Many of us have so many responsibilities in life that we forget to take care of ourselves. And while it’s hard to prioritize something like taking a bath when you have so many other priorities in life, self care is an important aspect of stress management. A massage, soak in the tub or other forms of pampering revitalize you inside and out. And taking time out to treat your body like the temple it is has other benefits:
Self Care and You Physical Health:
While self-pampering doesn’t always lead to major improvements in overall health the way healthy diet and exercise do, the relaxation you get from it can trigger the relaxation response, which can prevent chronic stress from damaging your health, so in a sense, self-care is good for you inside and out.
Self Care and Your Emotional Health:
Taking time out to care for yourself can remind you and others that you and your needs are important, too. Having a well-cared-for body can make you feel good about yourself and your life, and conveys to others that you value yourself. This can contribute to long-term feelings of wellbeing.
Self Care Makes You a Better Caretaker:
People who neglect their own needs and forget to nurture themselves are at danger of deeper levels of unhappiness, low self-esteem and feelings of resentment. Also, sometimes people who spend their time only taking care of others can be at risk for getting burned out on all the giving, which makes it more difficult to care for others or themselves. Taking time to care for yourself regularly can make you a better caretaker for others.
Taking a few hours for a spa experience and some much-deserved self care is also an effective way to manage stress for the following reasons:
A Break from Stress:
Taking a break amidst a tub of warm bubbles or under the warm hands of an experienced masseuse can help you feel like you’re escaping a stressful reality and taking a mental and emotional vacation. As I mentioned, it triggers the relaxation response, and allows you to come back to the reality of your life feeling refreshed and relaxed.
While different people have varying degrees of introversion and extroversion, having some time along is important for most people’s functioning. When you’re relaxing by yourself, it’s much easier to slip into a state of quiet meditation, enjoy some self-reflection, or let your problems work themselves out in the back of your mind, without taking all of your focused concentration.
Giving your body some special treatment is a natural way to relieve stress. Other than keeping your skin soft and your body in good repair, spa-related activities like massage and warm baths have been known to sooth even small colicky babies like nothing else. Such activities continue to be effective tools for relaxation as we get older, but we sometimes forget to utilize them.
Once you’ve decided it’s time to start nurturing yourself and your body with some spa treatments, be sure to block off some time where you won’t be interrupted. Then you can put on some soothing music, and try some or all of the following suggestions:
- Take a Bath: Get out the bubbles, oils and scented soaps, and soak until you’re wrinkled.
- Deep-Condition Your Hair: While you’re in the tub, put on a deep-conditioning treatment for your hair, and let it work as you relax.
- Deep-Clean Your Pores: With a nice clay masque, you can draw impurities out of your skin and stress out of your system.
- Care For Your Feet: After you soak your feet to soften calloused skin, use a pumice stone to slough off dead skin, and finish with a rich foot cream, and perhaps polish.
- Nourish Your Skin: Rich, luxurious creams smell wonderful and feel smooth, especially if you exfoliate your skin in the tub before putting them on.
- Tend to Your Nails: Correct the beating your nails probably take from your busy life (especially for those of you who bite your nails!) by filing and buffing. A coat of polish on can make you feel like a princess for days afterward. (This is probably more for my female readers.)
- Get a Massage: This one can be especially nice. If your budget doesn’t allow for regular massages with a professional, see if you can trade with a friend or your spouse, or use an electronic massager.
In addition to pampering yourself, more substantial forms of self care involving healthy lifestyle choices are important, too. Consuming a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and being sure you get enough sleep are all important for long term health and stress management as well.
By Elizabeth Scott, M.S., About.com Guide
Updated July 12, 2007
About.com Health’s Disease and Condition content is reviewed by the Medical Review Board
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