly valued, it can be hard to prioritize our self-care needs. Still, research has found that “engaging in a self-care routine has been clinically proven to reduce or eliminate anxiety and depression, reduce stress, improve concentration, minimize frustration and anger, increase happiness, improve energy, and more. From a physical health perspective, self-care has been clinically proven to reduce heart disease, stroke and cancer (2).”

Telling yourself “self-care is beneficial” is the easy part. The question is, how do you achieve a self-care routine that is personalized and adds to well-being instead of feeling like a chore? What fills your cup instead of drains it? Self-care needs are different for everyone, but consider these evidence-based tips in your self-care journey.

The National Institute of Mental Health says that these small acts each day will have a significant impact on our health (3).

  • Get regular exercise. Regular physical activity can help boost your mood and improve your health. Walking for 30 minutes each day is a great place to start. Remember, small amounts of activity add up, so breaking it up into chunks is a great way to approach it.
  • Eat healthy and regular meals and stay hydrated. Eating from the 3 Food Groups and ensuring you get enough water can improve your energy and focus for the day, especially when it’s hot out. Taking the time to plan your nutrition for the day is not only helpful for your health but is an act of self-care.
  • Make sleep a priority. Establish a sleep routine to make sure you’re getting enough high-quality sleep. This can include things like limiting your screen time before bed and practicing good sleep hygiene. These routines will help you to put yourself in a good position each night and wake up feeling more energized.
  • Try a relaxing activity. Purposeful relaxation, such as meditation or breathing exercises, can be helpful in reducing stress. Lowering your stress levels helps you to take on the challenges of the day. Scheduling regular time for relaxation and mindfulness activities, like journaling or meditation, is a great way to maintain your overall health and self-care.
  • Set goals and priorities. What are you focusing on in this moment? What needs to be finished today, and what can be finished later? Remember, it’s okay to say “no” if you have too much going on. At the end of the day, celebrate what you accomplished instead of focusing on the tasks you couldn’t complete.
  • Practice gratitude. What are you grateful for? Remind yourself every day. If you have a journal, write them down. If it’s a person you are grateful for, you can even call and tell them!
  • Stay connected. Friends and family can be a great source of support. Lean on people who you are close to when celebrating successes and facing challenges.

There are resources available to guide and engage you in practicing a number of these tips. Building momentum is sometimes as simple as knowing where to start. If there is a general tip that fits your lifestyle, you could pair it with a guided mindfulness practice that focuses on gratitude and self-affirmation or relaxation, restfulness and emotional regulation. A list of short mindfulness narrations by counsellors at the University of Sonoma, found here, provides access to a number of different approaches for you to try (4).

Summer is a great time to highlight the benefits of being in nature and how this can contribute to your self-care. Being outside, even for a short brain break, a walk during lunch or a lounge in the backyard, can do amazing things for your self-care. Studies are showing that simple acts in nature have a wide range of benefits. “Exposure to nature has been linked to a host of benefits, including improved attention, lower stress, better mood, reduced risk of psychiatric disorders and even upticks in empathy and cooperation…Experimental findings show how impressive nature’s healing powers can be—just a few moments of green can perk up a tired brain…Even the sounds of nature may be recuperative (5).”

If this seems overwhelming, start small and build on these habits. Spending a few minutes on this at the start, middle, and end of your day is a great way to begin and see quick improvements (2). We hope you find more balance within your wellness as you build on these habits consistently. Have a fantastic summer 🫶!


 

References

  1. Harvard Health. (2017, November 16). Self-care: 4 ways to nourish body and soul. Retrieved July 26, 2023, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/self-care-4-ways-nourish-body-soul-2017111612736
  2. Glowiak, M. (2020, April 14). What is Self-Care and Why is it Important For You? https://www.snhu.edu/about-us/newsroom/health/what-is-self-care
  3. NIMH » Caring for Your Mental Health. (n.d.). Retrieved July 26, 2023, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/caring-for-your-mental-health
  4. Self-Care & Wellness Tools. (2020, June 29). Counseling and Psychological Services at Sonoma State University. https://caps.sonoma.edu/resources/self-care-wellness-tools
  5. Weir, K. (2020, April 1). Nurtured by Nature. Retrieved July 26, 2023, from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/04/nurtured-nature

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