The Art Of Self-Care: How To Take Care Of Your Physical And Mental Health
More often than not, we are preoccupied with things like work, maintaining our friendships and other relationships, and checking in with our families. And as much as we enjoy taking care of others, it’s also important to check-in with yourself. Making time for you is key to your physical and mental health.
With the Covid-19 pandemic still in motion and the number of infected cases fluctuating drastically day by day, many of us remain in lockdown and living under quarantine rules. Coinciding with these turbulent times, there has also been a rise in reported cases of anxiety and depression in Hong Kong, and a spike in the purchasing of self-care goods and products to alleviate stress and anxiety.
What is self-care?
Self-care is the engagement in activities that take care of our physical and mental health. Valerie explains, “it involves turning to our bodies, understanding our own needs and responding appropriately to those needs”. Living in a world where we are constantly exposed to an abundance of information, both offline and online, it’s easy to lose sight of doing the things that will care for our emotional, physical and spiritual needs.
We are all regularly exposed to stress––at school, at work, in our lifestyles and in our personal lives. But practicing “self-care helps us manage the stresses in our daily lives and helps us recharge” says Odile. And unfortunately, in our modern world, it is something that still seems indulgent or is seen as a luxury rather than a necessity. Especially during times when we really do need to prioritise our own well-being, the first things we tend to give up on are our fitness, our sleep and our diets.
What are the symptoms of a lack of self-care?
When we do not engage in self-care activities, “physically, we feel the physiological impacts of stress, things like increase heartrate, increase blood pressure, people complain of headaches, general aches and pains, and stomach upsets. From a mental health perspective, there is an increase in anxiety or depression, and emotionally people may find themselves more easily triggered––things like irritability or tearing up” says Odile.
Speaking from experience, before co-founding wellness platform OMSA, Valerie was working in a high-pressure bank environment. Coupled with her routine of competitive and intense sports, she says that it was a difficult experience and “led to burn-out and exhaustion, both mentally and physically.”
What are some things you can do to self-care?
According to Odile, there are three pillars of self-care––exercise, sleep and diet. Regularly exercising is not only important for your physical health, but from a mental health perspective, it has been shown to treat feelings of anxiety and depression. Getting enough sleep is also an incredibly important part of self-care and helps us recharge. And watching what you eat is beneficial to both your body and your emotions.
Mindfulness is also another great way to self-care. Embracing things like deep breathing, meditation and grounding exercises helps bring us back into the moment, to our own breath and thoughts. “How many times have we commuted back from work to home, and get home and think, how did I get back here? And it’s because you’re thinking about a million things, like deadlines and things you have to do tomorrow, so grounding yourself is really important particularly for anxiety” says Odile.
For Valerie, “self-care is merely doing what works for you. It can be as simple as taking a walk every day around your neighbourhood, enjoying a hot cup of coffee in the morning, to a more intricate ceremony with crystals and sacred herbs. What is truly self-care can vary depending on but not limited to the individual, the time of day and the time available.”
What are some tips on how to self-care?
Odile suggests trying coupling––pairing something you love with something you know is good for you, but you’re not too crazy about. “A lot of people find it hard to get motivated about exercising, so couple it with watching your favourite Netflix show. Or listen to your favourite podcast while going for a walk or hike.”
“If you are at a loss of where to start, consider reflecting on what you loved to do as a child––did you love to dance when no one was watching? Perhaps moving your body was your way to feel joy. Did you always doodle in your notebook? Drawing, doodling and journaling are great ways to express yourself and decompress after a long day” says Valerie.
The take away is to carve out some time in your day to do the things you love or are good for you, and to never think of it as an indulgence but a necessity for your own well-being.