The Science of Self-Care

So often, self-care is imagined as a vacation at a resort, or an entire day at the spa, or dawn til dusk with friends while out shopping, eating, and generally laughing your way through the town.


While all of those certainly have a place, limiting your concept of self-care to major activities like that means you’re limiting your access to self-care activities. Which means you’re less likely to do the things that can be helpful on a daily basis, and help you keep a pep in your step as you work your way toward those larger activities.


What those first activities have in common are large amounts of time, money, and energy. And we all know, in our days where we are barely present in the moments we’re living, that those things—time, money, and energy—don’t come easily.


The good news, though, is that you don’t need ANY of that to engage in the self-care activities that scientifically boost you in almost every way imaginable. Anyone ever wish out loud for a “chill pill”? Well, read on, because I’ve got a few for ya, and you don’t even need to give your address at Walgreens to get them.


1) Breathing

You might be thinking, “duh.” But I’m not talking about the automated breathing response taking place right now. I am talking about a few really long, really deep breaths. Just a few. You don’t even have to meditate while doing it. Just breathing all the way to the bottom of your belly and then slowly and fully releasing it.


Here are the high points of what deep breathing does for you:

· Decreases feelings/symptoms of depression and anxiety

· Decreases blood pressure

· Increase energy

· Increase muscle relaxation

· Delivers more oxygen to your cells and tissues

· Detoxes the body (Extra cool note: did you know that 70% of toxins leave your body through breathing?? 70%!!)

· Weight regulation

· Releases endorphins, which decreases feelings of pain and increase feelings of happiness

· Increases good posture (which is linked to decreased feelings of depression)

· Increases blood flow, which means increased feelings of energy

· Increases digestion


2) Sleeping

I’ve been told by a friend who is a sleep doctor and psychiatrist that we as humans need anything over 7 hours of sleep, whether that is 7 hours and 1 minute or 8.5 hours. He’s smarter than me and really knows his stuff; I believe him.


Sleep is truly one of the single most important + greatest forms of self-care we can give each aspect of ourselves: cognitive + emotional + physical.

What are the high points of getting the right amount of sleep? Read on:

· Our bodies repair damaged tissue

· Reduction of stress hormones

· Adjusts hormones that control appetite

· Boosts the immune system

· Improves our memory (literally: we can perform better, test better, recall better….)

· Helps manage emotional stability


The key to accessing all of that is good sleep hygiene. Read an older post I wrote on how to achieve that here: https://www.marblewellness.com/blog/8-tips-for-better-sleep


For more in-depth and truly STUNNING insight into sleep, check out this podcast (warning: there’s some bad language, especially at the beginning, so I advise not listening to it with little ears around!): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwaWilO_Pig


3) Hydrate

Here’s the thing: 70% of you is water. The brain beats that by being 85% water. 85%! My mind is blown! Additionally, brain cells use TWICE the energy as other cells in our body. Water is the most effective way to deliver that. Amazing!


Ok, a few other things. We naturally get rid of about 80 oz. of water/day through sweat, breathing, and excretion. So, we need to be drinking more than that! Our brains don’t store water, though, so we need to be drinking throughout the day to maintain our brains’ needs.

Water is also used in the production of hormones + neurotransmitters. We need it, folks.


Tip: infuse your water with fruit to make it more enticing. Or figure out if you drink more water when you use a straw vs a cup; before or after lunch; or when you're commuting to/from work. Find the hacks that help you stay hydrated!


When hydrated, we can beat these nasty symptoms:

· Brain fatigue

· Brain fog

· Focus issues

· Memory issues

· Headaches

· Sleep issues

· Anger

· Depression


Count me in!!!


(Side note: there are some really awesome water bottles that light up when they detect you haven’t had enough water in awhile! Type it into Amazon and check them out.)


4) Food

We all know that what goes into our bodies shapes us—literally. But also, it deeply and truly affects our insides. Many mental health disorders are linked, to at least some degree, to nutrient deficiencies, notably essential vitamins, minerals, and omega -3 fatty acids.


Here’s other fun facts about how eating well can be a form of self-care:

-amino acids regulate the same neurotransmitters that antidepressants are designed to regulate

-serotonin, which regulates sleep + appetite, and mediates moods, is primarily produced in your G.I. tract. Therefore, having good bacteria in your gut becomes vital for your mental health.

-the good kinds of carbs are the primary fuel for your brain

-Zinc is considered “the spark plug” for the metabolizing of neurotransmitters

-Omega-3s are crucial from the nerve transmissions between brain + body AND appear to reduce depression, psychosis, and aggressive symptoms


5) Stretching

Also known as, the part everyone rushes through at the end of a workout (including instructors sometimes!). I get it: time is ticking and the day must go on. I suggest stretching while you’re watching TV or listening to a podcast. And I suggest getting a foam roller to help you with some hip stretches, in particular. Why the hips?


Tip: use blocks or pillows under your hips & lower back to achieve deeper stretches

Because women hold the majority of their tension (including past emotional pain) there. Hips are considered “the body’s junk drawer.” Sure, it’s also common to have some knots in your back but ladies: if you release that hip tension, you will notice a difference in your emotions.


I also like to suggest keeping a tennis ball handy---using that on your neck, feet, and back helps immensely! Tennis balls can also be thrown into a suitcase when you’re on a work trip or vacation.


The benefits of stretching:

· Increases blood circulation

· Decreases muscle tension (which relieves stress)

· Breathing becomes rhythmic, which brings our brain waves to a calm & peaceful state

· Increases our quality of sleep.

· Supports a good posture (bad posture can deepen anxiety)


There you have it. Homemade chill pills. The science of self-care. It’s pretty amazing that you can do so much self-healing by just giving your body and brain what they need. It’s not a “fix all” answer but it is definitely the foundation of it.

And guess what? You deserve all the goodness those practices will help you feel.

Talk to you soon!

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Stephanie Korpal, M.Ed., LPC

Counseling to Nurture Your Emotional Health

Specializing in Anxiety, Depression, and Maternal Overwhelm

11042 Manchester Rd, Kirkwood, MO 63122

Email: stephanie@marblewellness.com | Phone: 636-236-2420

Contact me for a free 15-minute consultation phone call

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