If you’re feeling overwhelmed and like life is kicking your ass, it’s time to take a step back and focus on self-care. In this blog article, I talk about how self-care is the solution to life’s problems and why it’s crucial to make time for yourself in today’s hectic world.
People often mistake self-pampering for self-care, as discussed in last week’s article. Pampering has its place, but it’s not authentic self-care and therefore does not have the same life-transforming power. So, as you continue reading this week’s wisdom drop, remember that the self-care we’re exploring is not indulging in chocolate, a spa day, or taking a vacation. It’s managing the mind-body connection.
The Neuroscience of Self-Care
In their May 2021 article “The Science of Self Care,” The Momentous Institute (TMI) discusses the neuroscience behind self-care and which kind of self-care is the solution to life’s challenges and is the most effective at helping you manage stress. Neuroscience is the scientific study of the connection between the brain and the body. According to TMI, the following is a list of symptoms that indicate that your mind-body connection is being negatively impacted by stress:
- Scattered thoughts
- Trouble sleeping
- Rapid heart rate
- Shallow breathing
- Mood swings
In simple terms, stress overload is responsible for most things that make us feel like 💩 and make it harder to function. TMI says regulating your nervous system is the most effective stress management method. The best way to do that is by focusing on activities that simultaneously control the brain and body. They say the below activities have scientific evidence that they’re effective at regulating both body and mind. In other words, these practices prove that self-care is the solution:
If you need to familiarize yourself with the above practices, follow the links for more information. Otherwise, keep reading to learn more about the proof that these self-care practices benefit your stress responses.
Mindful Breathing as a Self-Care Solution
The National Institute of Health published a 2016 study titled “The Effectiveness of Daily Mindful Breathing Practices on Test Anxiety of Students,” where they evaluated the impact of mindful breathing and cognitive reappraisal on the anxiety levels of students who were about to take a test. They split the students into three groups. For six days before the test, one group practiced mindful breathing, another practiced cognitive reappraisal, and a third served as a control group with no assigned practice.
The results indicated that out of the three groups, the students that practiced mindful breathing had the lowest anxiety levels and had more positive thoughts about taking the test.
Another study published in 2017, “The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults,” reiterates the evidence that mindful breathing is a self-care solution. In addition, the 2017 study illustrates that regular mindful breathing practice improves cognitive performance and reduces the negative impact of stress on healthy adults.
Meditation as a Self-Care Solution
According to the 2021 article by The Momentous Institute (TMI), meditation is another effective means of self-care. The best proof I can offer to support TMI’s claim is “12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation,” published in 2022 by Humanitas University (HU). The HU article asserts that daily meditation provides these twelve phenomenal mind-body benefits:
- Stress Reduction
- Anxiety Management
- Better Emotional Health
- Increased Self-Awareness
- Longer Attention Span
- Reduced Age-Related Memory Loss
- Enhanced Compassion
- Helps to Overcome Addiction
- Improved Sleep Quality
- Pain Management
- Lower Blood Pressure
- Accessible to Everyone
With evidence like the studies referenced in the HU article, it’s easy to see that meditation as self-care is the solution.
Using Progressive Muscle Relaxation as Self-Care
Suppose you’ve practiced yoga or attended a meditation class. In that case, you may have been exposed to progressive muscle relaxation without realizing it. In simple terms, this technique involves tensing and relaxing muscle groups individually. The practice starts at your head or feet and moves toward the other end of your body. It’s a simple way to relieve tension. And according to science, it’s a proven way to benefit from self-care.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) published a study on the effects of progressive muscle relaxation on the mind and body in July 2021. The study pitted three popular self-care techniques against each other: guided imagery, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). A control group was also included. Participants practiced their assigned modality for twenty minutes. Mental states were evaluated before and after the practice. During the course, electrodes were used to measure relaxation in the body. Compared to the control group, all three were significantly more relaxing. However, while all three were equally relaxing for the mind, PMR and guided imagery were more effective at soothing the body.
Acupuncture as a Self-Care Solution
This one is a tad controversial. TMI touts it as one of the few scientifically proven effective stress management techniques. However, an informative article by Joe Cohen, CEO of SelfDecode, states that evidence that acupuncture relieves mood disorders or manages stress is insufficient. He says this is due to poor study controls and a lack of systematic reporting. However, a wide variety of studies claim positive results. I can attest to the effectiveness of acupuncture in alleviating symptoms of Bell’s Palsy. Still, I have yet to try it as general self-care. The practice has been used in Chinese medicine for over 3,000 years. So, it’s up to you: trust that 3,000 years of anecdotal evidence proves that acupuncture is a viable self-care solution, or wait for the perfectly controlled, double-blind scientific study.
EFT Tapping as Self-Care
EFT, “Emotional Freedom Techniques,” began in the 1970s. Psychologists began experimenting with pressure point stimulation to relieve patients’ anxiety, stress, and phobias. A couple of techniques were born from this experimentation, including EFT. Doctor Gary Craig is credited for naming the method and making it accessible to the public. According to Chinese medicine, energy flows through the body along pathways called “meridians.” In EFT, you rhythmically tap on designated points along these meridians to stimulate energy flow and release stuck or stagnant emotional energy. The tapping is paired with affirming statements that help you to process and release challenging emotions.
It sounds like woo-woo hokum, but practitioners claim it works wonders. And there is at least some scientific evidence that it works. Web MD wrote in an article from October 2021, “Most EFT studies rely on feedback from participants, but at least one study found that EFT tapping had measurable results on the body. Participants had lower heart rates and blood pressure after tapping. They also had lower levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress.”
So… the next time life starts kicking your 🍑, try EFT tapping or one of the other techniques in this article. And remember, no amount of stress relief self-care will help if you’re stuck in a toxic relationship, job, mindset, or living situation. So when you find yourself in that kind of trouble, you need to step up your self-care game and make some challenging but worthwhile changes to support your mental, emotional, and physical health.
Final Words on Why Self-Care is the Solution
Self-care should not be underestimated – it is one of the most important things we can do to live a healthier and happier life. When life kicks your ass, focus on mindful breathing, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, acupuncture, and EFT tapping. These activities not only help to reduce stress but can also have positive, long-term effects on your mental and physical health. As Lao Tzu, the Chinese philosopher said: “When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.” Self-care is about taking responsibility for your well-being and, in doing so, unlocking a life of peace and joy. When done with intention, self-care will lead to a life of resilience and abundance – so make sure to make it a priority today! And make sure to subscribe, so you receive next week’s article wrapping up this month’s self-care mini-series in your Inbox.
That’s all for now! Take care, and I hope I see you back here next week. 🤗