Sum 2020 up in one word and it would probably be ‘caution.’ During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re cautious about where we go, who we see, and how we interact. So much so that we’ve pretty much stopped doing all three. But caution, by definition, originates from two root words. It means both guard against AND take care. We’ve learned to guard against many things but in doing so often forget to take care of ourselves along the way.
An easy fix involves dedicating time on a regular basis to self-care. One Harvard physician described self-care as “paying attention to and supporting one’s own physical and mental health.” But, she admits “it’s also one of the first things to fall by the wayside in times of stress, especially for those who are primary caregivers. This includes parents, people caring for elderly relatives, healthcare providers, and first responders. These are the people who often put the well-being of others above themselves…When we don’t take care of ourselves, no one wins.”
Not to be confused with self-improvement, which is adding accomplishments to your skillset or starting a new hobby, self-care doesn’t focus on completing a task or reaching a goal. Self-care means doing little things—adjusting diet, exercise, and sleep patterns for example—to keep your whole body, mind, and spirit working smoothly and efficiently.
And boy, do we need it. Psychology Today warns that during times of stress “Our brains go into fight-or-flight mode and our perspective narrows. We don’t see we have options—options for coping with stress and making ourselves feel better. We’re so busy trying to solve problems that we’re stuck in ‘doing mode’—trying to get more and more done—when switching to ‘being mode’ may be just the break we need.”
To combat this, there are plenty of easy, inexpensive (or free!) things which count as self-care. Things like taking a stroll outside, enjoying a hot bath, walking barefoot in the grass, listening to your favorite music, or snuggling with your pets.
For those who feel a greater need or suffer from ongoing medical issues, speak with your primary care physician about adding complementary and alternative medicine options to your self-care regimen. These include working with skilled practitioners like chiropractors, acupuncturists, naturopaths, and massage therapists.
Dr. Chani Henderson of Vancouver’s Family & Sports Chiropractic Clinic understands just how much benefit comes from chiropractic care. She “believes in treating the whole patient, not just covering up symptoms… The better you know your body, the healthier you can be.”
Take headaches. A headache grows when we’re stressed, dehydrated, ill, or injured. Chiropractic treatment is a non-invasive way to realign your back and neck, for example, which often reduces lingering headache pain. Dr. Henderson and her team take a full medical history; ask questions about lifestyle, medication, and previous injuries; and perform hands-on examinations if needed. Every treatment is tailored to your specific circumstances, situation, activity level, and goals.
Self-care may not seem important in the midst of a pandemic, election year, or roller-coaster economy. But as one doctor told Healthline, “Research shows that the core aspects of self-care contribute to 60 to 70 percent of the chronic diseases we know in this world.” And simple things like sleep can make a marked difference. “Comfortable bedding and good pillows will enhance deep sleep, which improves the immune system, and the better sleep the less inflammation you have in your body, and inflammation contributes to disease from mental [illness] to heart disease to others.”
Want to know more? Give Dr. Henderson’s office a call at 360-254-0400 or book a consultation online. Follow the office on Facebook for updates and information and explore a variety of self-care journeys through their Instagram stories.
Like nature, our body is cyclical. We plant seeds, water them, then enjoy the benefits of clean air, shade, and delicious food. Self-care is part of that cycle. Says one psychology researcher, “Self-care encourages self-improvement. It promotes rest and relaxation, which benefits our overall health and wellness, and it also promotes healthy relationships. When our self-esteem and self-awareness improves, it has a positive effect on our overall mindset. This, in turn, enables us to care for our friends and loved ones in a way that we might not have been able to do before.”
So before you tackle another day of social distancing, Zoom meetings, masks, and hand sanitizer, pause and take a deep breath. Then look for small changes that’ll pay off in big ways. Your mental AND physical health will thank you.