Clinical psychologist at the International Wellbeing Center
While there are numerous definitions of self-care, in general it refers to the process of looking after yourself to maintain your wellbeing. (Shutterstock/File)
Along with its perks, modern life has its drawbacks. We live in an “instant” world that is fast-paced and knows little boundaries.
A three-year analysis from Employee Assistance Program (EAP) of more than 100,000 employees across the globe indicated a substantial increase in cases of employee depression (rising by 58 percent), anxiety (74 percent), and stress (28 percent) from 2012-2014. Together, employee depression, stress and anxiety were responsible for 55.2 percent of all reported emotional health cases in 2012 compared to 82.6 percent in 2014.
These numbers are indeed alarming given the sharp rise in just three years, and perhaps it is a warning sign for all of us to step back and do something different.
One way to help break the cycle is to engage in self-care. While there are numerous definitions of self-care, in general it refers to the process of looking after yourself to maintain your wellbeing. By developing your own self-care “toolbox” that consists of different strategies (or “tools”), you could utilize them to improve your sense of wellbeing in more adaptive and helpful ways.
If you can commit to your work and other life responsibilities, why not invest your time and energy to nurture yourself?
Things to consider before you develop your own toolbox
Take a step back to observe the last time you had difficulty managing your emotions, and see if you could also determine the source of your issue. Notice any symptoms that you think are unhelpful and unhealthy.
Once you are aware of your triggers and warning signs, use them as motivation to practice and apply the strategies from your toolbox.
Having difficulty of where and how to start? Make a list of activities that you previously enjoyed but have not got the chance to do recently or are not doing enough. It will give you some ideas of tools that are already familiar to you. Then, you could explore other potential activities and add more strategies by “borrowing” from people around you.
Avoid “dangerous” tools, or things that could make you and/or the situation worse. Steer clear from strategies that are illegal (such as substance abuse) and harmful.
Types of tools
Sometimes when we are feeling upset, we often feel like our body is overflowing with an extra burst of energy for our fight or flight response.
In modern days, many of us are guilty for using the instant way out through unhelpful ways like slamming the door, throwing things, yelling, or becoming physically aggressive.
Physical tools involve physical activities that could get your heart rate up to help burn the excessive energy out in a more adaptive way. Regular exercise is shown to have numerous benefits and help increase your “feel good” hormone, so try to make them a part of your daily regime.
Contrary to physical outlet, relaxation tools involve the work of parasympathetic nervous system that relaxes and brings down the intensity of energy in our body.
Relaxing activities may include gentle yoga, deep breathing exercise, meditation, slow leisurely walk, painting, drawing, listening to music, and reading a book.
Make a list of people whom you consider as your social support. Quality of the relationship should be your priority in determining how you would like your social network to be, rather than quantity.
If you have pets, make them part of your “social” support when you find comfort from interacting with them.
Identify thoughts that are “poisonous” to you. These unhelpful thoughts may manifest in constant worrying, or negative (and unrealistic) views about yourself, other people, and the world around you.
Once identified, create “antidotes” for these poisonous thoughts by developing more helpful and realistic way of thinking. You can pretend that you are in a court and you are to present evidence (must be real and objective) for and against your unhelpful thoughts.
You could also analyze the cost and benefit of holding a particular thought. It would take some practice and it is not always easy to challenge ourselves, but it would be worth the effort.
Nonetheless, if you would like to receive more help in finding more adaptive ways of thinking, talk to a professional for help.
Special interest tools
Special interest tools refer to engaging in activities related to something that you are passionate about. Find out what your interest and hobbies are, and you could start from there.
Other tools that you could consider applying to yourself are getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy and balanced diet, and better planning and time management. Communicating your needs and concerns assertively also helps with maintaining your emotional health because you will be able to stand for yourself in a respectful way.
As a final note, taking the time and energy to care for yourself is not a selfish act. Remember the safety video that gets played in the airplane before taking off? Yes, you need to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before you can help other people.
However, look out for professional help if you feel that you need more guidance on how to get to the root of the problem, significant impairment in your daily function, and symptoms persist despite applying these strategies.
Try out your strategies and see how they go. Have fun with your tools, share them with your loved ones, and keep them growing. (dev/kes)
Emilita Krisanti Cornain is a clinical psychologist at the International Wellbeing Center with eight years of experience. She is trained in cognitive behavior therapy and often combines mindfulness and solution-focused strategies in her practice. Santi completed her undergraduate degree in psychology through the double-degree program at the University of Indonesia and the University of Queensland, Australia. She holds a doctorate in Psychology (Clinical) from Griffith University Australia. When not working, Santi can be found playing with her energetic toddler, reading novels or hunting for the next best vegetarian dishes in town.
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