Learning to do the things on our own that are necessary to help us survive and thrive is the key to effective self care. Having adequate food, water, and a warm shelter with clean air to breath is necessary for basic survival, and having caring social connections and a sense of purpose can be necessary for thriving emotionally
Self care is not an official medical term, to my knowledge, and it can involve emotionally supportive strategies that may not also be recommended as an effective care recommendation.
Strategies that are both emotionally and physically healthy would be the better choice for daily habits for health maintenance and save the less physically healthy but emotionally satisfying treats for less frequent use, but that suggests we have the research or the personal experience to know which strategies are less physically healthy.
That is where information based on effective health care research can help make self care choices more likely to be beneficial and effective for supporting long term health.
Effective self care, to continue, involves a combination of:
Effective self care strategies involve doing more of what seems to lead to the feelings of energy and wellness and less of what seems to lead to feeling pain.
Pain is a signal from the body that something is wrong so achieving and maintaining a pain free quality of life might also be helping to prevent chronic illness from developing or help maintain health better when a chronic illness or congenital birth issue is already present.
Balance and moderation are helpful to keep in mind with food and activities. Overloading a schedule can be a stress that can add to ill health.
A university program has been established at Yale University to help students with learning balance and self compassion. Over achievers are common and are encouraged along the way as successes accrue however without balance, and basic self care of food and rest, eventually some crash is likely to occur in mental or physical health.
When a disease or a medical issue is already present before making any changes to treatments or significant changes to your self care or exercise routines, it is important to discuss symptoms or problems with your health or with a medical treatment with the health care team before discontinuing a medication or treatment plan or adding new medications or supplements.
Abruptly stopping a treatment or adding other treatments without checking for interactions can sometimes cause a negative reaction or medical emergency to occur. See a health professional or a few seeking more information on a diagnosis or symptom can be self protective or simply make it easier to discuss with a doctor.
Forming new habits can be easier than trying to "break" old habits. Instead of fighting what is a long standing routine directly, trying to replace it with a new habit can help substitute a helpful activity while distracting from thoughts of the old. Boredom or strong emotions can make it more difficult to resist something.
Recognizing that you want to change, that the effort is something you actively choose to do, can be the best place to start according to the Stages of Change Theory. The stages of the theory include:
Hidden resistance can make the best intentions much more difficult with procrastination or worry or other blockers. If it seems like there is trouble getting started or sticking with a new habit for more than a couple days then it may help to think about what the blockers might be. Is there something about the old habit that was helpful in some way and could you find a substitute for that?
Sometimes issues leftover from childhood can be an underlying problem that is hard to change or recognize, seeking help from friends or a therapist can help. Art therapy, free-form drawing or other form of art can sometimes free the worries or images buried in wordless childhood memories.
Changing daily habits can be the key to better health. Our bodies change over the years as we age and our habits have to adapt with our body's physical capabilities, ideally before chronic illness has developed or excess weight is gained as metabolism slows each decade.
In normal health, with a healthy variety of nutritious foods available, the hunger and fullness signals will direct us to enough calories and nutrients and then lose interest in eating more. Pain is also a signal that something is wrong. The more we train ourselves and our children to ignore pain or medicate it away without considering why it is occurring the longer it takes to learn what is wrong, what is the underlying problem or problems causing the pain so that we can change our actions and prevent the pain.
Links and Reference footnotes for
Chapter 4: Effective Self Care.