2023: The Year of Wellness Everywhere

Whether it’s being tied up in traffic, facing a work deadline, or caring for a loved one, we all experience stress on some level every day. By taking care of ourselves and engaging in self-care, we can reduce the impact stress plays on our mind, body and spirit. According to research by ScienceDirect, practicing self-care improves well-being, increases longevity and reduces health care costs.  Most experts agree that there are five self-care pillars: Eating Healthy, Mental/emotional wellbeing, Physical/Recreational, Social, and Environmental. Let’s take a look at each pillar and learn how we can prioritize our well-being.

  1. Eating Healthy: Eating a well-balanced diet consisting of a variety of fruits and vegetables, protein and healthy grains can protect us from chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Eating healthy can also improve energy levels, mental focus and even sleep quality. Of course, most things in moderation is okay too.
  1. Mental/Emotional Well-being: This refers to taking care of our feelings and mental health through mindfulness, meditation, or a spiritual practice. Meditation doesn’t have to be sitting cross-legged for an hour chanting “om.” It can be as simple as mindfully taking a walk or sitting quietly and focusing on your breath by slowly inhaling into your belly and lengthening your exhale. Research shows that practicing these techniques can improve feelings of well-being and decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  1. Physical/Recreational: Exercise lowers blood pressure, boosts energy and reduces stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin. The key is to find an exercise plan that works for you. If going to the gym and exercising around other people is not your thing, try walking or jogging. Yoga is an excellent mind/body/spirit exercise. There are many types of yoga, from deep stretching and breathing on your mat to a flow style where you move from pose to pose building strength and increasing your heart rate. If you don’t have a regular workout practice, be gentle with yourself as you may not enjoy it at first. Eventually, with consistent practice you will experience the benefits.
  1. Environmental: Taking care of the space around you and spending time in nature best describes this pillar.  Examples of self-care that can help you thrive and increase serenity include decluttering your space, adding plants, candles or other meaningful items to your home and workspace, and monitoring your social media. Additionally, research shows that being in nature can reduce your heart rate and decrease muscle tension.
  1. Social: According to Psychology Today, connecting with friends can boost brain health and lower risk of dementia. For those of us who tend to be more introverted, here are some tips to engage socially:
    • If you’re a caregiver, join a caregiver support group. It’s a great way to connect with others experiencing the same challenges.
    • Join a Meetup group to find like-minded friends at Meetup.com.
    • Take a walk through your neighborhood, and smile and say hello to someone. It could lead to a conversation and a new friendship.

Making time for self-care should be at the top of your to-do list. The airlines have it right when they say to put your own oxygen mask on before helping someone else. You don’t have to practice every pillar to engage in self-care. Just choosing one or two activities, even combining pillars will go a long way towards reducing your stress levels, and improving your mind, body and spirit.