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Self-care is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves and yet it is one of the most frequently neglected aspects by many of us. The practice of self-care is not just for mental health either, it is also for physical health as it's vital for helping to reduce health risks of stress, burn out, over working, sleep deprivation, poor diet and hydration and more. The beauty of self-care is that there is no right or wrong answer and there's a vast number of things that self-care practices can include, it's highly personalized for what works best for someone. There are, of course, a few main stays for overall well-being that are universal to meet our bodies basic needs that are often neglected as well. Below are 3 self-care habits that can aid in meeting 3 different levels of needs in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs that he identified to be drivers for behavior and what makes us fulfilled.
A vital aspect of self-care that seems often difficult for many to achieve is adequate sleep. This is a basic need and is included the first level of physiological needs in the hierarchy. Without adequate sleep, the body and mind can become dangerously taxed to the point of serious illness. Developing good sleep hygiene is one of the best ways to improve one's sleep, particularly without resorting to medication. The CDC provides tips for improving sleep hygiene and provides information for connecting with the American Academy of Sleep Medication for more in-depth sleep education.
Social needs are another need identified by Maslow on the 3rd level of love and belonging where connection and secure relationships with others is identified. Staying connected to others can be difficult when living with a chronic illness and far too frequently, depression in addition. With chronic illness, we often feel like a burden on others and don't want to ask for "even more" from our friends and family. However, this increases isolation, which in turn, increases risk for depression. With depression, the brain tells us not to do things, such as connecting with others, we have negative thoughts about our relationships with others and our needs, and depression is further reinforced. And so goes the cycle on repeat until something in the chain is broken. One way to help with breaking that behavior chain is to stay connected. Socialization has many additional benefits for physical health in addition beyond just mental health well-being and is easier to do now than it likely ever has been before with a variety of avenues thanks to technological advancements.
Esteem needs are placed on the 4th level by Maslow where one earns esteem through self-worth, competence, independence, and dignity from within oneself and the respect or acknowledgement one desires from others. Achieving a true level of esteem, fully loving oneself in a healthy way, is not based upon physical appearance, possessions, or the opinions of others but rather how we value, love, and accept ourselves. How we view ourselves can affect our self-esteem and this can even be affected by the care we take in our personal appearance whether it's clothing, basic hygiene or more. When we engage in behaviors that help us feel like ourselves even when we may physically or emotionally not feel at our best, such behaviors can actually help to release dopamine and lift our moods. Unfortunately, chronic illness can negatively impact more than not feeling well physically or emotionally but also every aspect of the body, including causing damage to one's teeth. This has been a major concern I have with my esophageal dysmotility, especially when I was having chronic vomiting as not only does malnutrition impact teeth but so does vomiting. Being able to obtain dental guidance and treatments necessary to prevent or repair the damages of chronic illness is not necessarily easy though either due to expense affecting access to care. Similarly, to how there are vision centers that provide promotions and discounts, some dental centers do as well, such as this dentist in Florida. When I was married, before my then husband had dental insurance, we took advantage of similar promotions to at least be able to afford to obtain a cleaning and exam for him. Dental wise, there are also dental schools and free or low-income dental clinics that offer various dental services to aid with process of obtaining the dental care a person may require for good dental health.
Whatever new for your self-care habit you're planning to start on, remember to specify realistic steps for achieving your goal and identify how you will know that you've achieved the steps and ultimately the goal of self-care. Doing so helps set us up for success when goal setting and part of self-care is also giving grace for setbacks so that we may stay motivated to continue our efforts.