Self-care is the term for any action we take to provide comfort and support for ourselves. It can support various different parts of our lives, such as fighting disease, dealing with addiction, and navigating the challenges of stress and depression. For those who are including fitness in their daily lives, self-care has an amplifying effect. Here are some ways to include self-care in your fitness routine and how to maximize its benefits for your overall well-being.
Any comforting or supporting action can be considered self-care. Accordingly, self-care depends on the individual and the activity it is supporting. For example, a runner may spend time on rest days soothing muscles with full-body stretching or even a massage. Self-care doesn’t have to target sore muscles, however, to be effective in supporting exercise. Some self-care efforts are aimed at calming our minds. Here are some additional examples of self-care:
- Meditation. Mindfulness plays an important, but neglected, role in physical fitness. Self-awareness helps plan and identify goals and can also help alleviate anxiety and stress. Consider setting up a calm space in your home for meditating.
- Rest. Exercise works best when paired with appropriate rest sessions. Muscles need time to heal, and cardiovascular health benefits from time to recoup.
- Sleep. Different from rest, sleep means a good eight-hour period each night, possibly more, depending on your activity level. Strenuous exercise can wipe even the strongest person out.
- Decluttering. Removing clutter can have a dramatic effect on how we feel. Freshen up your home by giving it a deep cleaning when you’re done decluttering. You can hire a cleaning service, but this costs an average of $182 in Portland, so you may be better off saving the cash and doing the work yourself.
- Pampering. If you had a particularly hard exercise session, reward yourself with an occasional luxury, be it a massage, or even just some quiet time alone.
- Hobbies. Exercise is fun and can be a hobby, but if you have other interests, do not let an exercise plan rob you of your passions for other things. If you enjoy art or music, it's important to keep those in your life for overall well-being.
- Balanced diet. Exercise encourages an overall healthy lifestyle. Those who work out regularly are more likely to eat more nutritious meals. Self-care also means enjoying good-tasting food. Healthy food never has to mean boring tasteless meals, and an occasional treat is essential to joyful living. Appliances like electric pressure cookers (quality models available for under $80), for example, can make healthy eating simpler and easier. Thankfully, there are many healthy recipes available online to get you started!
- Float therapy. Stepping into a soundproof float pod filled with body temperature water that has been enriched with 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt to make you completely buoyant really is as relaxing as it sounds. Float therapy requires zero effort on your part, leaving you to float and truly focus on your body and mind. You can go for a complete deprivation of the senses in complete darkness and silence, or add small soothing touches such as lights, relaxing music, and even guided meditation to experience plentiful benefits such as stress relief, pain relief, heightened mental focus, immune system boost, and improved sleep quality.
Self-care can also come into play in your choice of exercise. Yoga is a common outlet for self-care, because it combines mindfulness with a calming and relaxing environment, while also pushing you to stretch and sweat. Yoga is also less of an exercise and more a way of life. This is why yoga is referred to as a practice.
Hiking, too, can be a component of self-care. Hiking combines varying degrees of physical exertion with immersion in nature, which in itself is an element of self-care. Exposure to nature is a proven way to clear one’s mind and battle negative emotions. Hiking can also offer the best of two worlds. On one hand, the solitude of a nice hike alone can tap into the same mindfulness as yoga, but on the other hand, hiking opens your life up to social circles that can also benefit your well-being.
Swimming is another exercise that features potential therapeutic benefits. Water therapy through swimming is one way to relieve stress, treat addiction and encourage sustained exercise. While swimming can burn a ton of calories per session, it is also a nice feeling to glide through the water rather than pounding your joints and muscles on a running track or treadmill.
Ultimately, self-care helps keep you active. It makes your workouts more enjoyable by adding variety to your activities and relaxation and related benefits to help avoid injury and exercise burnout.
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Author: Brad Krause
Photo Credit: Pixabay