Home Mental Health & Well-Being Building Resilience through Sustainable Self-Care Habits

Building Resilience through Sustainable Self-Care Habits

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It can be hard to take care of yourself. Between work, family, and social responsibilities, the opportunity rarely emerges. Here’s the thing: that tired body you’re lugging around to all of these activities can only endure so much.

If you neglect your needs for long enough, it will have a major impact on your ability to function as a person and a professional. In this article, we look at sustainable, long-term self-care habits that can improve your life.

Diet and exercise

Diet and exercise are essential components of long-term wellness. A good diet gives you more energy. Better focus. An increased capacity for productivity. It also just makes you feel better. The human body isn’t really meant to handle high quantities of processed foods. By cutting them out in favour of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, you give yourself the fuel that hundreds of thousands of years of evolution have shaped human digestive systems to anticipate and respond well to.

Exercise is similarly impactful. Not only does it help you boost your metabolism, lower your blood pressure, and maintain your weight, but it also has mood-boosting potential.

Proper nutrition and exercise habits are not short-term solutions but lifestyle decisions that can have a big impact on your overall wellness.

Sleep right

Not many people do this. It’s hard to find the time. You’re a busy professional. You eat breakfast in your car on the way to work because that’s all you have time for. How could you possibly expect to get the seven or eight hours of sleep that the doctor ordered?

Difficult though it may be, finding the time is important. Remember: exhaustion is a principle of diminishing returns. Limiting yourself to five hours of sleep during the night may technically supply your day with enough time to get everything done.

However, the longer you do this, the less effective you will be on the job. Sleep well and you boost your mental clarity, increase your ability to concentrate, and generally improve your work performance. Plus, you will be surprised by how much better you feel.

Limit screen time

Science has shown over and over again that it has a destructive impact on our brain’s natural reward system. Scrolling through social media, YouTube, or whatever you look at on your computer releases tiny waves of dopamine in your brain.

If you’ve ever wondered how you managed to spend forty minutes on Facebook looking at basically nothing, this is how it happened. Screen time can become like a low-stakes version of a drug habit. You may not be putting yourself at physical risk, but you may encounter common withdrawal symptoms.

This can include everything from anxiety to insomnia. You don’t need to cut social media out of your life entirely (though you probably won’t be the worse for doing it) but you should try to be more cognizant of your relationship with technology.

Pain is universal

Everyone experiences periods of difficulty. And yet some career paths inadvertently stigmatize getting mental health care. Social work and healthcare are two prime examples. These professions are all about helping people. How can you participate in them if you need help yourself?

Hernán Partida, head of the clinical psychology programme at CETYS Universidad covered this very concept: “Some activities exceed the capacities of health professionals, despite the high degree of commitment that they could show with their patients. Getting involved in professions in the health field is a demanding professional task that can produce acute stress states, which can end in burnout, compromising the personal well-being of the health professional.”

Recognising and treating burnout is essential for recovery. Left ignored, stress and anxiety can produce negative physical responses that are problematic in a professional context. Professor Partida explained: “In the face of burnout, atypical behaviours can be observed for a professional committed to their work, such as a lack of energy, exhaustion, cynicism, which manifests itself in treating colleagues and patients as objects, as well as a tendency to self-evaluate their performance negatively. In particular, a tendency to depersonalization symptoms can be observed among medical personnel and caregivers.”

When you are overwhelmed with life, it is difficult to perform at your usual level. In jobs that involve caring for others, this can have a serious impact on patient outcomes.

Self-care as a mindset

All of the behaviours described above are important components of self-care. However, to build sustainable habits, you need to be able to connect with your best self even when nothing is going right. Rebecca Gomez, PhD, LCSW, is the interim dean and an associate professor at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Social Work. She covered this concept in detail on her website.

“Here is the thing about self-care.  We often teach it as a checklist.  It boils down to taking care of yourself and making sure your needs get met. This is true but the external acts we take are really a means to an end.  Sure there are benefits to staying healthy and they certainly are an important part of self-care, but the truth is the most important part of self-care is a mindset.”

Self-care solutions are external treatments for an internal situation. Your feelings. They can soothe and remedy bad feelings as you navigate through tough situations. However, they will never be able to fully erase a problem. Dr Gomez recommends assuming a more mindful understanding of human experience.

“Happiness is situational.  It is fleeting.  We are happy when life goes our way.  Joy on the other hand is constant.  Joy is related to peace and serenity.  It is a spiritual understanding that in both times of tribulation and times of triumph, there is a constant in knowing that you can rest in the assurance that in the end all will be alright” added Dr Gomez.

Believing that things will be alright eventually should not completely supersede any other efforts of taking care of yourself in the present. However, context can make short-term challenges manageable.

What self-care isn’t

Self-care in its truest form is not a long “treat yourself,” day. Making the occasional indulgent purchase, or getting a spa treatment can be nice. However, to really take care of yourself, it is essential that you consider the long-term physical needs of your body.

Give yourself the fuel you need to succeed, and when all else fails, remember that pain and pleasure are both fleeting. With the right habits and mindsets, you can ride out any storm.

Adam Mulligan, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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