Defining your personal practice
18 Sep 2012
The Southeast Examiner - "Your neighborhood news source." Vol 23 No. 9 - Portland OR.
Editor's note: Wellness Word is an informational column which is not meant to replace a health care professional's diagnosis, treatment or medication.
What’s Your Self-Care Practice?
As the summer heat slowly dissipates and the wind blows brisk, we instinctively begin to prepare for the wet winter months ahead. With this change of season comes the harvest: a time of increased discipline and structure, a labor of love.
Autumn is the perfect time to evaluate what is and isn’t benefiting your life, to get motivated and make space for change. Is there a healthy behavioral change you have been interested in exploring? Have you been planning to start an exercise regimen, but keep finding reasons to put it off? What about that morning meditation class you’ve been talking about?
Whether your practice comes in the form of biking, tai chi or a weekly bubble bath, now is the time to take that empowered step toward your health by adopting a new self-care routine. By doing so you’ll set yourself up for optimal wellness during the tough winter months and beyond.
So, why is it important to be good to yourself? In our high stress culture we’re constantly on the go and rarely stop to honor our bodies. Self-care is an invaluable concept that is slowly becoming prioritized in our society. Self-care is about encouraging and empowering people to take their health into their own hands. From the healthcare standpoint, self-care can be useful in disease prevention and many self-care practices are also considered complementary medicine.
For example, yoga, meditation, tai chi, qi gong, chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, reiki, counseling, herbalism, and dance and music therapy are all considered to be complementary medicine. Developing a practice for the care of oneself has been proven to decrease stress levels in the body, while also leaving the person with a feeling of control. Studies have shown that individuals who took a moderately-paced walk each day reduced their sick days by half over a 12-15 week period, as compared to inactive individuals.
In addition to lower stress levels, better immune function, and a feeling of empowerment, aerobic exercise also stimulates endorphin production, or the “feel good” hormones, thus strengthening your internal armor against depression.
Goal setting is an effective way to ensure progress in your endeavors. The trick to success in achieving your goals is being reasonable with the expectations you place on yourself. Reaching for goals that are too lofty can leave us feeling discouraged. Changes are healthier and more sustainable when done in moderation, so be gentle with yourself.
Create action steps for each goal. What actions will help to propel you toward your vision? Write them down. Keep track of your progress. It is helpful to recognize the barriers you may encounter before the change process begins. What excuses might you make to avoid attending your evening dance class? Preparing for these inevitable barriers will help you hurdle over them when they obstruct your path.
Lastly, decide how you will celebrate your achievements. Understand that setbacks are normal and feeling bad about them is not productive. It’s important to make healthy changes from a place of self-love, rather than feeling guilty about your bad habits. Do it because you care about your health.
Portland, consider this your wake-up call! Don’t wait until the rains come to begin feeling better. Make your move now while the sun is still warm and your mood is elevated. If studies are correct that it only takes 21 days to make something a habit, then we’re right on track.
What has your body has been craving? What’s your self-care practice going to be? Go ahead, attend that yoga class, go for a jog, and put some extra color on your plate! Let’s make health empowerment contagious this season!
Jess Young, RN can be reached at email@example.com.
Jess Young, RN