Have you ever found yourself trapped in this all-too-common vicious cycle:
You feel bad.
You do something to make yourself feel better.
It works and you do feel better!
You stop doing what made you feel better.
You feel bad again.
It’s time to break the cycle! Self-care – the actions and adjustments we make to cope with stress and anxiety – must be a lifestyle, not something we dive into only when we feel bad and then let slide until we start to feel bad again.
We understand why lifestyle changes are necessary for our physical health. Someone suffering from diabetes, for example, can not reasonably expect to feel well if they binge on carbs and sweets one day and then counter that with a massive injection of insulin the next. That’s a recipe for disaster.
Dealing successfully with a condition like diabetes requires consistent and balanced self-discipline. It may not be easy. It may not be enjoyable. But it’s essential if we’re to maintain our health.
Caring for our mental and emotional health is, in some ways, similar. It requires consistent effort; we should practice self-care every day, not just when we feel bad. It requires balance; we have many roles to fill and everything, including self-care, takes time.
There is a major difference, however, between making the lifestyle changes required to control a condition like diabetes and the lifestyle changes needed to maintain our emotional well-being. The former may require sticking ourselves with a needle several times a day or denying ourselves certain foods we enjoy. The latter is not at all painful and is actually very enjoyable!
There’s a wide range of activities that fall under the umbrella of “self-care.” It could be taking in the sights and sounds of nature as we take a walk in the park. It could be recording our thoughts in a journal, a sketch, or a painting. It could be curling up with a cup of herbal tea and a good book, or kicking back and watching our favorite movie with a bowl of popcorn. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive; whatever helps us de-stress.
Why do some people let their self-care routine slide? Often, it’s just a matter of time. We’re all busy and it’s easy to put off that walk In the park when we have an important business call to make. Or we may feel guilty about indulging ourselves when we have obligations to fulfill.
While these are valid concerns, we do no one any favors – least of all ourselves – by letting our mental health deteriorate. We can’t properly fulfill our obligations to ourselves or others if we’re not working at our peak. And we can’t do that if we’re burning out due to stress. So break the opt-in / opt-out cycle and take the time – every day – to make self-care part of your lifestyle.