Licensed Mental Health Counselor
This past week my husband and I had some time off together, and I convinced him to carve out an hour of that time for a massage – it didn’t take a lot of arm twisting. I was long overdue for one, and the poor therapist almost immediately commented on the tension I was carrying. In that moment, I recognized how poorly I had been taking care of myself. How despite my constant, and loving, reminders to my clients to engage in good self-care that I had failed myself. Which I am okay with – we all fail sometimes and shaming ourselves for it never results in positive behavioral change. That being said, it was the gentle reminder that I needed to be mindful of my body’s needs.
I say all of this to build to this point – self-care is NOT an optional thing.
Again, SELF-CARE IS NOT OPTIONAL.
You hear it time-and-again from us, but I am not sure we have done a good job establishing why it is a necessity which is what I would like to expound upon here. Stress is, basically, the buildup of tension and pressure exerted on our bodies as we navigate the daily demands of our lives. It is our body responding to strain, needs, deadlines, and competing responsibilities. In this way, it is a universal experience. Here is the problem, it is also slowly killing us.
That is not hyperbole – stress is a silent killer. When stress is dealt with appropriately there are essentially three phases – alarm, resistance, and recovery. Alarm is the phase in which our body detects a threat (and all stress is our brain sensing threats) and starts the process by which we can respond – we experience a surge in energy as our body releases stress hormones, our muscles tighten, blood vessels constrict, respiration changes, and we prepare to respond to this stressor. Resistance is our bodies attempts to adapt to the additional strain by releasing hormones designed to maintain an internal homeostasis. Ideally, all of this is short term and we enter a recovery phase where the alarm shuts off, stress hormones drop, and our internal systems normalize.
Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case and many of us live in the alarm/resistance phases. Over time, this begins to rewire our brain to detect threats where there are none and wreaks havoc on our internal organs, muscles, and hormone levels. THIS is why self-care is so important. This is why we encourage you take time to mitigate these harmful effects and to take care of yourself. We can talk more at a later date about strategies for good self-care, but for now the lesson I want you to focus on is that self-care is not an option, it is a matter of wellness and health. So, the next time you think you do not have time for self-care – remember that you can’t afford not to engage in good self-care.
I’ll be honest, self-care is not always the most glamorous thing. While my massage was lovely, I’ve also taken more practical steps. Remember, self-care is not about what feels good, it is about doing what is necessary to take care of our bodies. For me, I’ve spent more time gardening, caught up on some house repairs, and changed my diet (more veggies and starting/resuming supplements – fewer cupcakes and cookies.) It isn’t beautiful in the traditional sense, but it makes my life one that I want to live rather than one from which I want to escape.
So, try asking yourself that same question – what is one thing I need to add or remove from my life to make it one I want to live?
If you are having trouble with this question or just need someone to talk to, the skilled therapists at Life Skills Resource Group are here to help. Call for a FREE phone consultation: (407)355-7378