A busy lifestyle often results in self-care falling by the wayside. Between long hours at work, taking care of the kids and pets, and all the random tasks added to your schedule each week, you might not have any time for yourself. When that happens, it’s easy to give in to the stress and make some unhealthy decisions.
Even when you do get some time to yourself - which is rare - what do you do if your favorite way to de-stress or unwind isn’t the most healthy solution? A glass of wine or some cookies aren’t the worst things in the world, but they aren’t the best self-care practices, either.
Self-care can be a foreign concept for many people. It might feel lonely or even selfish to focus only on yourself for a little while, and you might not know what the "rules" are for healthy living.
Well, good news: There’s nothing wrong with making time in your schedule for some self-care, and it can be easier to get started than you might realize.
First, let’s take a look at two of the biggest reasons why self-care is a must: stress and immunity.
Does stress rule your life? Even if it might not feel that way, millions of Americans experience stress on a daily basis. It can be frustrating, difficult to manage, and it might seem like there’s no escaping it. While many people find ways to “handle” their stress, these methods aren’t always the healthiest and can even be detrimental.
It’s been proven that the state of your mind can affect your health. Have you found yourself asking, “Why am I getting sick so often?” You might blame it on the kids bringing home an illness from school - and that definitely happens - but it could also be because your stress is having an impact on your body’s immune system.
Stress naturally causes your body to produce more cortisol. In shorter doses, this can actually give a boost to your immune system. However, if your body becomes used to extra cortisol in your blood, it can actually lead to increased inflammation.
Additionally, stress limits your body's lymphocytes. These are white blood cells that help you fight off infections. Those who are frequently stressed out will have a higher risk of catching an illness, like the common cold.
The relationship between stress and immunity is why self-care is so important. While most people can’t afford to take a much-needed vacation whenever the need arises, there are a number of things you can do to minimize your stress levels.
FURTHER READING: How To Prevent Catching A Cold During Cold & Flu Season
If your kids won’t stop screaming or you’re behind on an important project at work, it’s pretty easy to figure out what’s causing most of your stress and immunity issues. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to eliminate these stressors.
However, it’s entirely possible that you’re overlooking some stress culprits that you can cut out of your life - or at least cut back on:
Most adults rely on some form of caffeine to get through the day, usually by way of coffee or energy drinks. You know it’s a stimulant and you love how it can help you fight off fatigue as it tries to creep in throughout the day.
Caffeine binds to our receptors, blocking out our natural adenosine levels which increase neurotransmitters like dopamine and glutamate which make us feel great- to a point. But the party can last for only so long. Caffeine may give you that much-needed morning boost, but it can also make you crash—hard.
Drinking too much coffee on a daily basis can elevate your anxiety, blood pressure, and cortisol. Your body will then be more susceptible to stress.
There are ways to naturally reduce your coffee intake, but remember that coffee and energy drinks aren’t the only sources of caffeine you may encounter on a day to day basis.
Eating sugary foods and drinks will cause your blood sugar levels to spike and your body will have to release more cortisol to balance it out. In addition to the immune issues mentioned above, increased cortisol levels can impact sleep, result in headaches, and even cause unhealthy food cravings.
If your blood sugar levels fluctuate too often, your body can experience feelings of anxiety or fear, resulting in more stress. The more time your body spends outside of typical blood sugar levels, the more stressed you will feel.
If you think this is an issue, try to eliminate foods with added sugars from your diet and focus on consuming more whole foods.
Think of how many times a day you check your email inbox. Chances are, it’s more often than you realize. Studies have shown that this is a huge source of stress for some people. It’s not necessarily the number of emails you receive that stresses you out, but the number of times you check your inbox.
Limiting email access dramatically reduces stress and even increase productivity. For some people, email access is a vital job function and limiting access might not be a possibility. However, if you can, work on limiting the number of times you check your email. It could be very beneficial for your stress and immunity problems.
This could be as simple as limiting email notifications or even closing your email tab when it’s not in use.
Much like sugar and caffeine, alcohol can increase the release of cortisol in the body. Even though it's a depressant, alcohol still increases sensitivity to stress and can interfere with sleep cycles.
This doesn’t mean you need to cut out alcohol completely, however. There’s nothing wrong with relaxing with a drink or two after a long day. In fact, there are some known benefits of having a drink each day. Just make sure it’s really just one or two drinks, and you should be fine.
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Cutting known stressors out of your daily life is a great start, but you should employ some tried and tested self-care practices to really eliminate your stress and immunity problems. Here are four of our favorites:
What better way to get your stress and immunity under control than to get more sleep? Of course, it’s never that easy, especially if you have kids. However, there are several ways you can improve your sleep schedule and quality of sleep.
To make sleep one of your self-care practices, start by going over your nightly routine. Are you drinking or eating before bed? If so, eliminate sugar and caffeine to ensure you won't be kept awake.
Remove distractions from your bedroom, including any screens that could catch your attention. Screens, particularly your smartphone's screen, have been proven to keep people up longer. It also wouldn't hurt to have room-darkening curtains to really keep any light out in the morning before your alarm goes off.
Lastly, is there anything you can cut out of your nightly routine? The earlier you can get to bed, the better. More sleep is a good thing, and it will never hurt to wake up refreshed and more relaxed. More sleep can also help if you’re trying to cut down on caffeine intake in the mornings.
It happens all the time: Someone asks you for a favor or for help with something that you really don't have time to do. Instead of saying, “No, I’m much too busy,” we often agree and help anyway.
While it's definitely nice to say yes to helping those you care about, it can also be causing you massive amounts of stress. Too much of this will lead to anxiety, irritability, and burnout. At some point, you have to start putting yourself first.
The more time you can make for yourself, the less stressed you will be. You’ll even have more time to add self-care practices to your schedule.
Think of how much of your day is spent indoors. Whether you're at home, at work, commuting, or shuttling your kids to and from places, the majority of your day is spent indoors. Humans have an innate need to connect with nature, and studies have shown that spending more time outside can reduce stress and fatigue.
Walking, meditating, exercising and playing amongst trees in a forest-like environment has physical and emotional benefits that surpass those of the activities alone. Even sitting in a chair gazing at forest scenery has merit. In one Japanese study, just 20 minutes spent staring at a natural vista decreased stress hormones by 13% compared to those in a city environment.
Even a view of water, such as a lake, pond, river or other water features improves the effect. Other benefits of forest bathing include improved immunity, cardiovascular health, reduced levels of cortisol, improved mood, self-esteem, and decreased stress, decreased brain fatigue and attention deficit, improved cognition, focus and creativity.
Even if you can’t commit too much time to this self-care practice, stepping outside for some fresh air can surely have an impact.
When you're stressed out and your immunity is wavering, there's no better self-care practice than getting the nutrition your body needs. In fact, if you're struggling with cutting down on your sugar or caffeine intake, these plant nutrients are the perfect way to kick the habit.
For on-the-go immunity concerns, consider increasing your daily turmeric, ginger and citrus intake. Immunity Wellness is packed with these superfoods, in addition to echinacea and apple cider vinegar. Just adding a scoop to some water increases your daily antioxidant and immunoprotective superfood intake!
You’ll be surprised by how much balance you can feel from superfoods. Try Organic Pressed Greens or Revive Beets + Roots, which contain important antioxidants from green vegetables and superfoods from beets, turmeric, lemon and adaptogens. They are also packed with adaptogens such as rhodiola, ashwagandha, triphala and aloe, which are great for reducing cortisol in the body and improving immunity.
To reduce stress and improve immunity, you need to rely on self-care practices that you can easily plug into your schedule.
So, optimize your sleep schedule, tell people “No,” go outside, and add superfoods to your diet.
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