Applied Psychology

How Self-Care Impacts Your Health

Feb 09, 2022 | By Saranne Durham
How Self-Care Impacts Your Health - SACAP
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Self-care seems to come with baggage just from thinking about it. It’s often viewed as being selfish and self-obsessive. Such that putting your needs first, means you fall short of being the kind and selfless person you “should be”. Many regard it as a luxury and something that one hopefully gets to, when you have time. However, what if these views are upside-down? Meaning that, perhaps we have it the wrong way around? And actually, self-care is the least selfish thing we can do? Instead, is it something that’s a necessity and should be one of our top priorities? Thus, by not doing it we are more inclined towards being self-righteous and not self-less?

What does Self-Care Mean?

Self-care is a conscious decision to look after one’s own health in a holistic manner. Therefore, it encompasses the mental, emotional, physical and, for many, spiritual areas of our lives. These parts of us are intertwined. Thus, if one is off-kilter or quickly being depleted the others areas are impacted too. For example, skipping meals may gain you time to finish some work off. However, your brain needs nutrients to function properly. Thus, by depriving yourself of food you are more inclined towards not being able to process information optimally. This impacts the quality of your work as well as how you interact with those around you. And in all likelihood, your ability to manage stress will decrease too, which will leave you feeling overwhelmed.

“Self-Care is a Conscious Act taken by someone who has decided to look after and maintain their own health.”

What does Self-Care Look Like?

Self-Care can take many forms. Although, at its root it can be described as doing and maintaining the basics. Self-Care means striving for balance, health and wellbeing across the multiple areas of your life. Thus, the end goal is to have systems in place that strengthen and sustain your mental, emotional, and physical health.

People differ and while basic elements, like nutritious eating, apply to all; what this practically looks like can vary. Part of self-care is developing your self-awareness. It’s about tuning into yourself and thereby understanding what you need, why and when you’re likely to need it.

Why Self-Care is Important

We are complex and intricately balanced. This means that the parts that make us up are interconnected. It can be to our advantage, in that for a period of time one area can compensate for another. However, it can also result in one area negatively impacting another. For example, our mental health has an impact on our physical and emotional wellbeing. Anxiety can cause us to be teary or short tempered with others. As well as result in muscle spasms or a compromised immune system. Additionally, self-care helps us create a better work-life balance. Which can make us generally more productive, efficient and effective.

5 Ways Self-Care is Good for You

  1. Mental Wellbeing: It can help with symptoms and the progression of mental health illnesses. It can also assist in decreasing and managing stress levels.
  2. Emotional Health: By becoming more self-aware, you are more likely to identify and understand patterns that are negative triggers in your life. This can assist, for example, with regulating your emotions and expressing yourself, and self-esteem.
  3. Physical Health: Practicing it has been clinically proven to reduce heart disease, cancer and strokes.
  4. Social Interactions: Being able to understand your reactions as well as set and maintain personal boundaries has many advantages such as better relationships.
  5. Finances: Medical care is expensive and by looking after yourself you are engaging in preventative care. Which has been shown to decrease how often many people need to seek medical interventions. (Note: it does not replace the need for medical care)

“Self-Care has a positive impact on our lives – it’s the opposite of being selfish. It can result in your having more capacity to assist and support those around.”

Where to Start with Self-Care

Self-care is not a once off activity. Rather it is a continuous and daily activity that needs to be practiced throughout our lives. Ideally, it should be taught to children. You can also learn self-care and improve upon it later in life. Because it takes practice and requires perseverance, you may not get it right the first time. Often life is unpredictable and pressured. Therefore, at times you may not be able to maintain your self-care practices as well as you would like to. That’s perfectly normal and understandable. Being aware of what’s going on, means that when you can you’ll address the imbalance and reinstate your self-care systems.

3 Self-Care Strategies

  1. Mental: Fostering an attitude of gratitude and more positive outlook can help improve your mental well-being. As will actively rewiring your brain for happiness. Schedule downtime without screens and to do something you enjoy. This will help so that you can unplug from work and any challenges you face. Consider working with a life-coach, they can assist you to better balance life and ease your cognitive load. If you need to access mental health care, then access it as soon as possible. There are in-person as well as virtual appointment options.
  2. Emotional: Accept your emotions and while you need to regulate them, you also need to express them. Journaling is a good way of reflecting and better understanding them. Choose relationships and social interactions which are healthy. And when you need to, talk to someone you trust, seek advice and don’t isolate yourself.
  3. Physical: Try to do something that gets you actively moving every day. Think out-the-box. It could be a sport or instead gardening, housekeeping and walking with a friend. Get enough sleep and eat a balanced, healthy diet in which sugar is limited. Annually, have your eyes and teeth checked. Take prescribed medication as directed. And when necessary, seek medical attention before you get to crisis point.

Helping Others on their Journey

Studying counselling or psychology is a great way to help others on their self-care journey. You can also assist them by becoming a coach. The South African College of Applied Psychology (SACAP) is an accredited institution. It offers short courses as well as professional degrees. These can be undertaken online or at the Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria or Durban campus. Enrol online today or contact us for further information.

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