The Importance of Self-Care

Woman drinking tea and reading book on couch

Woman drinking tea and reading book on couch

Take care of yourself” is an aphorism used daily in our culture to express love and care to others. It is also one that each of us should purposefully apply to our daily lives.

American culture grooms us to work as hard as we can for as long as we can, to pour into and nurture others and to take breaks only when sick. While this formula may afford great career success, it has caused us to neglect ourselves in the process. America may be the world’s most prosperous nation, but we are one of the world’s sickest nations, mostly because of our own choices.

I recently conducted a workshop entitled “Taking Care of You” at the Women in Business Expo and Conference. During the workshop, attendees completed a self-assessment to evaluate their current level of self-care in the following categories: physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, relationship, workplace and overall balance. Only one person in the workshop reported doing a “great” job in overall self-care, everyone else had work to do!

I took the assessment myself and found that while I was doing a great job with my physical self-care, my psychological self-care needed some work. I discuss stress management and self-care with about nine out of 10 patients I see, but I also need to hear the information for myself because it is too easy to get caught up being so busy that you don’t devote any time or energy to you own health and wellness.

Functioning in a constant state of stress and fatigue may be culturally acceptable, but it’s just plain unhealthy. Research shows that between 75 and 95 percent of illnesses are stress-related. More specifically, stress can cause issues such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression and anxiety. A lack of attention to ourselves is making us sick.

This is not a new issue; stress has long been identified as a major health concern in the United States. In June of 1983, more than 30 years ago, Time published on its cover the headline: “Stress: The Epidemic of the Eighties,” while referring to stress as our leading health problem.

So, how do we fit self-care into our already jam-packed lives? First, we must accept that there is nothing selfish about taking care of yourself. It’s true! Remember: “You are not required to set yourself on fire in order to keep other people warm.” Yes, we all have important responsibilities at work and at home, but you have to prioritize being well.

Here are a few self-care tips that I often share with my patients:

Schedule self-care activities in advance and protect this time. We schedule meetings, calls, drop-offs, etc. Try scheduling time in the gym, time alone to reflect and time doing something fun with those who matter most. Make this “you-time” non-negotiable. Honor your regimen daily.

Eat every two to three hours while you are awake and drink lots of water. This you also have to plan for, but it’s so important for overall health, energy and immune system strength.

Schedule mental health days at least once per month! Take a day off from everything; no work, no errands, no social media. Just you, your pajamas and the television remote. It’s important to relax and allow your mind and body to reboot.

Say “no” to extra responsibilities. We take on responsibilities knowing that we have no more room on our plate. This leads to more stress and, ultimately, decreased quality of life and illness.

What all this comes down to is: Prioritize yourself. Implement these tips to create your own daily regimen. Trust me, your future-self will thank you for it! VT

Dr. Ashley D. Miller is the owner of Athena Health and Wellness, 907 Lyndon Lane in Louisville. For more information, visit athenahealthandwellness.com or call 502.425.7659.

By Dr. Ashley D. Miller, Special Contributor