Self-care has many dimensions
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It seems that we live in a time of ever-increasing anxiety, stress, depression, and substance use.[1,2, 3] There are many possible reasons for these troubling trends, but researchers aren’t sure which are the most likely and are unable to pinpoint a single reason. As with many things in life, there are likely many factors at play.
It seems that with recent trends, a discussion about self-care is timely and necessary. More and more people in the United States are struggling with their mental health, but with the rising costs of mental health services and increasing demands on service providers – thus limiting their availability – more and more people are looking for strategies they can use on their own.
One of the factors, among others, linked to the increase in mental health problems has been the pandemic.  The pandemic is of course a subject that has received a lot of media attention. In working with clients during this difficult time, I have noticed that they report that they have spent more time in isolation, leaving them alone with their thoughts and struggles with no means to cope or care for them. themselves. For some, this created an opportunity for reflection; for others, it left them to face their own inner challenges without distraction. I argue that the pandemic has highlighted the need or lack of people’s skills or commitment to self-help.
Yes, social media is saturated with self-care talk; it seems like every day there is a new article published about the benefits of yoga, an exciting new self-help book, or a new self-care product, but the exposure to self-care leaves a lot to be desired.
To some extent, self-care getting more spotlight is a wonderful thing. Yet personal care coverage typically lacks depth and is often commercialized, serving as marketing for a specific product or service. In reality, self-care is not trendy or new. Human beings have been talking about and practicing self-care since the dawn of time. It has gone by many names and has been a focal point in the teachings and philosophies of many great spiritual teachers.
So take a moment and think about how you practice self-care, how it fits into your daily routine and experience, and how you can develop a greater sense of self-care in the future. Here are six dimensions of self-care. Read each one and think of a way to improve self-care in this area of life:
- Physical: Eating well, exercising regularly, being active, receiving proper medical care, and getting enough sleep are important investments in your physical health. People with poor mental health generally have high morbidity and mortality rates.  For many, physical health is something they ignore, but it only hurts them. They may not see the harm immediately, but over time the negative effects of not taking care of their physical health will manifest. Ask: In what ways can you take better care of yourself when it comes to your physical health?
- Witty: You may not be religious, and that’s okay, but we all have spiritual needs. We all crave moments of transcendence, peace, and purpose. They are significant elements of the human experience and are deeply linked to our overall well-being and emotional health.  I suggest spending time in solitude and contemplation, reflecting on the beauty of nature and the human experience, and understanding and living your purpose. If it’s hard to navigate, consider engaging with a faith-based community (or a spiritual or values-based community) that comes together to achieve a positive mission. Ask: In what ways can you take better care of yourself regarding your spiritual health?
- Intellectual: Feeding your mind is just as important as feeding your stomach. Your mind craves new information, insight, knowledge, and wisdom. Do not deprive your mind of this need. Challenge yourself to be a lifelong student, always eager to learn. Intellectual curiosity is linked to academic performance.  Good academic performance is a good predictor of a number of positive outcomes. Consider developing your intellectual curiosity by discovering an intellectual mentor from history; someone whose ideas stimulate your thinking. Find as many of that person’s works as you can and sit under their tutelage. Or consider learning a new skill or language. Ask: In what ways can you practice better self-care for your intellectual health?
- Relational: You are a social creature, which means you have an innate need to connect with a community to satisfy your needs for friendship, sex, and conversation. Social connectedness is strongly linked to our well-being.  You need other people in your life; people to ask the hard questions, to introduce new ideas into your consciousness; people who become friends, lovers or members of the community. Conversely, other people need you. You fulfill a purpose intrinsic to the human experience when you engage with others in a meaningful way to help, encourage, challenge, support, love, and befriend another human being. Ask: In what ways can you practice better self-care for your relationship health?
- Emotional: Satisfying your intellectual needs is important, but you are not a brain in a vat. You are an emotional being. To be a balanced person making a balanced investment, you must meet your emotional needs. Many are reluctant to take care of their emotional needs for fear of being vulnerable. However, the discomfort of vulnerability is outweighed by the emotional benefits. When you can open up to someone you trust and share your feelings, you will feel relief and fulfill a social need.  Ask: In what ways can you practice better self-care for your emotional health?
- Professional: Apart from sleep, work is probably one of the most time consuming activities of your life. Therefore, what you do for work and your level of enjoyment at work have a big impact on your life.  When you can combine your passions, strengths, interests, and mission into one activity that generates income, you know you’ve hit the jackpot. But flourishing in every way is not always possible. Sometimes we have to do a job we don’t like in order to meet our financial obligations. If you find yourself working only for pay, all hope is not lost. You can still find meaning and fulfillment in your work, but it may be something you need to create. Ask: How can you take better care of yourself when it comes to your health at work?
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