“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” ~Lao Tzu
I’ve always lived with a low hum of anxiety in the background, and lately, it’s been harder to keep a lid on it. There are a lot of things to be anxious about these days. We live in a complex and stressful world and anxiety is very common, affecting upwards of 20 percent of the population. Some experience manageable levels; for others, anxiety and chronic stress can be debilitating and self-destructing.
Truth is, we have good reasons to be stressed out. We work too much; we don’t take enough time off; we’re constantly plugged in and “on” yet are more disconnected than ever before; many of us struggle financially; our healthcare, education, and political systems don’t support us. We truly face many challenges and struggles every day.
So how do we help ourselves ride the inevitable storms that come our way? How do we handle daily ups and downs without getting swept up by emotions and reactions?
We’ve always understood that we need to make our health and well-being a priority. Replenish first and replenish often.
But we have to take care of ourselves on a physical, emotional, and mental level. Body, mind, and soul.
In a World of Anxiety and Chronic Stress, Self-Care Matters
Let’s first define self-care.
Self-care is an active and conscious choice to engage in activities that nourish us and help us maintain an optimal level of overall health. It basically means making healthy lifestyle choices and implementing stress management strategies.
Self-care is not a new concept. We’ve known for a long time that eating well, exercising, maintaining good sleep habits, and eliminating smoking and drinking are all critical in maintaining good health.
What’s new is the holistic approach to self-care that goes beyond taking care of your physical well-being. It’s looking at mental health, emotional health, social engagement, spiritual wellbeing, and of course physical care as a basis for it all.
That is the kind of holistic approach we all need to take when thinking about effective and all encompassing self-care.
Unfortunately, Americans are hardly practicing any self-care.
- One in four Americans has a mental health disorder, of which one in seventeen has a severe mental illness. Many of these disorders go untreated.
- Eighty-one percent of Americans do not exercise enough.
- More than one-third of Americans are obese.
So what’s the problem? Well, it’s complicated. Lack of money, lack of time, lack of resources, lack of awareness… It seems overwhelming, I know (pun not intended).
But we don’t have to completely overhaul our lifestyle in one day, not even one year, to make a substantial difference. Remember, a journey of thousand miles starts with a single step.
We just have to take that one step forward right now.
Can you adopt one healthy habit today? Or perhaps, you can eliminate one unhealthy habit from now on? Can you give yourself a gift of a single healthy activity you can commit to doing on a daily or weekly basis?