Make Time to Find Balance: The Importance of Self-Care


Most of us learn during the course of our lives that achieving balance between our physical and mental selves is important, and has a great deal to do with our happiness. It’s instilled in us from an early age that staying in good physical condition is the key, but people sometimes lose sight of the fact that mental and emotional health are also important and need plenty of attention. People leading busy lives sometimes find it difficult to give basic self-care needs the attention they require. Consider the following points if you’re feeling out of kilter and aren’t sure why.


When you work long hours and find there isn’t enough time to get everything done, it’s tempting to cut corners when it comes to sleep. It’s a dangerous practice, because people who fail to get at least 7 hours of restful sleep a night tend to show the strain in their inability to concentrate at work, a tendency to be impatient and cross with others, and a general loss of mental acuity. From a physical standpoint, things get really serious. People who don’t get enough sleep tend to get sick more often because their immune systems are compromised.

Maintaining a healthy weight may be difficult, because sleep deprivation affects the metabolism. Your blood pressure is elevated, and depleted energy saps your motivation and interest in sex. Try initiating a set bedtime every night and getting up at the same time every morning. Wind down before going to bed by reading or taking a hot bath. And avoid stimulants of any kind (like caffeine) after dinner.

Stress reduction

Chronic stress is a serious condition. Cortisol, the “active ingredient” in stress, impairs cognitive functioning and elevates blood pressure. Hyperglycemia and suppressed thyroid functioning may also result. Long-term activation of the body’s stress response can cause anxiety, depression, heart disease, sleep issues, and weight gain, and damage memory and the ability to concentrate. You can minimize the presence of stress in your life through some simple self-care strategies, including regular exercise, eating healthy, making time for a favorite hobby, volunteering with charitable organizations, and maintaining friendships.

Chill out

Simple relaxation is one of the most under-utilized, overlooked self-care strategies. In today’s “keep-producing” society, taking time to relax and unwind is often considered unnecessary and dispensable, even a waste of time, but you pay a heavy price over time. Staying on the go without relief keeps your body “on alert” all the time.

If you’re just too busy to carve out 2 or 3 hours to take it easy, try starting small. Take 20 minutes a day just to go for a walk or read a book, and gradually increase it to a half-hour. You might find making time just for you is a bit easier than you thought. Before you know it, you might find yourself actively guarding your relaxation time, finally enjoying a nice balance between work and down time.

Guard your boundaries

Once you’re in the relaxation “groove,” the last thing you’ll want is to give it up, because you’ll feel better and less anxious about the things you can’t control. Protect this precious time by learning to say “no” when people ask you to do things for them. This can be difficult, especially if you’re predisposed to volunteer for things. The key is not to feel guilty about emphasizing your relaxation time. Remember, you can’t help others if you’re feeling run down and stressed, so don’t feel bad about guarding your boundaries.

Use that time to play sports with your family, a great way to unwind (and fit in some exercise) while having fun with loved ones. If basketball is everyone’s favorite sport, do your homework before buying a basketball goal. Read reviews and pay attention to assembly, durability and cost.

You’re the only one who knows how you feel. When you’re stressed and feeling worn out, you know best what needs to be done. Do yourself a favor and make time to take care of yourself.

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