Maintaining Balance: The Importance of Self-Care

Guest blogger Sheila Olson has been a personal trainer for five years. She believes the best way to achieve physical fitness and good health is to set and tackle small goals. She encourages her clients to stay positive and incorporates mindfulness and practices for reducing negative talk into her sessions. She created FitSheila.com to spread the word about her fitness philosophy.

Committing to a regular exercise routine is a big step toward a healthier life for many people. It’s a positive move toward a more fit and confident you, but it’s important to remember that exercise is just one part of the picture. Everyone needs to work toward a balanced life, one that’s not dominated by routines, even those that benefit you physically. The traditional American work ethic and drive to achieve often leaves little or no opportunity for self-care, the time we use to provide for our own needs and sense of well-being. Reducing stress by enjoying favorite hobbies and activities, or simply relaxing and spending quiet time with one’s thoughts and feelings, are as important as the exercise we get from our workouts. Taking care of your mental health also depends on the ability to develop stress coping mechanisms.

Commune with nature
Do you find yourself driving by a park or wooded area near your home and think, “I’ve got to try going for a walk there some time?” Make some time on the weekend or after work to stroll among the trees, breathing in the fresh air and enjoying the relaxing natural surroundings. It’s an effective way to lower your blood pressure, spend some time thinking to yourself, and resetting  your perspective, especially if you have a difficult and stressful job. Don’t forget the added benefit of exercising in a lush and beautiful environment.

Visit your favorite haunt
If you have a favorite coffee shop or restaurant, some place where you feel comfortable and at ease, make time just to hang out, read a good book, browse the Internet, and enjoy a good cup of Joe. It may sound like a funny phrase, but sometimes your “happy place” really is a place, a havenwhere you can re-energize and regroup. It’s reassuring, an important psychological anchor amid the sea of responsibility and deadlines we all face week after week.

Furry therapy
Anyone who’s ever cuddled a small, furry kitten understands the therapeutic value of animals. Animals allow us to lay aside our social selves for a while and delight in the company of a simple, loving creature who just likes to be held and stroked. Playing with a dog or cat for a few minutes can lower your blood pressure, boost your sense of well-being and help you cope with anxiety.

Awareness-enhancing activities
There are many ways to get in touch with your thoughts and focus on your mental condition. Meditation is a widely used form of channeling your energy. Try spending a few minutes every day concentrating on your breathing, and being aware of your body. Some people concentrate on a word or phrase, or a favorite religious figure. A regular routine of mindfulness meditation can promote healthful sleep, lower blood pressure, reduce feelings of depression and alleviate chronic fatigue. Many people opt to create a meditation space in their home, and it doesn’t take much to set up a retreat. It can even be in a corner of a room.

Record your thoughts
Keeping a daily journal can help you make sense of your feelings and express thoughts you’d normally hesitate to utter aloud. It’s a safe form of venting that can help you get rid of stress. Take 20 minutes or so each day to air out your frustrations and express your anger until you start feeling better. Once it’s out of your system, try to let it go and move on.

Balance
Leading a healthy life means striking a balance between your physical, mental and emotional health. When one aspect of your well-being is neglected, stress may result and problems arise. Be sure to include a self-care “routine” every week, something you do just for yourself.

Photo by Pixabay

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