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Self-Care: An Antidote to Stress
by Cindy Ricardo, LMHC, CIRT, Mindfulness Based Approaches/Contemplative Approaches Topic Expert Contributor
“Stressed souls need the reassuring rhythm of self-nurturing rituals.” --Sarah Ban Breathnach
Do you find yourself doing things for others, with little or no time for yourself? Do you walk around feeling stressed out and irritable? Is there little room for joy, gratitude, and peace in your life?
If you feel like an electrical outlet on its way to burnout, it’s time to look at how and where you’re spending your energy.
Signs that you are in need of self-care:
Let’s face it: If you don’t take care of yourself, who will? Neglecting yourself to meet others’ needs can negatively impact your physical, emotional, and mental health. For example, not getting enough rest or a good night’s sleep can result in feelings of exhaustion, difficulty concentrating, increased anxiety, and irritability. Over time, the stress might settle in your shoulders, neck, and back, creating physical pain like backaches or headaches. Your appetite could be affected, leading you to eat too much—seeking to tame anxiety by eating more—or too little—under stress, the brain releases a lot more acid, which can lead to feelings of nausea or heartburn. Living with a high level of stress could lead to high blood pressure or other heart conditions. The reality is that your body is like a car: if you don’t take good care of it, it will break down!
Emotional stress is often linked to stressful thoughts. This combination can have a detrimental effect on your level of energy, mental clarity, and emotions. Years ago, a family relative was stressed and overwhelmed by the things that were happening in her life. Her mother was ill and in need of personal care. She was also going through a divorce, on an emotional rollercoaster, and walked around with a constant headache. As a result of these factors, she was overwhelmed and her ability to focus and perform at work was seriously affected. Pressure was mounting, and something was bound to happen.
One morning, she was driving. She was so overwhelmed by emotions and thoughts that she didn’t notice a red light and ended up getting into an accident. Thankfully, she wasn’t seriously injured. Emotionally, however, it was a wake-up call for her to shift perspective and identify ways to create balance in her life by attending to her needs.
Lack of self-care can lead to anger and resentment. Putting your needs last on the list creates feelings of resentment and anger and can hurt close relationships. You may feel as if others are taking advantage of you or taking you for granted. You may be angry with yourself for not setting boundaries and being assertive. Mentally berating yourself or others doesn’t help. What helps is learning how to value yourself just as much as you value others. This can be a challenging task!
There are many reasons you may have a hard time practicing self-care:
Reflect on ways to incorporate self-care into your daily routine by reviewing the following list:
When you become still enough to connect with what is going on in your body, mind, and heart, you take the first step toward self-care. It is in that moment, when you identify needs and make time to nurture yourself, that you open the door to balance and life.
May you have moments of peace.
© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Cindy Ricardo, LMHC, CIRT, therapist in Coral Springs, Florida
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I write articles based on my experience as a therapist or a training or conference attendee. Many of these articles are written by others who are experts in their field and I share their information as resources for others.