America – land of the free and home of the brave. We have the strongest and largest military, the biggest national economy, and the second largest in terms of purchasing power. The United States is home to some of the world’s most famous, talented and influential people. As a country, we are arguably the leader of the free world and very little happens on a global scale without our involvement. And from the outside looking in, that is often how America and in turn, Americans are portrayed. However, at home, one may find themselves faced with a different perspective.
Although America is often considered one of the most prosperous nations in the world, its citizens are constantly falling behind just about every other affluent country in terms of life expectancy, the rate of injury and illness, and overall health. Sadly, this fact not only impacts our health as a nation, but it directly impacts our financial bottom line. While this unlikely to change on a national level, there are steps that the individual can take to help ensure mental, physical and emotional health – and it all begins with self-care.
Self-care is a term that has been making the rounds in the last several years, from television to print, and all over the internet, however, the term was originally coined back in the 1980s. At the time, healthcare professionals used the term to encourage patients to engage in healthy lifestyle choices and stress management practices. It was understood by these professionals that it is only through a holistic approach to healthcare that an individual can maximize their health care outcomes.
Initially, the recommendations for patients were fairly obvious, and more akin to instructions that many of us are familiar with today: exercise, eat well, practice good hygiene, avoid smoking, drink in moderation etc. However, over time, the notion evolved to include not only physical well being but psychological, emotional, social and spiritual components.
At its core, the practice of self-care holds true to the idea that stress and illness are more manageable when a person feels happy, healthy, love and content. Although self-care can often be “prescribed” by your healthcare professional, it should be understood that self-care is care that is provided “for you, by you,” and thus, self-care can often mean different things to different people. Ultimately, it is about establishing and identifying your personal needs and taking steps to ensure that they are met.
So how do you do it?
Knowing that everybody is a little different should be an indicator that not everyone’s self-care regime will be the same, however, there are some generally accepted and universal practices that likely would apply. Self-care doesn’t need to be complicated, in fact, self-care should be the opposite of complicated, as it is often the complications in life that give us the most stress.
In hopes of complicating this as little as possible, we have contacted the professionals, spoke with the practitioners, and discussed with the experts in order to compile a list of the best self-care methods that you can put into action. Remember, life is about living, and if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t have much of a life to live.
The act of being mindful has been mentioned and referred quite heavily in the past several years. From Oprah to countless self-help books, mindfulness is certainly one of the more prevalent trends that relate to self-care, however, unlike many other "fly by fads", mindfulness actually works.
Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique. And while the word “mindfulness” may suggest that it is only your mind or mental state that can benefit from the practice, it can also improve physical health.
Being mindful makes it easier to savor the pleasures in life as they occur, helps you become fully engaged in activities, and creates a greater capacity to deal with adverse events. By focusing on the here and now, many people who practice mindfulness find that they are less likely to get caught up in worries about the future or regrets over the past, are less preoccupied with concerns about success and self-esteem and are better able to form deep connections with others.
From a physical standpoint, studies have shown that practicing mindfulness can relieve stress, lower blood pressure, reduce the rid of heart disease, reduce chronic pain, improve sleep and often alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties. All this by simply living in the moment seems like a fair trade if the result is a feeling of self-betterment.