A White woman wearing a brown sports bra stands in a sunshine filled room; her eyes are closed in calm relaxation. Photo via Anastasia Shuraeva/Canva.
Health + Wellness

Self-Care: How To Get Sh*t Done In A Healthier Way

In terms of your mental, emotional or physical well-being; if I was to ask you what you need right now, what would your answer be? Sometimes self-care involves implementing practices that allow us to withstand, work through (and then recover) from issues and challenges that come our way; every so often, self-care is survival.

Over the last couple of years, I experienced a number of situations (one after the other) that collectively combined to create overwhelming stress and anxiety. I’m ordinarily a very pragmatic person who acts immediately and pushes through to seek out some kind of resolution; but these particular struggles impacted me in a way that left me less effective than usual at untangling these types of problems.

When it comes to self-care, I tend to fall into a pattern of only making use of it after an issue has improved or settled. However, there was something about this particular cumulative shit storm that required a different approach. Asking myself what I needed during a very specific moment of intense stress was hard to answer. Initially, I listed all the situations that were causing so much stress and anxiety, but all that did was cycle through negativity without finding a solution. I got frustrated with myself that I wasn’t as capable as before at dealing with challenges. And then it hit me clear as day; I was drained — burnt out physically, depleted emotionally, and mentally exhausted. It was essential I proactively took charge of my health; introducing self-care practices that would support me as I worked through some of the toughest moments I’ve experienced. It couldn’t wait until a more convenient time; I needed it right now.

A title graphic for a post available on Transatlantic Notes called, ‘Self-Care: How To Get Shit Done In A Healthier Way’. The background image shows a White woman wearing a brown sports bra standing in a sunshine filled room; her eyes are closed in calm relaxation.

Self-care isn’t a magical cure-all that overcomes our issues or automatically uncomplicates the ups and downs of life; it’s about ensuring a journey through struggles is traversed in the healthiest way possible. It develops checks and balances alongside actionable items to build ourselves up when the strain of what we’re working through wears us down.

It’s also worth noting that self-care isn’t meant to be perfect; I’d take a guess that many of us are relatively haphazard about implementing it. As a highly personalized, individual endeavor; setting up a self-care routine has to reflect our own needs and be as effective as possible at maintaining our general well-being — which is not simple, quick or easy to get right. We will stumble through obstacles every now and then, including loss of interest, energy and time for taking care of ourselves. However, possibly the most beneficial aspect of showing ourselves love in this way is that it can be picked up and started again at any time. Ideally, self-care would be habitual, but for the vast majority of us it’s a work in progress — and that’s okay. 

It all starts with paying attention to the signals that may indicate we’re in need of some self-care. Knowing ourselves and being able to identify physical and mental responses to stress, anxiety and depressive episodes; including triggers and subtle hints that point to becoming increasingly overwhelmed will encourage us to take care of our well-being. It may require a little practice (many of us ignore, sideline or excuse how these clues manifest), but we should get used to listening to our minds and bodies.

Common signs of stress/overwhelm can include:

  • Increased headaches
  • Painful/tense body aches
  • Heart palpitations
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Irritability
  • Poor memory
  • Lack of concentration
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Decreased libido

Important Note: Always seek the advice of a doctor or other qualified healthcare provider if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms; get them properly assessed/diagnosed.

The good news is there are some simple self-care practices we can put into action that bolster and boost our health and wellness; most notably when we establish them as part of an ongoing routine. We’ll be better equipped to manage situations in the future that cause hardship, worry or strain if we continually invest in ourselves. We shouldn’t wait for collapse before we reinforce; self-care is for the here and now during good times and bad.

A non-binary trans man standing outside, eyes closed in quiet, calming contemplation.
photo via Zackary Drucker and Alyza Enriquez/The Gender Spectrum Collection

Here are some everyday self-care ideas to help maintain our mental and physical well-being:

  • Stay hydrated by drinking enough water throughout the day; not only does it help flush out waste, support healthy blood flow, regulate temperature and deliver vital nutrients to cells; it also improves mood and cognitive ability.
  • Ease body aches and pains by taking an Epsom salt bath; although there aren’t any conclusive scientific studies proving its benefits, the use of Epsom salt is believed to relax muscles, provide calm stress relief and reduce inflammation. 
  • Aide slow- and deep-wave sleep by using lavender essential oil; add a few drops to your pillow before you get into bed and/or use a diffuser to assist relaxation and reduce anxiety and stress.
  • Regulate mind and body by reducing overconsumption of caffeine; this chemical commonly found in coffee, tea, chocolate and energy drinks stimulates our central nervous system — which can raise blood pressure, inhibit restful sleep and make feelings of anxiety worse. In moderation, caffeine can provide some essential health benefits; the good news is it does not need to be avoided completely and can remain part of a healthful diet.
  • Promote physical and psychological well-being by making sure you set aside 10 minutes each day to do something that you enjoy; focusing on quick, easy activities that support relaxation and/or provide a mental lift.
  • Fuel your body with trytophan by introducing foods that naturally boost energy and mood; this essential amino acid that supports brain function and sleep regulation is not produced by the human body so has to be obtained through what we eat and drink. Try adding things like chicken, tuna, lentils, chickpeas, cashews, almonds, oats, broccoli and mushrooms.

We’re all likely to experience situations in life that cause us significant uncertainty, worry and anguish. Working through the concern and anxiety that stress can place on us is not going to be straightforward; finding self-care habits that work for us does not guarantee we’ll come out the other side unscathed. They will, however sustain a level of well-being that allows us to remain grounded and resilient in as healthy a way as possible.

So, I’ll ask you again … what do you need right now?

What self-care tips can you share that work for you? When was the last time you took care of yourself?


Further Info:

How Mental Stress Can Affect Physical Health – Psychology Today

NAMI Helpline – a free, nationwide U.S. resource that offers experienced peer-support guidance and advice

CheckPoint – global (by country) resources for mental health support

36 thoughts on “Self-Care: How To Get Sh*t Done In A Healthier Way”

  1. You’ve raised some great pointers that will impact on various areas of the self care journey. Immediately there are 2 that I should address more strongly.

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  2. Wonderful tips for maintaining our mental and physical health. Staying hydrated, taking epsom salt baths, and using calming essential oils always helps me stay grounded. There have been days where I’ve had to stay away from caffeine because it does increase anxiety. On days where all else fails, moving my body always boosts my mood almost instantly. Thank you for sharing Molly!

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      1. I’m sorry you’ve been through some challenging times recently. It’s surprising how quickly we can go from ok to not ok isn’t it? This is an interesting read, thank you for sharing.

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  3. These are wonderful tips. I totally agree for me the salt bath is so soothing, especially in the winter it’s a nice way to de-stress and sleep well. Great advice here thanks for sharing!

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  4. It’s amazing how much stress can manifest in the body but knowing your body and those cues is a great way to recognize when you need to up your self-care! I’m getting quite good at noticing those signals in myself now.

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  5. These are great tips, some of which I already implement. For me, it’s about really listening to what my body and mind needs. If I’m feeling burnt out, just laying on the sofa in silence is what I need. Other times, I actually crave interaction and laughter. Asking for help when you’re feeling frustrated is another big act of self care!

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  6. This is the post I so needed to read today Molly! I am not much of a water drinker, so this is one I really need to get to work on. Everything seems to be so tiring lately, and the stress I am under right now just does not help. This post will definitely need to be re-read once this move is over!

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  7. I love the title you chose. I’ve had a route year myself with totalling 2 cars becausee of sezuires (lost my license both times), cervical cancer, a house fire, and a hystorectomy. All this is probably too much information. However, self care has saved me! Every night while i wind down i read an inspirational book and journal.

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    1. Sharing your experiences is never too much information; you’ve survived all that which is an incredible thing to do. None of the things you went through are easy and will have their own unique set of stresses; finding what helps you is all important!

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  8. I used to get headaches when I was stress when I was in college. Stress is very real. I have changed my diet and working out. It has helped me to handle my stress better.

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  9. This is really interesting, Molly. I don’t remember the last time I set aside some me-time for self-care, and I’m absolutely shattered at the moment, so it’s long overdue – thank you for the reminder!

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  10. Some really helpful suggestions here. Self care is often something I neglect for myself and something I know I need to be better at. Thank you for sharing as this will be something helpful to look back on.

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  11. These are wonderful self-care tips. This past week has been especially busy and at times stressful, so I need to take some time to do a few things for myself. I did have a lavender pillow spray, but I need to get another one because lavender is calming.

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  12. One does take time to realise and address for triggers anxiety and stress as these can take time. It is like a journey then. I agree to doing something enjoyable that does help, also the good food. I liked the cashews and nuts you mentioned. They do make one feel good . Liked it. Xx
    Isa A. Blogger

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  13. Great post Molly! Epsom salts and lavender essential oils are my go to, along with some gentle stretching. I hold a lot of my stress in my body so I find a bath and stretching really helps my self care 🙂 Thanks for this awesome and informative post!

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