Self-care, more than face masks and cups of tea (although there’s nothing wrong with that either)

When faced with constant stressors in every aspect of life, self-care isn’t a want; it’s a need. And it’s more than just a facemask when the world feels too much (although that can be very necessary too). Self-care is vital to maintaining health and wellbeing. Stress increases cortisol levels in the body. This hormonal release is a protective and adaptive response designed for short term use. However, in the long term, elevated cortisol levels can cause more harm than good by relocating fat to the abdominal region, reducing the quality of sleep, reducing immunity, impairing gut health, increasing insulin resistance, hunger & appetite. Long term stress impairs adaptation and may contribute to the development of several disorders, including anxiety, depression, cognitive dysfunction, nutritional deficiencies, sleep disorders, autoimmune diseases, digestive problems, chronic pain, rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism (under-active thyroid), cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis.

Cortisol levels in the body can be reduced by many self-care activities, improving health outcomes, vitality and life satisfaction. Self-care is like emotional first aid, it involves checking in with your physical and emotional health because they have to be in balance to maintain overall health and wellbeing. All of the body’s systems are dependant on each other, and an imbalance in one system can present itself elsewhere in the body. Mental health is an example where digestive and gut health can influence anxiety, and anxiety can impact digestive and gut health. Everyone feels stress differently in their bodies, and it is essential to reflect on how stress affects you and where you feel it.

It is important to think about self-care daily and weekly rather than waiting for it to build up. Only using self-care in a crisis is like putting a bandaid on a deep cut; it doesn’t fix the problem because many self-care activities require practice. And, by practising them, we keep our cortisol levels lower and at a more manageable level. For me, self-care looks like this:

“True self-care is not bath salts and chocolate cake, it’s making the choice to build a life you don’t need to escape from”

Brianna Wiest

Below are some self-care ideas. What does self-care look like to you?

Physical self-care

Emotional self-care

Social self-care

Practical self-care