When you are the last item on your priority list, you probably aren’t seeing the benefits of self-care. Fortunately, pushing yourself up on your to-do list could mean less stress, better health, and a better overall quality of life. Taking time to relax and de-stress can mean an improvement in your mood, brain function, and memory. Relaxation will allow your mind and body to repair itself. You’ll make better decisions. It’ll also help lower the risk of depression, anxiety, hypertension, heart attacks, keep away excess pounds, and boost your immunity. Stress can mute positive traits and that can have an impact on your interpersonal relationships as well as your coping mechanisms. When you step away from the stress by meditating, taking a walk, or finding some other way to relax, you allow your positive traits to shine.
To understand why self-care is so important it’s best to start with the dangers of stress and the harm it can do to our bodies. When we are really stressed and overwhelmed our body goes into survival mode and starts to produce high levels of a natural stress hormone called cortisol. Adrenaline increases our heart rate, elevates our blood pressure, and boosts our supply of energy. Then when we are overly stressed our body releases more cortisol to keep up with the perceived or real threat. Cortisol and other stress hormones are meant to help boost our immune system and help balance our nervous system.
But, when we experience prolonged stress our natural stress hormones send emergency signals to our amygdala and our body goes into a fight, flight, or freeze mode creating a hyper alertness of being under attack. When this happens our body’s emotional and physical regulation system is disrupted and can lead to detrimental health issues.
When we take time away from the busyness and “to do lists” of our every day and invest in our self-care, we can reap major benefits from the “feel-good” chemicals our brains release.
The natural “feel good” brain chemicals which are released are:
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and serves as the “reward centre” of our brain. Our brains are wired to seek experiences that bring pleasure. When we do something fun and pleasurable, dopamine is released and we feel good.
Oxytocin is a hormone released by the hypothalamus into our bloodstream by the pituitary gland.
Oxytocin is often considered the “love hormone” associated with childbirth, nursing, cuddling, sexual experiences, and when we fall in love. Low levels of oxytocin are linked to postpartum depression and regular depression.
Here are some ways to help boost oxytocin:
Our body creates natural endorphins to help relieve stress and pain, and they are primarily created in the hypothalamus and pituitary glands.
Here are some ways to boost your endorphins:
Serotonin is a natural chemical primarily produced in our digestive system and is made from an essential amino acid called tryptophan.
Tryptophan enters our body through diet in foods like nuts, red meat, salmon, turkey and cheese. Exercising triggers the release of tryptophan into your blood. However, low levels of serotonin can result in mood disorders.
Serotonin is considered to be a natural mood stabilizer and can help with sleeping, eating, and digesting.
In addition to helping with how we sleep and eat, serotonin also helps with reducing depression, regulating anxiety, healing wounds, enhancing bone health, and helping ease nausea.
Here are some ways to boost your serotonin:
Self-care is not selfish. Many people can confuse the two, but taking time for yourself and taking care of your stress management can rejuvenate your soul.
Slowing down your heart and your mind, and trying to be present in the moment to enjoy the simple things in life can be just what you need.