April is National Stress Awareness Month. And the idea of self-care and the suggestions for how to get started benefit the body and the mind in sooo many ways. In fact, self-care helps reduce stress by slowing the breath, encouraging a feeling groundedness in the body (with less focus on worrisome thoughts), and promoting a greater connection to self and the bigger world, which helps lend perspective to stress and stressors. So in honor of National Stress Awareness Month: an article on self-care.

What if the power to discourage, dissuade, and even prevent disease and mental decline were within your grasp?

You might think I’m talking about good nutrition or even some top secret pharmaceutical.

But, no.

While good nutrition is a part of it, what I’m really talking about is self-care. And not self-care in the limited sense of self-medicating, at-home remedies, or even herbs or supplements.

Understanding Self-Care

The idea of self-care I’m referring to is much broader, encompassing body, mind, emotions, and spirit, being both preventative and proactive.

Self-care is developing the awareness of and then honoring what you really desire—on every level—and the rituals and practices that ensure you’re looking after your total well-being every single day. It includes habits that make you healthier, happier, and help you to feel more connected.

The benefits of self-care are truly enormous and shouldn’t be ignored.

Regular self-care can:

  • Prevent disease and illness
  • Make you feel good
  • Help you be more present, engaged, and connected
  • Help you to eat to satisfaction but not to stuffed
  • Make it easier to maintain your weight
  • Improve your longevity and quality of life

The importance of self-care cannot be underestimated. In fact, increasing research suggests self-nourishing practices can prevent or reduce the duration of colds and the flu, improve recovery from cancer treatments, promote focus and attention, and much, much more.

To get started with self-care, the mind-body connection needs to be strengthened. The stronger the mind-body connection is, the more responsive and effective self-care practices will be. Next, it’s time to develop the practices that become habits.

Developing Self-Care Practices

Because self-care is so individual, and you must determine what best suits you, it is only possible to share some of the most popular ones.

Here are a few ideas:

Daily meditation – Research suggests that daily meditation can prevent chronic illness; improve mood, self-esteem, and concentration; and reduce stress, anxiety, pain, and depression. It also increases compassion and builds a sense of connectedness. [1, 2]

Movement that feels good – The body is meant to move, and movement that feels good elevates hormones that lead to happiness and satisfaction and also reduce inflammation. Plus, it boosts blood flow, which makes you feel more alert. This isn’t necessarily exercise; it could just be walking, dancing, some stretching, gardening, or whatever active movement is enjoyable for your body.

Self-massage (with oil) – Giving yourself a massage helps you connect with your body, feel it, nourish it, love it. Just as any human being thrives on positive, loving touch, so, too does your own body. Adding oil can help nourish dry skin, aid in feeling grounded and being present, and give your body extra nutrients through skin absorption.

Enough sleep – 7-9 hours of quality sleep is fundamental to good self-care, and sleep is arguably the easiest thing on this list. Plus, sleep has a multitude of other benefits for your brain and body. [3]

Personal time to connect with the body and breathe deeply – Our rush, rush, rush world hardly seems to allow enough time to just be, to feel connected to our body, to breathe deeply. Yet, countless studies have shown that focused breathing (belly breathing or alternate nostril breathing) can lower heart rate and blood pressure, improve cognitive abilities, and prevent disease.  [4, 5, 6]

Have Fun, PlayFun – Why does our culture think adults shouldn’t have fun? Fun, laughter, and play brightens the mood, helps us connect to others, reduces stress, and enhances well-being.

Body brushing – Using a natural bristle brush over dry skin can improve lymphatic circulation, allowing more toxins to be moved and cleared through the liver or skin. Overtime, daily skin brushing can also reduce the appearance of cellulite and lighten PMS symptoms.

Intuitive eating – Listening to and responding honestly to the body’s cues of hunger, satiety, a need for more nutrient-dense foods, or negative reactions to sugar, coffee, processed food, wheat or dairy has numerous benefits. It strengthens and reinforces the mind-body connection, it makes weight management easier, and frequently leads to eating healthier, which contributes to improved mood and physical health. [7]

Other – You may also consider practicing yoga, or more specifically asanas or vinyasa, spending quiet time alone (which has proven benefits) [8], actually use vacation days to have a break from work, or just take a relaxing bath.

Benefiting from Self-Care

By taking an active role in your own self-care, you will be rewarded:

  1. Self-care increases your awareness (and connection to) your body, to be able to notice changes earlier and take a proactive approach to preventing disease.
  2. It creates an attitude of gratitude for all your body and mind do for you.
  3. Self-care helps develop love for yourself and your body, because whenever you invest time and care into something you come to love it.
  4. When you love something, you want to treat it well (nourishing foods, sleep, more self-care).
  5. And when you treat yourself well, it’s easier to maintain your health and to care more fully and deeply for those you love.

In order to reap these benefits, though you must start.

Perhaps today you just reread the list of ideas and let your own intuition guide you to one.

Choose something that will nourish you. Perhaps 3 minutes of meditation in the morning, 1 minute of dry brushing before a shower, or a few minutes of movement or deep breathing scattered throughout the day.

Test it out, feel that experience fully, reflect on that practice, and adjust as necessary. Repeat.

Just like any regular practice, it can take a while to get started, but once the habit is formed, it becomes an automatic routine. And the benefits to both mental and physical health are immeasurable.

Self-care is one of the most overlooked fundamentals to well-being, including mental and emotional health. Yet it costs virtually nothing. And can easily be cultivated one day at time.

Choose one, and get started today.


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