4.1: Self Care Strategies

Sunrise scene in a meadow with a person standing with their arms stretching up and out joyfully.

4.1.1: Rest and Relaxation

Sleep is essential for health. Growth and repair takes place and hormone production in addition to resting the mind and body. Our fast paced modern lives can make adequate quality sleep difficult to achieve. Complete darkness is also important and frequently difficult to obtain without covering alarm clocks and other lights and installing blackout curtains for windows. Complete darkness during sleep is necessary for melatonin production, a hormone that helps with health in a variety of ways.

4.1.2: Water helps energize and detoxify the body.

Water may be the best start to the day to help rehydrate and replenish stomach fluid before trying to digest breakfast.


Thirst signals can frequently be mistaken for hunger signals so a simple self care strategy can be to start with a glass of water and then have a snack or meal a little later if still feeling interested in food. Learning to recognize hunger and fullness signals is also a good strategy to openly discuss with children or to try to focus on learning as an adult if over or under eating is a problem.


See Make every day Kidney Appreciation Day for more information about how much water to drink each day for general health and prevention of chronic kidney disease. Information about protein recommendations for providing enough protein for health without overburdening the kidneys with excess is also included.

4.1.3: Breakfast and other meals refuel the body.

Breakfast is often described as the most important meal of the day however some people may find lunch to be easier to digest. Having protein at each meal is helpful for either group and becomes more important as we age. The body becomes more likely to break down muscle tissue than to build new and sarcopenia, loss of muscle tissue and weakness, is a risk for Senior Citizens. Protein helps with alertness so including it in the morning meal can also help with productivity. More carbohydrates can help with calming down and going to sleep so having more at dinner and less at breakfast and lunch might be more sensible for alertness during the work or school day.


Food sources and a discussion of the role protein, carbohydrates, fats and other nutrients have in maintaining health within the body is available in the glossary or accompanying blog site: Macro and Micronutrients.

4.1.4: Exercise and stretching helps strengthen and detoxify.

Too little exercise and long hours spent sitting or staying in the same position can make it more difficult for the cardiovascular and lymphatic systems to function well. Muscle motion helps the body move fluid throughout the body for detoxification in the lymph nodes which also help with immune function. Walking or other large body motions also help with lung function and oxygenation of the blood. Cardiovascular or heart and blood vessel health is improved with endurance activities such as moderately quick walking, hiking, jogging or other aerobic exercise. Anaerobic exercise is muscle strengthening work that is more intense for shorter lengths of time such as weight lifting. Stretching activities such as yoga help keep the muscles and tendons flexible and may help prevent muscle cramps. It is beneficial to warmup with mild walking for a few minutes and then do some stretching exercises before increasing to more strenuous aerobic or anaerobic workouts.

4.1.5: Meditative or other creative hobbies can help reduce stress.

Mindfulness or meditation can be as simple as focusing on breathing in and out or watching a candle flicker or clouds pass overhead. Savoring a meal or relaxing during simple physical chores can also be mindfulness activities. It simply means focusing on the present and letting go of thoughts of past or future worries or projects.


Walking or bicycling or other physical activities can also be opportunities to let the mind wander. Creative problem solving may be a benefit when the mind is given the time to relax solutions may emerge later. Art projects or writing in a journal can also be relaxing and free the subconscious to work through problems or worries.


For more about mindfulness, and positive stress - having a sense of purpose and feeling challenged in a good way, see G3.1: Positive Stress.


For more about forming habits, improving communication skills and assertiveness training for reducing negative stress see G3.2: Neuroplasticity.


For a list of who is more at risk for experiencing negative stress and a few antioxidant foods that may help reduce negative effects of oxidative stress see G3.3: Negative Stress.

4.1.6: Social connections with friends and family can be healing.

Social isolation may increase health risks while social interaction may help with reducing negative health effects of stress. Touch and emotional connections seem to help the body with healing for humans and other species of animals. Therapy animals or even care of a houseplant can also help give a sense of purpose as well as connection to life and may help with physical health and mental wellness.


For more about the benefits of social contact for reducing stress and an introduction to how early childhood bonding can affect health and behavior see G3.4: Social Contact.

4.1: You are in charge of your own health.

4.1.7: Self care isn't a luxury, it is a necessity.

Self care may suggest to some readers a luxury like a day at an expensive resort or  visit to a hairstylist or manicurist. Others might not know what a manicurist is (fingernail care and polishing) and just think of self care as a chance to shower and change into clean clothes. Both are right. Self care can be occasional luxury treatments that may help health and relaxation and it also means daily habits of personal cleanliness and adequate meals, water, rest, and exercise. 

     Good health is a luxury and it is worth the daily price of preparing meals and snacks, refilling reusable water bottles for taking along on walks or to work or school, and slowing down early enough in the evening to be able to get to sleep easily. Staying up late, especially with modern brightly lit television or computer screens, can interfere with the natural sleep cycle and may make it more difficult to get to sleep.

Disclaimer

See a healthcare provider for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. 

  • Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes. 

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a service for locating a nutrition counselor near you at the website eatright.org: (eatright.org/find-an-expert) 


For Links & References see: 4. Links & References.pdf.