How Much Melotonin Can I Give A 3 Yr Old Prioritizing Self-Care: The Key to Stress Management

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Prioritizing Self-Care: The Key to Stress Management

Self-care is a crucial part of stress management. Regardless of the reasons for your stress, practicing regular self-care will dramatically improve how “stressed” you feel and how effectively you deal with the sources of your stress. It can also combat the negative physical and mental health consequences of stress.

Everyone needs to spend some time focusing on self-care, but many people tend to put everyone else’s needs before their own. These people usually include doctors, nurses, therapists, teachers, and others whose job it is to focus on helping other people. This pattern is also common for parents and other caregivers, as well as for women in general (although many men also ignore their own needs).

The following tips can help you reduce stress by learning how to take care of your own needs first, because only then will you be strong and healthy enough to really be there and care for others:

1. Not taking good enough care of yourself often happens because you don’t pay attention to self-care. Just making a decision to prioritize self-care will greatly benefit you and those around you. To begin with, keep track of how much time each day or week you actually spend on self-care so that you are aware of how little time is devoted to it. You may even want to write this time down in red ink in a daily planner or appointment book to give yourself a visual representation of how well you are (or aren’t) taking care of yourself.

2. Many people feel that when they relax, they “do nothing.” On the contrary, taking time to relax is very important, restorative and essential for physical and psychological well-being. Try to make sure you give yourself some “down time” every day. If you have a hard time relaxing without “doing” something, just focus on slow, deep breathing or relaxing each of your muscle groups.

3. Getting enough sleep is critical to your well-being and should be a priority; without it, your mood and ability to manage stress will most certainly suffer. A set of good sleep practices called “sleep hygiene” can dramatically improve both the quality and quantity of your sleep. These practices include:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (including weekends) to help “set” your body clock to sleep when you want.
  • Make sure your body is in a good sleep state when you go to bed. Minimize or eliminate caffeine, nicotine and alcohol for a few hours before your bedtime. Don’t eat a big meal late at night, but also make sure you’re not hungry when you go to bed, as this can interfere with your sleep. Also, while regular exercise will improve your sleep as well as your ability to manage stress, try to exercise in the morning so your body isn’t “resurrected” when it’s time to go to bed.
  • Try not to sleep. If this cannot be avoided, be sure to sleep before 3 pm, and do not sleep for more than 1 hour (20 minutes is ideal).
  • Teach your body to sleep when it hits the bed without doing anything else in your bed (eg, reading, watching TV, working, etc.). The only exception to this is sex.
  • Make your bedroom as quiet and as dark as possible. You may even want to invest in light-blocking shades, because the darker the room, the more melatonin your brain will produce and release; melatonin improves sleep quality, stabilizes your sleep and also acts as an anti-oxidant.
  • If you can’t fall asleep after about 20 minutes, get up and do something boring and unstimulating (eg, read the dictionary), and go to bed when you do. Make sure not to turn on any bright lights as this will wake your body up. You can also take a warm bath, because the drop in body temperature that occurs after a bath signals the body to sleep. Because of this, your bedroom should ideally always be on the cool side (slightly below room temperature).

4. Every morning, instead of bolting out of bed, take some time to get into the day. Allow your mind to slowly and peacefully awaken and orient itself, and prepare your body with gentle stretching exercises. You may want to set your alarm a few minutes earlier so you have enough time to practice this type of self-care without rushing. You could also just hit the snooze button one less time – spending 7 minutes getting ready for your day will help your mood and energy level far more than just 7 minutes of sleep would!

5. Make sure you are getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals (eg, daily multivitamin, fish oil, Calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin B complex, etc.). Not giving your body the nutrients it needs can make you sluggish and less able to handle the demands of your day. Consult your doctor about the specific vitamins you should take; in addition, he or she may want you to do some lab work to see if you have any existing deficiencies.

6. Go for a brisk walk for at least half an hour every day. Regular exercise is good for cardiovascular and bone health, and it releases chemicals in your body that can improve your mood and decrease the amount of stress you feel. In addition, the fresh air and change of scenery can be very beneficial.

7. In addition to the usual lifestyle recommendations of “enough sleep, nutrition, and exercise,” think of more creative ways to take care of yourself. For example, you may engage in “pampering” activities such as regular pedicures, manicures, facials or massages; these services are usually not expensive if you only do them once a month, and the benefits to your well-being are priceless. You can also make activities that you really enjoy a regular part of your routine, like going to the movies, eating at your favorite restaurant, etc.

8. Call a meeting with everyone in your household to review chores and other necessary household chores. Discuss how often these various tasks should be done as well as how much time each task takes. Work together to share household responsibilities equally so that everyone has the same amount of task time, not necessarily the same amount of chores. In this way, you can ensure that everyone also has an equal amount of free time as much as possible. To avoid arguments about who should do what, you can keep a chart of this information on the refrigerator door.

9. Having adequate social support is absolutely necessary for mental health and stress management. Nurture and foster good friendships or other relationships, and find at least one person you trust enough to talk to about anything. If you tend to act as the caretaker in most of your relationships, make sure you have at least one friend you can count on to take care of you.

10. Buy something new (not necessarily expensive) for your home or office, such as a picture, plant or music that you enjoy. Improving your environment is often neglected, but feeling good about the place you spend most of your time in can greatly improve your overall mood and stress level.

(Many thanks to Noreen Keenan, PhD, who generously provided some of the information above.)

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