Self-Care Is Key
for Getting Through Tough Times
By Jennifer McGregor
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What do you do when times get tough? Are you more inclined to purchase whole foods, or do convenience foods and drive-throughs call your name? Do you stay sober or turn to substances for your relief? Do you burn some negative energy with a good workout, or hit the couch to ruminate on your troubles?
Bad eating habits are on the rise. Drug and alcohol addiction is now as prevalent as cancer, and the epidemic of opioid addiction continues to get worse — especially in light of the pandemic. And sedentary lifestyles are notoriously soaring throughout the world.
There is some good news in all this, though. Self-care therapies can be very effective in managing stress, and in getting you beyond the challenges that can trigger unhealthy choices.
One Day at a Time
It is vitally important to understand that recovering from stressful times is a process, not a one-time event. The process begins with self-care. Not practicing self-care is when you experience anxiety, anger, depression, mood swings, or isolation, and you don’t reach out to anyone. You don’t see friends and don’t ask for help. You’re not eating foods that nourish your body, and you’re not getting enough sleep. If you continue any of these behaviors for long, you will begin to experience a decline in health.
Next in the process is that old thought patterns begin to take over. Old habits are hard to break, but you can create new ones with the right plan of action.
The key is to have a self-care plan in place:
● Remember to take everything one day at a time—sometimes it might be one hour at a time. Thinking about world events, personal problems and so forth feel overwhelming, so use small chunks of time in the beginning to just focus on what you can do in the moment.
● Know your personal triggers for making unhealthy choices. Maybe you tend to pack your schedule too full, or you spend time with toxic people. It’s recommended you avoid all personal triggers to the greatest extent possible.
● Sometimes medical concerns get in the way of carrying out healthy self-care. If you can’t get quality sleep, for instance, it could be due to teeth misalignment. Thankfully, there are effective and inexpensive home treatments these days, like Byte. You can even look into the HyperByte vibration device, which is the fastest treatment available, and doesn’t require trips to a dental office. These therapies are tailored to your needs by dental professionals but can be completed in your home.
● Reach out to a friend who can help you or go to a meeting of people in similar circumstances. Open up and share what you’re going through. Support groups and relationships who are supportive of you play a vital role in maintaining well-being.
● Downtime to relax is important, but you should occupy your mind. Distract yourself from concerns that weigh on you with positive activities and hobbies. Go swimming or out for a run. Draw, read, cook, or do anything that brings you joy. Per Psychology Today, boredom is a common condition that leads to addiction, so you’ll want to avoid it at all costs.
● Nourish your body with healthy food and enough sleep. Keep in mind the famous rubric for recovery, H.A.L.T. Don’t let yourself get too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired.
● Prioritize soothing, meditative activities on a routine basis. Yoga and meditation can greatly reduce stress and anxiety. Researchers found that meditation quiets the posterior cingulate cortex, the neural space involved in the kind of rumination that can lead to a loop of obsession.
● Swimming can also produce a meditative state, thanks to the repetitive, quieting, solitary nature of it and the focus on rhythm and breathing. It’s a chance to get some exercise, but you can also spend time savoring the sensations and being mindful of your body and the experience.
As author Benjamin Alire Sáenz once said, “If you can quit for a day, you can quit for a lifetime.” Rather than reaching for something unhealthy to help you through a tough moment, practice self-care. Radical self-care gives you the tools you need for that instant, and for the future. The key is to never give up. Congratulations for choosing a path that’s going to lead you to ultimate health, happiness, and renewal.
Jennifer McGregor is a pre-med student, who enjoys writing about health and medical topics and providing reliable health and medical resources. Together with a friend, she co-created PublicHealthLibrary.org as a way to push reputable information on health topics to the forefront, making them easier and quicker to find.