How do you pamper yourself and unwind after a long day? Do you take time throughout the week to nourish your soul and mind just as much as you nourish your body?
The difference between self-care and self-love is simple but important. When you act in self-care you’re keeping up hygienic and societal expectations, necessities and personal preferences on how to keep your body and appearance. Think showering often, brushing your teeth, even face masks, skin care routines, and annual exams.
Self-love is what feeds YOU. Like taking a personal day when you need time to unwind or making time in your day to read for 1 hour because you love to. Maybe you love lounging in a bubble bath, meditating, or spending time in nature. The point is to actively remind yourself and your body that you love it infinitely and wholly. We tend to push self-love to the side and often don’t give ourselves permission to “indulge” in pampering ourselves. We even say we’d like to, but don’t have enough time.
Okay, but…why does it matter?
Every day billions of people walk the earth. How many of them feel that their daily life is stressful? I’d venture to say a good majority, and Americans in particular, feel stressed at some point in their day. A 2014 study by the American Psychological Association and the American Institute of Stress showed that 77% of American’s regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress. Additionally, 73% of American’s regularly experience psychological symptoms caused by stress. Chronic stress can lead to chronic insomnia and fatigue, endless headaches, digestive issues, lack of energy, anxiety and loss of libido daily due to stress.
Let’s break a couple of those symptoms down…
1. Chronic Insomnia and Fatigue: This is a BIG one. If you’re not feeling exhausted daily, I know you know someone who is, right? The same 2014 study noted that 51% of stressed American’s are fatigued, and 48% say that they often lie awake at night due to stress.
The brain doesn’t differentiate between real and “imagined” stress. Our brains and bodies also L O V E schedules and habits. Whenever you’re stressed your brain basically thinks you’re being chased by a lion… even if you’re just late for work. When you experience that lion-is-chasing-me stress it causes a surge in adrenaline and cortisol which disrupts the normal level of hormones that are circulating, ebbing, and flowing throughout the day. When that normalcy is interrupted day after day the body eventually adapts (because it likes schedules) and starts releasing those keep-you-awake hormones on a new “normal” schedule leading to insomnia and then fatigue.
2. Digestive Issues: We tend to disregard the mind-body connection, but there is indeed a correlation between your mental state and your gut. In fact, all our emotions can create a gut-reaction.
Have you ever had a “gut-wrenching” experience? Do certain situations make you “feel nauseous”? Have you ever felt “butterflies” in your stomach? We use these expressions for a reason. The gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotion. Anger, anxiety, sadness, elation — all of these feelings (and others) can trigger symptoms in the gut.
When you’re in a stressful situation, your body (who, again, assumes you’re being chased by a lion) routes all the blood flow to your limbs (the better to out run a lion) and puts digestion on hold. Have you ever eaten and then felt like there was a rock in your stomach? Or immediately gotten sick from it? Yep, could be stress.
3. Loss of Libido: If you’re living with chronic stress (even low-level), you’re body and brain assume it’s a bad time for baby-making (let alone sex just for pleasure!). This is the same reasons that women who are chronically stressed find they lose their menstrual cycles or their cycles are suddenly irregular. While loss of libido can certainly be related to other issues such as medication, relationship dynamics, other hormonal imbalances etc, stress is certainly a leading cause in otherwise healthy humans.
Let’s mange it
Unfortunately, most people are never going to live completely stress-free. However, there are ways to manage it, to put your mind at ease, and to live a less stressful life. My favorite tip is, you guessed it, finding a way to pamper yourself daily! When you take time to do the things you love and make you feel good, your mind eases, feel-good hormones are released, and feel-stressed hormones decrease.
Additionally, 10-15 minutes of meditation once or multiple times a day, breathing exercises, a consistent sleep and waking routine, consistent exercise, unplugging from electronics, and social activities are all great, science-backed ways to de-stress and relax.
I encourage you to explore what your life is like when you make the time to unwind. A great way to implement this time is to schedule it into your day, calendar, or planner and treat it as a sacred appointment with yourself. It’s unmovable, non-negotiable. See how things shift from not enough time to always the perfect amount of time.